To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Caltrans’ Property Management Runs Amok in El Sereno, SR-710 Area Tenants Bear the Brunt of Unjust Rent Hikes


March 2013

El Sereno residents, many of whom have lived in state-owned properties for decades and are an integral part of the El Sereno community fabric, today are in a state of shock.  On December 28, 2012, Caltrans renters living along the “proposed 710 Freeway/Tunnel Corridor” received a mailer informing them that their rent was going to be increased by 10% every 6 months beginning March 1, 2013, in an effort to raise Caltrans property rentals to fair market rates.   In this notice to tenants Caltrans failed to provide tenants with the fair market rent amount they had determined, or the process that they were using to determine fair market rates.  Because Caltrans didn’t provide tenants with specific fair market rent amounts, tenants are unclear how many total rent increases they will face under Caltrans’ new policy.  Caltrans is proposing that unless tenants qualify for the new “Affordable Rent Program” tenants will face a 34% increase in rent within a 1 year period and a 100% increase within 3 years.

The tenants were caught off guard, although not totally surprised.  Caltrans mounted similar campaigns to raise rents in 2002 and 2006, only to back off when faced with strong community and political opposition.  One of the main arguments against past proposed rent hikes was due to Caltrans’ history of atrocious property maintenance and inept management practices throughout the history of the proposed SR710 project.

Because of these circumstances Caltrans tenants have formed the United Caltrans Tenants (UCT) association and are fighting for the following:

An immediate moratorium on rent hikes. Tenants are requesting that Caltrans address the community concerning their rent hikes at the forthcoming Tenant’s Assembly scheduled on Thursday, March 14th from 6-8 pm at All Saints Catholic Church.

For our elected officials to intercede and convince Caltrans that these rent hikes will bring irreparable harm to our community.  UCT is also requesting that our elected officials address the community at the Tenant’s Assembly

For Caltrans to come to the table with tenants and elected officials to explore and discuss alternatives to their current ill-conceived plan for rent hikes and negotiate any proposed rent increases

Tenants want Caltrans to publicly disclose the method they are using to determine “fair market” rental rates, provide each tenant with their individual fair market rent amount and make public the details of their new Affordable Rent Program structure.

What is ironic about all of this rent hike mess created by Caltrans is that it is occurring on the heels of the recent audit of Caltrans property management released in August 2012, by the California State Auditor.  Following are some of the findings:

•    Caltrans is guilty of inadequate oversight of property repairs resulting in unnecessary work and excessive costs.
•    Caltrans did not routinely perform annual field inspections of properties.
•    Caltrans could not provide evidence that it compared estimates for any of 30 repair projects reviewed.
•    $2.2 million was spent on the 30 repair projects reviewed with more than $1.2 million spent repairing 8 residential homes and without any cost analyses.
•    Caltrans has paid General Services an average of $4.7 million annually, from 1999-2011 to repair homes, without a contract or oversight.
•    General Services does not properly monitor labor charges for its temporary employees.  In 2011 two casual labor employees charged almost 160 labor hours to clean up and procure goods at job sites for which no other work was being done or had been performed.  General Service’s casual laborers are paid at the State’s prevailing wage requirement, an hourly rate of $44.68 which resulted in a payment of $7,150 for the 160 hours of “work.”
•    The audit recommended that Caltrans prepare a cost-benefit analysis to determine if the State would save money by hiring a private vendor to manage the properties.

It is clear to the UCT and El Sereno residents that Caltrans is incapable of providing fair, just and effective property management.  UCT is asking that you join us at the Tenant’s Assembly scheduled on Thursday, March 14th from 6-8 pm at All Saints Catholic Church. Parish Hall, located at 3420 Portola Avenue in El Sereno.  Article Submitted by United Caltrans Tenants.