By Lauren Gold, October 26, 2013
PASADENA >> The sale of the state-owned homes in the 710
Freeway corridor has been a goal of many state legislators, freeway
fighters and tenants for years, but with the transition into private
ownership finally on the horizon, the mood in the room is largely one of
concern and fear.
Tenants turned out in droves to two community
meetings this week to express questions, comments and concerns about the
process of selling the houses. The meetings, in El Sereno and Pasadena,
were the first step in Caltrans’ process to create a set of regulations
for the home sales.
Three Caltrans attorneys recorded comments from the audience at
the meetings and answered questions in what they said was an effort to
be “transparent” and involve as many people as possible in creating the
“We are in a very unique situation here. We will be
disposing of many of the homes that are in the 710 corridor, and we’re
going to be doing so under a scheme that is absolutely unique in
California,” attorney Glenn Mueller said. “(Existing) laws are merely a
skeleton. They don’t answer all the questions, and I’m sure folks in
this room have a lot of questions. Generally speaking, administrative
regulations add meat to those bones, they offer the details on the
procedure and the process.”
The process to sell the homes was expedited this year after Gov.
Jerry Brown signed a bill by State Sen. Carol Liu, D-Pasadena, which
requires Caltrans to sell the homes it will no longer need to demolish
for the freeway extension now that the originally proposed surface route
Revenues from the home sales will going into an
account that will be used to fund home repairs and, after all the homes
are sold, go toward local transportation projects.
concerns about the timetable for the home sales, the cost of the houses
and the possibility that current tenants might not qualify and will get kicked out of their houses. A bill known as the Roberti
Bill gives residents first priority to buy their home, but only if they
have low or moderate income.
“What we want is some kind of goals and timetable so staff
members in Caltrans understand their goal is to move forward quickly,”
Caltrans tenants attorney Christopher Sutton said. “There needs to be
some kind of accountability if and when this process does not go as you
Some also suggested that Caltrans create a task
force to involve the public more in the process and also asked that
Caltrans freeze the rent hikes that it recently implemented as a result
of a scathing report from the California State Auditor.
Many of those who spoke at the meeting Thursday in Pasadena had
logistical questions about their properties, complaining that they can’t
get a response from Caltrans any other way.
Officials said they
plan to release a draft of the regulations by the end of the year,
conduct another public review process, then release the final
regulations in fall 2014. They said the agency will not begin selling
the homes until the draft environmental impact report, expected in
spring 2014, which will delineate the specific routes for each of five
possible alternatives for the freeway gap closure.
But, Mueller said, that doesn’t mean the agency plans to stall the process.
“We are really trying to get this done,” he said. “You usually don’t see Caltrans attorneys out here like this.”
the three attorneys addressed many of the concerns and vowed to respond
to all of them, some tenants were still skeptical.
“I think it
was a little bit of a placebo,” Pasadena tenant Jessica Rehg Susnar
said. “They are doing this hoping that maybe they can avoid other issues
down the road and fly under the radar. They are going to do whatever