By Justin Chapman, October 16, 2013
Caltrans will hold two public workshops on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct.
24, to provide information and take public input for drafting
regulations related to the sale of recently approved surplus properties
in the so-called 710 Corridor, the proposed route of a surface road
meant to connect the Long Beach (710) and Foothill (210) freeways.
a Caltrans official told the Pasadena Weekly that the agency won't
begin selling the properties until an alternative to the surface
connector road is chosen sometime in spring 2015. Currently, five
alternatives to the surface connector are being considered: a
4.5-mile-long tunnel, light rail, increased bus service, traffic
improvements and a no-build option.
With plans to build a surface
road connecting the two freeways now shelved, more than 580 homes seized
through eminent domain and hardship sales by Caltrans in the 1960s are
considered surplus. Due to years of neglect by the state agency, more
than 180 of those structures are unoccupied or too dilapidated for
Senate Bill 416, authored by state Sen. Carol Liu,
D-La Cañada Flintridge, and signed into law two weeks ago by Gov. Jerry
Brown, provides for the sale of those homes by state transit officials.
However, there is no timeline in the bill that requires Caltrans to sell
the properties by a certain date.
"Caltrans will know how many
properties will be for sale once the project is determined," said
Caltrans spokesperson Maria Raptis. A draft environmental impact report
for the project is set to be released sometime this spring, with the
final decision expected to be made the following year.
sell excess land until we know if there's a project or not, and if there
is where the alignment will be," Raptis said. "Even if it's an
underground tunnel, there are things like ventilation, access, maybe a
maintenance area, that will have to be above ground and that may be on a
property that we need. Otherwise, we'll have to buy property back."
a letter mailed to tenants living in the 710 Corridor, Caltrans
announced that the regulations drafted at the upcoming meetings "will
implement existing law (the Roberti Act) and establish the procedure for
the sale of SR-710 properties which were developed as single-family or
multifamily family housing and which are no longer deemed necessary for
use by Caltrans (surplus residential properties)."
Roberti Act and SB416, the properties must first be offered to low- to
moderate-income tenants in good standing at an affordable rate.
Properties must also be sold to current and former tenants at "fair
market value." However, under Liu's legislation, the properties can be
sold "as is," meaning Caltrans is no longer required to make any needed
repairs before selling the properties, as it was under Roberti's law.
for next steps, Don Justin Jones of the group United Caltrans Tenants
(UCT) said they will have to see what "directives, policies and
strategies come out of these workshops, and see how those are translated
into deeds and actions. We're going to approach this in good faith and
UCT will be holding a meeting Sunday to discuss the sale of the homes.
Others are more skeptical than Jones.
we want something done, we have to do it ourselves," said Pasadena
property rights attorney Christopher Sutton. "The first step is
[Caltrans Director] Malcolm Dougherty must issue an affirmative written
decision to the director of District 7 listing each individual property
by address and Caltrans ID number that he finds to be ‘surplus.' We
believe these hearings are just a distraction. So we're going to come up
with a comprehensive list ourselves and petition Dougherty directly to
declare them surplus, and then go to the three city councils [Pasadena,
South Pasadena and Los Angeles] requesting that they also push for that.
We're going to take on the job that staff should be doing themselves."
acknowledged that SB416 is a major step forward, but he maintains
serious doubts that Caltrans staff at District 7 in Los Angeles will get
the job done. Sutton said the Los Angeles Caltrans office is a
completely insubordinate "pirate ship" that doesn't follow orders from
After Dougherty declares the properties surplus, the
next step would be assigning two full-time staff members to see out the
process, Sutton said.
"Unless you get the right person assigned to
do this job, nothing will happen," said Sutton. "[District 7 Deputy
Director] Andy Nierenberg said their unofficial plan is to start selling
the homes in January 2015. They're just going to drag their feet
forever. Even if they started in January 2014 and averaged 10 sales per
month it would take at least to the end of 2017 to sell all the
In an email to tenants, Sutton said they should
restrain their excitement for SB416 and the possibility of soon owning
their homes, adding that it's going to be "a long and tedious process."
Roberto Flores of UCT is also worried that the upcoming meetings with Caltrans aren't being held in good faith.
the hearings on rental rates [held earlier this year] are any
indication, we're in trouble," said Flores. "Are these hearings just a
show? Are they going to be a democratic, participatory process, or are
they just going through the motions because it's mandated? We're
concerned about that."
At a recent UCT meeting, Jones recommended
that tenants start preparing for the implementation of SB416 by getting
their finances in order, as well as all paperwork, contracts,
correspondence and agreements they've had with Caltrans.
starting point, as far as tenants are concerned, is whether or not they
have a present or former contractual relationship with Caltrans," said
Jones. "You have to have that to even qualify for this bill. It can be
broken down into four parts: the people, the properties, the process and
the results. We're just at the threshold of the process. The goal of
our group is to make sure everyone has a roof, that there's no loss of
Flores urged tenants to adhere to an all for one and one
for all mentality. He said that everyone can get the best deal if they
all stick together.
"We have to unite and think in terms of all of
us, as opposed to individual tenants just worrying about their own
house," he said. "We are going to fight as hard as possible for a
humanitarian policy that includes everyone, so no tenant is thrown out."
tenants group, Caltrans Tenants Association (CTA), sent out an email to
tenants urging them to attend the upcoming Caltrans workshops and make
their concerns known.
"Every tenant is encouraged to make their
comments known at the upcoming Caltrans meetings," states the CTA email.
"Our input must be included in the discussions regarding the sales
process. The association will attempt to speed up the procedure and
ensure that it is fair to all tenants involved. The association's goal
is to provide as complete and accurate information as possible so that
we can all make wise decisions."
Sutton said it will take about a
month to come up with the comprehensive list of properties that he will
submit to Dougherty for consideration to be declared surplus so that the
process can formally begin.
"But I remain skeptical that District 7
will ever undertake such a task, because it requires thought, commitment
and the regular use of math," said Sutton. "No law is the law truly
until it is implemented."
Caltrans will hold two public
workshops, one from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the El Sereno Senior
Citizens Center, 4818 Klamath Place, Los Angeles, and the other from 6
to 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Pasadena Convention Center, Ballroom
C, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena. United Caltrans Tenants will hold a
meeting at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Eastside Café, 5469 N. Huntington Drive,