October 16, 2013
Are the Caltrans-owned houses in the corridor for the doomed surface
route of the 710 Freeway extension nice houses? The kind you’d want to
Well, let’s just say that fully 28 of them are so nice
they are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the highest
designation an abode can have in the United States.
are the Craftsman and pre-Craftsman homes, many of them mansions, in the
Markham Historic District in southwest Pasadena, roughly bounded by
Orange Grove Boulevard, California and Bellefontaine streets and
Pasadena Avenue. The neighborhood is named for California’s 18th
governor, Henry Harrison Markham — a Civil War veteran referred to as
“the dashing colonel from Pasadena” during his campaign.
Not all of the 500 or so houses that the transit agency owns from El
Sereno through South Pasadena and Pasadena are mansions, or of historic
value. But lots of them that aren’t on the National Register are,
because the entire swath of the long-planned, long-unbuilt freeway is
through older parts of Southern California, where the housing stock was
built with materials and a class of workmanship that are not duplicable
Sadly, some historic buildings, including the old
brown-shingled Neighborhood Church on California Boulevard, were razed
40 years ago when the freeway seemed a certainty. Anti-710 activists,
especially those in South Pasadena, stalled the formerly inevitable for
so long that now if the freeway ever is built, it would be in an
Caltrans has rented out most of the homes over the decades, and
by all accounts has been a lousy landlord. Houses fell into disrepair,
and when massive repair schemes were mounted, it got rooked with high
bills that produced few visible results.
To be fair, a transit
agency isn’t equipped to be in the rental-housing business. That’s not
its job, especially not over four decades.
And the good news is
that thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown signing SB 416 by state Sen. Carol Liu,
Caltrans must now expedite the sale of the majority of the properties,
getting them into the hands of individual owners who will care for them,
and getting them back on the tax rolls.
Following what in ordinary times would be good economic logic,
the state has said it won’t place all the houses for sale at once,
saying it didn’t want to create “a glut on the market.”
Wrong, say local real estate professionals. “We’ve got 20 buyers for
every property” in the tonier neighborhoods of southwest Pasadena, says
Maureen Hollingsworth of Sotheby’s. Putting the houses in the freeway
corridor on the market wouldn’t be flooding it with too much inventory —
“There is no inventory,” says her colleague Gretchen M. Seager.
Certainly at the upper price ranges, but often at lower ones as well,
she said. “There’d be no time better to sell them than right now,”
The facts that they need work and are on busy streets, which
would bring the price points down below similar historic houses in the
neighborhood, would only add to their attractiveness, Seager said.
state of California, listen to the professionals who know their
business. It’s a seller’s market right now in the kind of real estate
that you have to offer.
Put 500 for-sale signs out and it looks like you’ll net the taxpayers a pretty penny.