New law adds provisions to expedite sale of 500 Caltrans properties.
By Paul Aranda, Jr., October 31, 2013
With the recent signing of Senate Bill (SB) 416 on October 1st, the
California Department of Transportation caught some residents off guard
by moving quickly with a workshop last week at the El Sereno Senior
Citizens Center to discuss the future sale of properties no longer
needed for a transportation project.
Erick Solares, a deputy attorney at Caltrans, led the workshop that
drew a standing room crowd of local residents gathered for the first of
two public workshops organized to gather suggestions for regulations on
the sales of surplus residential properties in an area known as the 710
corridor. The audience included residents from all areas within the
corridor, from Pasadena to El Sereno.
Caltrans acquired the properties in El Sereno, South Pasadena and
Pasadena for a proposed extension of the 710 Long Beach freeway to the
210 Foothill freeway that was never built. Current efforts focus on an
underground tunnel along with other alternatives including a light rail
option and enhanced street traffic systems.
Solares told the crowd that the workshop is “the very beginning of
the process.” He cited that these workshops bypass normal protocol by
allowing residents to have input on the regulations before they are
drafted. The suggestions however, cannot alter the current law, the
Roberti Act, that governs the sales of surplus properties.
Local resident Teresa Almeida pressed Solares to provide a definitive
timetable so she could make a decision on whether to purchase the home
her mother has lived in for over thirty years.
“How can I make a decision if I don’t know what will be under my home?” Almeida asked.
Solares said it could take up to a year to have finalized
regulations. Specific properties designated surplus will not be
identified until the final environmental review for the current
710-project is complete. That review will determine the alignment of the
With a history that spans six decades, the 710-freeway project has
slowly moved at the speed of traffic on existing southland freeways.
Caltrans official, Paul Brown, told the audience that the passage of SB
416 represents “a new beginning for a new process.”
Before Caltrans can move on with its new process, it will have to face residents long troubled with its past performance.
Many residents expressed frustrations related to rent increases, poor
maintenance, and gridlock on previous attempts to purchase their homes.
One resident referred to the agency as a “slumlord” to the delight of
many in the audience. Some of the suggestions that were provided by the
audience included a rent credit towards the sales price. Others wanted
the value of occupant paid for repairs to offset the sales price. The
most popular suggestion was to freeze rent increases since the homes
will eventually be sold.
Several residents voiced concerns over the ability of low- to
moderate-income occupants to afford the homes even with the new priority
provisions. Some suggested the ability to have co-signers with no
income restrictions. Others want to see their “net income” used as a
base income for any sale.
El Sereno resident Peter Garcia asked that a task force be created to
review eligibility requirements to prevent developers from “land
grabbing” properties. SB 416 provides a provision for low-income housing
authorities to purchase property if no current or former occupant buys
Specifically, four categories were created to identify priority of
sale. The first three relate to current and prior occupants and the
fourth one relates to housing-related entities with a goal to have
occupants own the homes. Potential buyers cannot have owned real estate
within the last three years, but it is unclear how that provision would
impact current occupants who might need financial assistance from a
relative who owns other property.
The Roberti Act and SB 416 aim to create affordable housing for local
residents through the sales of surplus properties owned by state
agencies. “We would love to see current occupants buy their homes,”
Solares said. Current residents who are unable to purchase the home will
receive non-monetary assistance. Solares did not define what the
assistance is at the workshop. Solares said the next scheduled meetings
will be held once the draft regulations are released which is
tentatively scheduled between late 2013 and early 2014.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation into law on October 1st.
State Senator Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and Assemblymembers
Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) and Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) drafted SB 416
to expedite the sale of 500 properties no longer needed to construct the
northbound 710 freeway extension.
The bill sets up four tiers of priority for eligible tenants. Any
unsold properties are to be auctioned off at fair market value. The bill
creates an exemption to existing law by allowing
Caltrans to revise its definition of “fair market value” for the
properties to reflect existing “as is” condition. All proceeds from the
sales will be deposited into a special account used to fund repairs
until all required repairs are made. Once all the properties are sold,
all remaining funds will be transferred to the State Highway Account for
eligible projects in El Sereno, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra and
La Cañada Flintridge