By Lauren Gold, June 8, 2014
Houses on Columbia Street near Pasadena Avenue in South Pasadena. Many
historic homes and buildings sit in the alternative routes for the 710
extension that the Los Angeles Metropolitan Authority proposed during
its environmental study process.
Historic Howard Longley Residence, 1005 Buena Vista Street, built by
architects Greene & Greene in 1897. The historic home is owned by
LOS ANGELES >> Caltrans has identified 56 of the properties it
owns in the 710 Freeway corridor that are ready to be sold immediately,
officials said this week.
But first, the agency has to complete
the tail end of a lengthy process to write up a set of rules to follow
when selling the more than 500 homes, businesses and vacant lots it
bought more than 50 years ago when the proposal for the 710 north
extension was first born.
A draft of those proposed rules was
released last week, beginning a 45-day comment period for tenants and
other members of the public to express any concerns with the proposed
process. The deadline for comments is July 14.
“The idea all along has been that we are not in the business of
being property managers, so we want to return these properties as
quickly as we can to the tax rolls,” Caltrans spokeswoman Lauren Wonder
said. “We have to have a process in place in order to sell these in the
proper and legal and fair manner, so that’s why we have to go through
regulation development and approval.”
Caltrans has been holding on
to the properties in Los Angeles, South Pasadena and Pasadena for five
decades as the region continued to debate the 710 extension without
resolution. Now, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation
Authority and Caltrans are in the midst of an environmental report on a
new set of five options to close the gap between the freeway stubs in
Pasadena and Alhambra.
The five options being studied are: “no build,” light rail, bus,
traffic management solutions and a freeway tunnel. The draft
environmental report, which was originally set to be released this
spring, has been delayed until February 2015 and the final project will
be chosen in 2016.
A bill by State Sen. Carol Liu passed last year
— following a state audit that slammed Caltrans for poor property
management — required Caltrans to begin selling the homes it no longer
needs to demolish for the freeway project. Wonder said the agency has
selected 56 homes that are outside the footprint of any of the remaining
five options that can be sold right away.
The second phase of sales will include properties that are within
the area of the five options but will not need to be demolished, and
the final phase of sales will follow the Metro board’s selection of the
An environmental study is also underway, Wonder
said, for the historical homes the agency owns, some of which are in the
first phase of sales. The study should be completed next year,
The draft regulations for the home sales spell out
the order in which tenants, cities or housing agencies are allowed to
purchase the homes. Per state law, the homes must be offered first to
the tenants who already live there; however, the tenants must fall
within a certain income bracket to have the first shot at buying their
The affordablility aspect is an area that has many tenants
concerned, and is an issue that many brought up at public meetings
Caltrans held last year on the home sales.
“I believe that is
extremely unjust,” tenant Libby Curiel said in a conference call with
Caltrans last week that was posted on YouTube. “I’ve lived there for 12
years. I’ve invested so much time energy, money. Where does that leave
someone like me?”
Chris Sutton, attorney for the Caltrans Tenants Association, said
he’s also hesitant about a requirement that those who purchase the home
at an affordable price will have to sign a 30-year contract with
Caltrans that among other things prohibits them from selling it.
Also, he said, the tenants are ultimately just not ready to trust
Caltrans staff to sell the homes in a fair, logical and transparent
“The Caltrans staff in Los Angeles in the past has done
things that were not in compliance with what Caltrans in Sacramento
wants,” Sutton said. “The things that Caltrans has tried to pull and do
is just bizarre and unexplainable in so many ways and that’s why we are
concerned. We’ll just see what happens.” Caltrans plans to host public
hearings on July 15 at California State University, Los Angeles, and
July 17 at the Pasadena Convention Center. There is also an information
hotline at 213-897-8184 and website at www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/business/710sales.
To submit comments, email Affordable_Sales_program@dot.ca.gov,
fax them to 916-654-6378 or mail to Brent Green, ATTN: Affordable Sales
Program, California Department of Transportation, 1120 N Street, MS 37,
Sacramento, CA 95814.