To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Welcoming 710 Freeway houses back to the tax rolls: Editorial


June 12, 2014

The good news on the 710 Freeway extension front is that Caltrans is trying to get out of the property-management business, which the transit agency has never claimed to be adept at.

Caltrans’ charge is the freeway business, and however well you think it does at that, it must be acknowledged that in Los Angeles County, where the freeway was invented, it’s a full-time job.

But half a century ago — when it was first seriously proposed that the long-planned extension of the 710 Freeway from its terminus in Alhambra at Valley Boulevard north to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena actually get under way — Caltrans bought upward of 500 homes and businesses in the route’s path.

Recognizing it might take a few years to get its act together and take it on the road, the agency leased out the homes. Fifty years later, what a nightmare that has been, first because of lax state maintenance, then because of wild overpayment for shoddy fix-it jobs.

No freeway was ever built, thanks at first to feisty little South Pasadena, a lone rat terrier with Caltrans pants’ cuffs in its teeth for decades. But that city has now been joined by Pasadena, Sierra Madre, La Canada Flintridge and Glendale in opposition to the freeway, along with every preservationist in Southern California. That’s because of more good news: Some of the grand Craftsman-era and even earlier houses owned by Caltrans include some of the best residential architecture and solid construction techniques in the West.

But the surface route, whatever Caltrans keeps insisting because of its legal need to pretend that “alternatives” are still being studied, is entirely dead as an option.

The tunnel route is another matter for another time.

So now, thanks to a bill by state Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Canada Flintridge, that passed the Legislature last year after a state audit slammed Caltrans for poor property management, Caltrans is required to begin selling the homes it no longer needs to demolish for the freeway project. The agency has selected 56 houses, outside the footprint of any of the remaining five supposed options, that can be sold right away.
Of course the po
or little bureaucracy can’t catch a break, because everyone is an expert, and everyone has an angle. Current longtime tenants of the Caltrans houses understandably say they not only should have right of first refusal on buying the homes, but also shouldn’t have to pay market rates because they’ve been maintaining the old places so long. The state more or less says fine — but in a move aimed at stopping the former tenants from then turning around and flipping the properties, wants to impose a 30-year moratorium on then selling the homes.

Realtors in Southwest Pasadena and South Pasadena are desperate for inventory in two of the hottest Southern California markets for real estate. But they also note that putting dozens of properties for sale at the same time could flood that market and greatly influence pricing.

We understand Caltrans’ desire to not get ripped off by giving a price break to tenants and then see them capitalize on it. But 30 years is too long. What about a decade? And the sooner all these houses get back in private ownership on the tax rolls, the better for us all.