Former 710 Freeway Route Caltrans Residential Tenants Get a Month’s Reprieve

Published : Monday, March 5, 2018 | 6:39 AM

Caltrans

Last Thursday’s deadline for Caltrans tenants to respond to the State agency’s offer allowing them to buy their rental homes along the former 710 Freeway extension route was pushed back 30 days after State Senator Anthony Portantino intervened and negotiated an extension.

Caltrans tenant groups have been battling Caltrans to resolve issues preventing them from purchasing the homes since 2016, after Caltrans first started the process of selling some of the more than 460 homes it owns along a six-mile path in El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena that was to have been the route of a surface extension of the 710 Freeway.

The residential properties had been bought by the State decades earlier for the 710 extension, but were declared surplus after plans shifted to a tunnel extension, which itself was nixed after the Metro Board of Directors withdrew its support for that plan in May, 2017.

Caltrans said from the beginning of the selling process for the affected homes that purchase priority would be given to renters who lived in them and that the properties could be purchased at a fair-market rate.

A Caltrans spokesperson said her agency wanted to “get out of the landlord business.”

But tenants and Pasadena attorney Christopher Sutton, who has represented tenants organizations for decades, say the method used by Caltrans to determine the proposed sales prices of the homes violates California state code and makes properties so unaffordable many tenants won’t be able to buy them, and will face eviction.

In January, Caltrans told tenants that under state law, the “minimum price” at which it can sell a house is the original purchase price adjusted for inflation.

For many of the low- or moderate-income tenants living in the Caltrans properties, that pricing formula results in an unfeasible monthly housing payment, Sutton told the South Pasadena Review.

Sutton points to the California’s 1979 Roberti Law, which he said mandates that the surplus housing must be sold at an affordable price to low and moderate income families. Caltrans calculated this affordable price using a formula that assumes 25 percent of a family’s monthly income will go toward housing expenses.

Caltrans’ “minimum price” for selling the surplus properties in some cases is higher than the affordable price it determined specific tenants can pay, after it considered an affordable price using a formula that assumes 25 percent of a family’s monthly income will go toward housing expenses.

“[Thursday’s deadline extension] is a small victory, and will allow the Caltrans tenant groups time to consider their litigation options,” Sutton said to the Review.

He told the South Pasadena City Council last Wednesday that he and the tenants he represents hope Caltrans will not stick with its decision to sell the properties at inflation-adjusted prices.

“It effectively renders these properties unaffordable for everyone and essentially undercuts the entire purpose of the Roberti Law regarding these tenants, some of whom have lived in these houses for 50 years,” Sutton told the Council.