Guest Opinion: West Pasadena Residents’ Association | Pasadena Attorney to Caltrans Tenants: “Nothing is stopping Caltrans from selling 710 properties”

Published : Monday, January 13, 2020 | 12:50 PM

Tenants living in Caltrans-owned homes in west Pasadena, South Pasadena and El Sereno have been waiting for years to purchase their homes at an affordable price, as guaranteed in the Roberti Bill (AB 113 in 2009). Caltrans announced in 2015 that it would sell the houses in three phases. Now that the 710 freeway tunnel proposal is officially dead — and there is no legitimate reason to continue holding onto the houses — Caltrans has yet to make progress toward the sale of those properties.

Caltrans was supposed to sell the houses to those tenants in Phase One in 2018 at the original purchase price. It then tried to implement an “inflation-adjusted price,” which was higher than what the houses were supposed to sell for.

In March, a judge ordered Caltrans to follow the law and sell the houses at the original purchase price. Instead, Caltrans created “emergency regulations” to implement the inflation-adjusted price, which were approved by the state Office of Administrative Law. Pasadena attorney Christopher Sutton sued Caltrans on behalf of three tenants to strike down the emergency regulations.

Those emergency regulations expired on Thanksgiving 2019. Caltrans argued that since the regulations expired, Sutton’s lawsuit is moot. Sutton disagreed, arguing that his clients still have not been able to purchase their homes at the price guaranteed in the Roberti Bill.

Caltrans indicated that it had plans to replace the emergency regulations with regular regulations, a ploy that might still permit sale at an inflation-adjusted price. Subsequently, Caltrans asked Sutton’s clients if they would be willing to wait for the new regulations and then resubmit their income information. Sutton’s clients declined, assuming that this was yet one more delay tactic. As a result, the suit continues. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant has scheduled a trial-setting conference for January 14.

As of January 1, 2020, the properties are all officially considered surplus, per Senate Bill 7, which also officially killed the 710 freeway tunnel. As a result, Caltrans tenants in the 710 corridor will soon notify Caltrans of the intention to purchase their houses at the Roberti price.

The United Caltrans Tenants’ goals for 2020 are to prevent rent hikes for all tenants, cancel all excessive rent debt and rollback rents to 2013 rates. It also will strive to force Caltrans to rent the homes that are currently unoccupied, as well as repair and sell all the properties. Their next general meeting is January 18 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Eastside Café in El Sereno.

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