Pasadena Nonprofits Would Get a Helping Hand with Bill Just OK’d by State Senate Committee

Published : Thursday, April 11, 2019 | 4:49 AM

Pasadena schools and nonprofit organizations that have been leasing buildings and land from Caltrans along the former 710 Freeway extension route may get a big hand up in continuing their respective missions.

A proposed California law, SB 7, which passed a state Senate committee Tuesday, would allow nonprofits Ronald McDonald House, Sequoyah School, Cottage Co-Op Nursery School, Waverly School Organic Garden and the Arlington Garden to purchase their properties from Caltrans for below market rate and continue in place.

“We are very happy to see the Senate bill continue to progress through the Legislature,” said Heidi Johnson, head of the Waverly School. “Waverly’s organic farm, which is one of the parcels affected, is a vital part of the academic program and our overall community.”
The bill, by Pasadena-area representative State Senator Anthony Portantino, next heads to the Senate Appropriations, which Portantino chairs, and then the Senate Floor for a final vote. If all goes according to plan, the bill will be signed by Governor Newsom in September.

Pasadena’s nonprofits were represented in Sacramento on Tuesday by Elizabeth Dever and Megan Foker of Ronald McDonald House Charities and Alaysia Baker-Baughn and Dashiell Gowen, students from Sequoyah School, all of whom spoke to the state committee in support of the bill.

“We’re thankful for those who were able to speak on our behalf and on behalf of all the nonprofits,” said Jocelyn Robertson director of Cottage Co-Op Nursery School. “It’s a great opportunity to buy the property and that enables us to maintain the current operations.”

Dever, who is the Director of Ronald McDonald House Pasadena, said any and all help for their mission is welcome in these tough economic times. While McDonald’s corporate contributes to running the Ronald McDonald House, the local nonprofit is responsible for bringing in the rest by fundraising and running capital campaigns.

“We get 10 to15 percent from the ‘Mcfamily,’ which are owner-operators, customers, suppliers and all the all the people surrounding Mcdonald’s, and the rest we need to raise, so this will help,” she said.

SB 7 would prohibit Caltrans from building a surface freeway or tunnel for Route 710 between the 10 Freeway in the south by Alhambra and the 210 and 134 freeways in West Pasadena. It also would start the process through which the state of California must return surplus stubs to local cities. In addition to the Pasadena stub there is also one at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra.

SB 7 has a twin in Assembly Bill 29 by Assemblyman Chris Holden and the bills would add legislative nails into a coffin for any 710 freeway extension. In 2017, Metro said the extension was too expensive and not feasible. Last November, Caltrans dumped the plan by presenting an environmental study that called for more local roadways and more bike lanes as an alternative.

Portantino’s proposed SB 7 is widely supported locally: the cities of South Pasadena and Pasadena, the Cottage Co-Op, Pasadena Ronald McDonald House, LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and the rest of the County Board of Supervisors are all on board.

Many people along the defunct 710 extension route had tried to simply bear with existing on the island of odd buildings sandwiched between the whizzing traffic heading between local freeways.

“I was hopeful and realistic but I am pleasantly surprised about the way this turned out,” said Dever of Ronald McDonald House. She said that the location is so crucial to the work they do housing families whose loved ones may have to spend extended time in the hospital as they are in proximity to Huntington Hospital, Shriners Hospital, City of Hope, County USC and Children’s Hospital.

Dever said the group rents homes at 763 and 765 South Pasadena Avenue, two homes with 12 bedrooms and they share a garage and both have beautiful backyards, making the “perfect setting and location, a home away from home” for children and families. She said Ronald McDonald House Pasadena asks families for $25 a night.

“But we would never turn anyone away,” she said. “It could be a six-week stay and they really could pay $2 a night. But even if every family paid the $25 a night, it still costs $150 a night to run the house.”

Ryan McDaniel, director of advancement for Sequoyah School said he was already hard at work on the new capital campaign in anticipation of the purchase.

“We have to have fundraising campaigns because the tuition doesn’t cover expenses,” he said. “Everything we do is for the students and we make sure everything goes back to the program.”

McDaniel said the Sequoyah community has stepped up over the 60 years it has been at the location. Parents, board members, alumni and friends of Sequoyah have done their part in contributing throughout the school’s history.

Waverly’s Johnson said she’s thankful that the nonprofits don’t have to worry about future tenancy.

“All the nonprofit tenants of these properties provide valuable services but the current market value would very likely put the purchase price out of reach. We are thankful that Senator Portantino has offered this bill and we’re very hopeful that it will be passed.”