CalTrans Home Sales South Pasadena | Confusion & Poor Communication Over Status of Caltrans Properties

Home are not yet available to the public for purchase as promoted on brokers website. Early announcement causes major debacle at South Pasadena City Hall.

CalTrans Homes for sale and now on the market in South Pasadena. Not Ready to sell yet. Not ready to sell yet. CalTrans Homes for sale are NOT on the market in South Pasadena until State Approval Process & Close of Escrow to The City of South Pasadena in order to resell.
Not ready to sell yet. CalTrans Homes for sale are NOT on the market in South Pasadena until State Approval Process & Close of Escrow to The City of South Pasadena in order to resell.

Confusion about the status of historic Caltrans homes blew up this week when the city’s contracted realtor published a press release suggesting they were ready for sale to the public.

But the five unoccupied historic homes that the city of South Pasadena is purchasing from Caltrans are currently in escrow to the City of South Pasadena for resale to the public, according to a Caltrans spokesperson. The City’s purchase escrow won’t close until the sales are approved by the California Transportation Commission, which likely won’t act until later this summer. There is no formal date for the close of escrow, said Caltrans’ Eric Menjivar, and even then, escrow could be extended.

The City of South Pasadena approved contracts to buy the five homes from CalTrans—four single family dwellings and one multifamily unit–back on Feb. 7. Under SB 381, the city-sponsored legislation advanced by Sen. Anthony Portantino, the city is authorized to resell the homes. It hired the Dave Knight Real Estate Team of Keller Williams to handle the resales.

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This week, Dave Knight issued a press release saying the homes are being “returned to the residential real estate market for new owners to once again enjoy.” But the properties had not yet been placed on the official Multiple Listing Service.

Further confusing matters are details about how the resales are being structured. The South Pasadena Preservation Foundation, which has been closely monitoring the historic properties reintroduction into the city city’s tax roles, has repeatedly recommended that the sales be structured as “side by side” sales, meaning that the escrows for both the purchase by the city from Caltrans and the city’s resale of the properties to individual buyers, would run simultaneously.

SPPF has also pushed hard for a set of criteria designed to ensure that the houses will be sold to people with a strong interest in South Pasadena, and who have the financial wherewithal to preserve and restore the homes, which are being sold to the city “as is.” SPPF also wants to ensure the homes won’t be sold to flippers or speculators.

City Council member Janet Braun told the South Pasadenan News Friday the city is on board with the substance of the SPPF priorities in that it wants buyers who can demonstrate their ability to purchase and restore the homes, and ensure there are no conflicts of interest. She said the Council has discussed the criteria with the realtor. But the details have not been finalized and Braun was uncertain how the criteria will be enforced, for example through covenants or good faith agreements tied to the sales contract. But she noted the city council will have final say over to whom the properties are sold.

However, since all city real estate negotiations are handled in closed session, it is unclear what public assurance citizens will have that the protective criteria are consecrated.

South Pasadena City offices were closed Friday.

The five properties are only the first tranche of Caltrans houses in the former 710 corridor in South Pasadena set for re-entry into the residential market. Caltrans has offered to sell South Pasadena a total of 37 residential unoccupied houses originally acquired decades ago for the now-defunct SR 710 freeway extension.

In addition, there are 50 occupied Caltrans residential properties in the city. Caltrans has made offers to the occupants of those properties to purchase their homes. Throughout the corridor, which includes properties in Pasadena, El Sereno and South Pasadena, tenants of 23 Caltrans’-owned occupied properties are currently in escrow to buy their homes; seven contracts are pending and many others are currently under review for eligibility determinations, Caltrans reported this week.


Ben Tansey
Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.