That old adage, if it’s too good to be true it probably isn’t might apply to some South Pasadena homes controlled by Caltrans’. Some homes are finally being sold in South Pasadena.
Some current renters might be overly enthusiastic when they hear they’re going for far less than the current market rate, some ridiculously low as $24,000.
Yes, but those in the know, longtime freeway fighters, say there’s a catch.
The transportation agency originally obtained them about 60 years ago when plans were in full force to construct a freeway extension through the heart of the city.
Since the project is no longer funded and essentially ‘dead’, Caltrans attempted to sell the homes back at a huge markup. Some tenants sued Caltrans and were victorious in court.
Three renters, Marysia Wojick, Angeles Flores, and Priscela Izuierdo were involved in the case, taking on the highway agency, and won the legal battle, supported by long-time property rights attorney Chris Sutton.
The south pasadena properties and houses were ‘purchased’ decades ago as the plan was to demolish them when Caltrans looked to expand the freeway 6.2 miles from where it ends at Valley Boulevard just outside the Alhambra city limits, north through El Sereno, South Pasadena and ending in Pasadena at the 134/210 interchange.
For decades, the effort was tied up in courts, the City of South Pasadena spending millions of dollars in legal fees to fight the extension. During that time, the state agency rented most of the properties to families.
Now that the massive project has been defunded, and Senator Portantino declared both a 710 surface route and tunnel construction ‘dead’; the tenants in the homes filed a lawsuit against Caltrans to be first in line to buy them.
However, Caltrans wanted to sell them at their current market value, which is extremely higher than the renters are able to pay.
Caltrans is claiming unless they are sold at today’s market rate, taxpayers potentially would lose large amounts of money, into the millions.
One tenant residing in a Caltrans house wants to buy after renting it since 1992. A judge recently ruled that the home, now valued more than a $1million, should be available to a woman for a mere $24,000, the initial price the transportation agency paid in 1968.
While it may appear to be the deal of the century, the ruling by Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff won’t provide her with a huge windfall should she decide to sell the home.
A majority of the equity, about $900,000, would go to the state of California’s Housing Finance Agency. The state agency would still come out on top even if the woman should become a homeowner in a city with some of the highest priced houses.
Pasadena Attorney Chris Sutton, who represents the tenants in the case, has been a frequent visitor at South Pasadena City Council meeting, over the years fighting for the Caltrans homes to go on the market.
In anticipation to the 710 Freeway expansion in the 1950s and 1960s, Caltrans was successful in purchasing homes, apartment complexes and empty lots, along the corridor – 460 structures in all, ranging from small cottages to Craftsman-style estates. Of those, 112 are in South Pasadena.
“The Caltrans home sale process has already been set up through the Roberti Bill,” explained Steven Lawrence, president of the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation, referring to legislation outlining the process for the disposition of the 710 properties acquired by Caltrans. “The fact that renters had to sue for a position that already exists is another astonishing waste of state resources, but don’t be fooled by what looks like a deal. The devil is in the details with Caltrans. The equity for the homes remains with Caltrans. Unfortunately, it’s a complex situation that must be looked at very carefully. It not what it looks like on the surface.”
Lawrence continues: “…these are South Pasadena homes, our homes – not ‘Caltrans’ homes. The process to rebuild our communities is already in place – Caltrans should not be keeping our properties from us any longer and we certainly should not have to sue them again to get them back….”
Stay tuned as we continue with this issue.