BY The South Pasadena Preservation Foundation ‘SPPF’, Submitted by Mr. Gallatin
The City of South Pasadena finds itself in danger of getting bogged down in a costly, unproductive quagmire if it continues to follow its current strategy regarding the sale of properties owned by Caltrans in the city.
But rather than despair, I urge the City to see this as an inflection point and the perfect opportunity for a strategic ‘reset’. The South Pasadena City Council has a real opportunity to work through a complex set of circumstances and achieve a relatively smooth, cost-efficient and home-grown outcome to repairing the neighborhood tapestry of our small city.
The bullet points below represent some of the highlights of the plan that has been presented to City Council previously by the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. The SPPF board consists of highly experienced working professionals in design/build, city planning, administration, as well as historic preservation.
- SOUTH PASADENA PRESERVATION FOUNDATION’S ALTERNATE PLAN FOR CALTRANS HOME SALES WOULD RETURN THE VACANT HOMES TO PRIVATE HOMEOWNERSHIP, RAISING OVER $65,000 IN PROPERTY TAX REVENUES FOR THE CITY OF SOUTH PASADENA IN THE FIRST YEAR ALONE.
- SELLING THE VACANT HOMES TO PRIVATE OWNERS INSTEAD OF PURCHASE BY THE CITY OR A HOUSING RELATED ENTITY WOULD GENERATE OVER $20,000,000 IN CAPITAL TO CREATE AFFORDABLE HOUSING THROUGHOUT THE COMMUNITY.
- SEVERAL VACANT CALTRANS HOMES HAVE RECENTLY BEEN BROKEN INTO BY ATTEMPTED SQUATTERS. COMMUNITY SAFETY DEMANDS THAT A SOLUTION TO VACANCIES AND BLIGHT BE FOUND QUICKLY AND NEIGHBORHOODS BE RESTORED.
- THE SPPF ALTERNATIVE PLAN WOULD BE SELF-FUNDING IN THE SENSE THAT THE PRIVATE PURCHASERS OF THE HOMES WOULD PROVIDE THE FUNDING FOR THEIR ACQUISITION, SAVING THE CITY THE APPROXIMATELY $2.2 MILLION NEEDED TO ACQUIRE ALL 20 VACANT PROPERTIES CURRENTLY OFFERED TO THE CITY BY CALTRANS.
The State of California, through its Department of Transportation (Caltrans), started purchasing properties in South Pasadena, Pasadena and Los Angeles (El Sereno) for the extension of the SR 710 surface freeway in 1965. In 1973, the City of South Pasadena, Sierra Club and the Center for Law in the Public Interest secured a federal injunction which required that an adequate EIR/EIS be done by the state and federal governments and until then, there would be no more purchase of properties (the ones owned at the time had to remain occupied to prevent de-populating the route) or construction of the freeway.
The small City of South Pasadena could not sustain the loss of our property tax base with a second freeway though town. The State had acquired 50 properties in South Pasadena by 1973 which were taken off the property tax rolls when purchased. Almost half of our General Fund revenue comes from property tax.
In 1998, 25 years and various route realignments later, the final EIR/EIS for the surface freeway was released. The City, along with many more environmental and preservation groups, joined together and secured a second injunction in 1999. This injunction did not contain the provision to keep the properties occupied and Caltrans proceeded to de-populate the route.
The federal government canceled the surface freeway in 2003 and talk of a tunnel began. The environmental process for the toll tunnels continued until May of 2017, when the Metro Board voted to cancel the tunnel project. On November 28, 2018, the EIR/EIS was released with the preferred alternative the non-freeway/tunnel Transportation Systems Management/Transportation Demand Management (TSM/TDM). At that ceremony, then Secretary of Transportation Brian Annis stated, “it’s time to sell the properties.” Only 10 properties have been sold since that time.
Currently, the State owns approximately 450 properties in the SR 710 corridor and a quarter of those are vacant, some for decades. In the late 90’s, 55 properties were outside of the proposed alignment and the then Director of Caltrans ordered that they be sold. Most of those properties are in South Pasadena and 35 were sold to the tenants as required by the Roberti Law. About 2000, the City of South Pasadena successfully partnered with Caltrans to restore two properties on Berkshire Ave. and put them back into private homeownership. This partnership is the model for the sales of properties and restoration of the neighborhoods post-Caltrans occupation, the intent of the Roberti Law.
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