Letter to the Editor | Pitfalls of SB-381

'The city needs to think long and hard about taking ownership of the 66 parcels and the chain of ownership'

Letters to the Editor | SouthPasadenan.com News

By Bert DeMars

At the behest of the city, Senator Anthony Portantino drafted bill SB-381 that would presumably allow the city to buy all the Caltrans properties at the original purchase price, and then decide their disposition.

Excerpts from SB-381 language found in item #6 of the 4/7/21 council agenda:

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Surplus Caltrans properties that have an affordability covenant placed on them will count towards meeting the City’s mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requirements

Net Proceeds of all home sales by Caltrans will be provided to the City of South Pasadena to be used exclusively for the development and preservation of affordable housing. All affordable housing developed or preserved with these funds shall have an affordability covenant recorded on title for a minimum of 55 years. The “Net Proceeds shall be defined as the sale price of the property minus the initial Caltrans acquisition cost.

Allow the City to establish and transfer ownership to a city-approved non-profit housing related entity that would act as a steward over the portfolio of surplus properties and ensure responsive property maintenance and property management practices.

We all know how that worked out with the city of Pasadena. Law suits, and after several years, cancelation. Leaving the city responsible for the mess.
The city needs to think long and hard about taking ownership of the 66 parcels and the chain of ownership. Has the city sent out a Request for Proposal to all potential management companies, has there been any discussion about what language of such a contract should include, there is a good deal of money involved here.

Hiring any firm to manage the project doesn’t negate the city’s responsibility for the properties. Being owned by the city necessitates parcels be brought to current code standards. I suspect most of the residences have the old Knob-and-tube, no ground, electrical wiring. National average is $3,500.00 to $8,000 to upgrade. How many need new roof shingles with plywood base. How many suffer from termite damage. How many need complete patch and paint jobs. How much would it cost just to have bonded inspectors survey each and every structure. Has the city really thought this through.

As to the two vacant Caltrans parcels: 215 Fairview Ave. zoned Residential Estate (RE), and 1028 Magnolia St. zoned Residential High Density (RH). On the 4/7/21 council agenda, SB 381 Phase listings, purchase of 215 Fairview is listed at $31,265, and 1028 Magnolia at $0? The two parcels are the only remaining vacant lots left in the city, and I’m sure any of our fine realtors will tell you each is easily worth in excess of a quarter million dollars in today’s market.

Homes in and around 215 Fairview Ave. sell in the range of $1.5 and $3.5 million. So is the city willing to screw the surrounding neighbors by building low income housing on the property that would last for 55 years, and drastically lower surrounding property values.

If the city is earnestly trying to meet its mandated Regional housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requirements, then the Caltrans lot at 1028 Magnolia St. offers a perfect opportunity to build a low income apartment building using the existing Residential High Density zoning. Its located close to public transit the Gold line, and walking distance to eateries in Old Town.








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