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Sen. Carol Liu has authored legislation to help the California Department of Transportation sell state-owned houses no longer needed for construction of a proposed State Highway Route 710 extension in Los Angeles, Alhambra, South Pasadena, and Pasadena.
Liu introduced SB 416 to streamlines the process for selling as surplus property, houses that were purchased more than 50 years ago for what was then planned to be a surface route. “We need to get Caltrans out of the rental housing business and sell off these properties;” said Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge and Senate Transportation and Housing Committee member, “real estate management is not part of the department’s mission.”
The North Route 710 project has been a controversial issue in Los Angeles County for decades. The 4.5-mile, uncompleted segment transects neighborhoods and communities. Caltrans owns over 500 homes within the original surface route corridor. About 400 of these homes are occupied by tenants for whom Caltrans serves as landlord, but many houses remain vacant and in disrepair.
In the last decade attention has shifted to the construction of a tunnel, rather than a surface route, to connect the 710 freeway between State Routes 10 and 210. A tunnel route would require less surface area and fewer properties to be destroyed. Caltrans could declare all other properties excess and sell them, thereby returning them to private ownership and the tax rolls. However, current law requires the state to pay for costly repairs prior to any sale.
The law, known as the Roberti Bill, provides for homes first to be offered for sale at an affordable price to eligible tenants and then to an affordable housing entity. Remaining properties are to be sold at fair market value. Under the law, Caltrans must make repairs to the property required by lenders or government assistance programs or provide a comparable replacement dwelling. SB 416 retains Caltrans’ authority to offer a replacement dwelling, revises the definition of “fair market value” to reflect the existing “as is” condition of the property, and deletes the requirement for costly repairs to be made prior to sale.
SB 416 also gives first right of refusal for purchase of residential properties at fair market value to former tenants in good standing and for purchase at fair market value to tenants of non-residential properties before they are offered on the open market.