Caltrans Gearing Up to Let Go of South Pasadena Properties

Caltrans is preparing to sell dozens of homes in South Pasadena it first obtained decades ago as part of a now-abandoned extension of the 710 Freeway.

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    With plans for a 710 Freeway extension near Alhambra now officially dead, Caltrans is now preparing to sell dozens of homes it once planned to raze. Now, residents of the homes are wondering whether they'll get to stay. Lolita Lopez reports from Alhambra for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

    Albert Malafronte and his wife raised their child in the South Pasadena home where they have lived for decades.

    The home has long been owned by Caltrans, which in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s gobbled up private property in the area as part of an eminent domain acquisition when a 710 Freeway extension was planned.

    But Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill killing an overland freeway plan, which means dozens of the more than 500 properties Caltrans owns will soon be up for sale, including Malafronte’s.

    “It is something we would like to buy and fix up,” he said.

    Forty-two homes and 11 undeveloped properties will go up for sale in the fall, all land that has been tied up for decades as residents and officials fought about extending the 710 through South Pasadena and Alhambra.

    In the ensuing decades, property values have skyrocketed in the area. According to real estate website Zillow, houses in the area have a median home value above $900,000.

    But a Caltrans spokeswoman said the agency is planning to work with residents who have long been in their homes, before they are put up for public auction.

    “The very first priority is current tenants who were former owners and then it goes down the line,” Wonder said.

    Under the current plan, former owners of the property, who have continued to rent throughout the years, will be offered back the property at a fair market rate first.

    “These will be appraised at fair market value but keep in mind some are ‘as is,’” Wonder said. “Fair market value may be less.”

    Second dibs will go to current renters who are low-to-moderate income. They will be restricted to selling at an “affordable price” for 30 years.

    Next up are current renters with no more than 150% of area income, which is $64,800. They will also be restricted to selling at an “affordable price” for 30 years, contributing to the inventory of below-market rate homes.

    Then the cities of Pasadena and South Pasadena will be offered the homes at a reasonable price based to develop low-income or owner-occupied housing, parks or other public-use properties.

    Anything left after that will be offered to current tenants who didn’t qualify in the earlier rounds and the rest put up for public auction.

    The homes range from smaller properties to larger ranch-style homes. A few apartment properties are also included.

    Caltrans will host two more public meetings to let the community weigh in before it approves the sale process - July 15 at 6 p.m. and Cal State University, Los Angeles’ Golden Eagle Building; and July 17 at 6 p.m. at the Pasadena Convention Center.

    Malafronte said while he does worry about being priced out of his house, he hopes the process will lead him to own the home his family has lived in for so many years, even though he worries about the price.

    “The general thinking on that is that it’s going to be 15 percent lower than fair market value. Fifteen percent lower would not even begin to allow us to fix the problems,” he said.

    But he said Caltrans has been a good landlord, and he hopes that can continue.

    “We’ve tried to be good stewards and we hope that will pay off in good karma and good will,” he said.

    The first homes will be available for purchase in the fall.

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