Gov. Brown vetoes bill that would force Caltrans to sell seized homes
By André Coleman 10/04/2012
Despite the miniscule likelihood that a surface road will be built to connect the Long Beach (710) and Foothill (201) freeways, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill by Sen. Carol Liu that would have forced the state to sell properties seized by Caltrans nearly 60 years ago to build the connector.
In his veto, Brown wrote that the call to sell the homes – some 500 properties valued at around $279 million — was premature. Brown said Caltrans needed time to complete a review of how to best proceed with managing the homes. Further, the governor said passing Liu’s bill could taint studies currently being done on extension options.
“Sen. Liu is very disappointed,” said her spokesman, Robert Oakes. “Caltrans and the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency recommended Gov. Brown veto the bill. She is optimistic we can work on a solution next year.”
The bill would have forced Caltrans to sell the homes as soon as a surface option is completely eliminated. The money would have been used for transportation projects.
For all intents and purposes, plans for a surface connector have already been nixed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro).
In September, Metro narrowed the number of connector proposals from 12 to five, leaving only one remaining proposal for a freeway route — a 4.5 mile tunnel from Alhambra to Pasadena.
Tenants living in and around those homes in Pasadena, South Pasadena and parts of the Los Angeles neighborhood of El Sereno have complained for years about mismanagement of the homes by the state agency. Finally, on Aug. 16, the California State Auditor released a scathing report of Caltrans’ handling of the homes it seized under eminent domain beginning in the 1950s.
Caltrans, the report states, lost $22 million in rent due to underpayment by ineligible tenants between July 2007 and December 2011. Caltrans reportedly paid out another $22.5 million for questionable repairs, according to the audit.
In response to the report, Caltrans admitted that its management of “the ‘710 properties” has been “poor and unacceptable.” An agency spokesperson said Caltrans would consider transferring property management responsibilities to the state.
Other connector options still on the table include: creation of a light-rail route from East Los Angeles to South Pasadena; creation of a bus line from Alhambra to Pasadena via Fair Oaks Avenue; 50 traffic improvement projects; and encouraging ride sharing.
The options will be examined as part of an environmental impact study currently being prepared by county and state transit planners.