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HomeCity GovernmentSouth Pasadena Council to Buy, Resell Caltrans Homes

South Pasadena Council to Buy, Resell Caltrans Homes

By Eric Licas
The Review

The South Pasadena City Council last week approved the purchase of six unoccupied properties near the 710 Freeway corridor owned by Caltrans, which will be sold to generate funds for the construction of affordable housing.
The city will buy the properties at the price Caltrans originally paid for them, for a total of $228,200, and then sell them at current market value, turning a significant profit. That money must then be used to purchase or develop at least three units of affordable housing per plot sold.
The city has been working with a broker to arrange buyers for the property. In the meantime, three parcels of land at the southeast corner of El Centro Street and Mound Avenue have been identified as sites for new affordable housing construction.
“This has been a long time coming,” Mayor Pro Tem Jack Donovan said at the Feb. 7 City Council meeting.
The deal is largely the result of Senate Bills 959 and 381, passed in 2021 and 2022, after the state effectively abandoned efforts to build an extension to the 710 Freeway connecting Alhambra and Pasadena. The bills arranged for the expedited sale of properties purchased by Caltrans during the time the state had attempted to build the extension. Occupied properties were offered for sale to tenants who had been renting from the state infrastructure agency, and unoccupied land was offered to nearby cities.
The buildings, some of which are deemed historic, are being sold as-is, and are located in the 1100 block of Columbia Street, 200 block of Fairview Avenue, 200 block of Fremont Avenue, 1000 block of Hope Street and the 1700 block of Meridian Avenue. Upon sale to a third-party buyer, the property will be subject to a 120-day escrow period.
Councilmembers voted 4-0 to go ahead with the deal, with Councilman John Primuth abstaining due to absence.
Mark Gallant of the nonprofit South Pasadena Preservation Foundation said during public comment that he is relieved to see the property changeover finally materialize.
“It is truly gratifying to see this coming to pass, especially knowing that the proceeds from these sales will be reinvested to create much needed affordable housing for our seniors and the lowest income categories,” he said.
Gallant noted that one of the properties being purchased from Caltrans on Columbia Street is listed as a historically significant site. He went on to make a series of recommendations “so these structures get restored by buyers interested in their historic character rather than purchased by speculative investors or developers.”
Among his recommendations was the inclusion of a “no-flipping provision” in the sales agreement, assigning ownership of the property to an independent third party until a mortgage is paid off, and incorporating input from the public and Cultural Heritage Commission in the sale process. He also suggested offering priority to buyers who already live in South Pasadena or first responders.

First published in the February 16 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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