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Housing and Homelessness

El Sereno Tenants Say New Bill Hinders Them From Buying Their Homes

Image of highway signs that point the way as vehicles exit the 710 freeway onto the 10 freeway.
Homes purchased to make way for the since-abandoned 710 Freeway extension are now the center of more controversy.
(Ken Lund
Creative Commons/Flickr)
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The fight continues over homes in El Sereno bought years ago by Caltrans in order to make way for the proposed expansion of the 710 Freeway. Tenants living in those houses claim that new state legislation signed into law on Sunday by Governor Gavin Newsom takes away their rights to purchase their homes from the state.

Members of United Caltrans Tenants say that the state gave them priority in 1979 through the "Roberti Law" to buy these homes, in the case that the freeway wasn't built. But SB51, introduced by State Senator Maria Elena Durazo, gives that purchasing priority to affordable housing nonprofits.

SB51 only eliminates this right in the El Sereno area of Los Angeles, which United Caltrans Tenants' claim is a discriminatory practice.

The advocacy group issued a press release that read, in part: "It is not wise public policy for the state to have different laws for tenant co-op purchases within the same Route 710 Corridor, and is a reminder that geographical discrimination is not a tactic of the past."

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A similar bill, SB381, proposed by State Senator Anthony Portantino would expand co-op and tenant purchasing rights in South Pasadena.

Tim Ivison, an organizer with United Caltrans Tenants, hopes a bill like this could protect these rights for residents in the El Sereno district and other cities in the 710 corridor.

"Tenants in Pasadena and South Pasadena could still form a cooperative if they wanted to collectively purchase and manage an apartment complex owned by Caltrans," Ivison said. "And tenants in El Sereno cannot."

In a statement, Senator Durazo said her law doesn't block tenants from purchasing Caltrans homes, but that limited-equity cooperatives no longer take precedence in buying them.

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