CA lawmakers want to house homeless in vacant state-owned homes in El Sereno

As the Coronavirus spreads in LA, state elected officials want to house people in homes purchased for now defunct 710 Freeway extension

Assemblymember Richard Bloom and State Senator Lena Gonzalez (Credit: Ken Lund/Flickr)
Assemblymember Richard Bloom and State Senator Lena Gonzalez (Credit: Ken Lund/Flickr)

A group of California elected officials want Gov. Gavin Newsom to house homeless people in vacant state-owned homes on the previously proposed 710 freeway route in El Sereno to help combat the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.

The homes in question were purchased by the state in the 1960s and 1970s for a now-defunct, decades-old plan to extend the 710 Freeway from El Sereno to Pasadena. Under pressure from Pasadena’s powerful historic preservationists, the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, dropped the decades-old project in late 2018.

The half-dozen state legislators who penned the letter to Newsom urged the state to “take all steps necessary to immediately make these homes available for occupancy in a fair and systematic way.”

The legislators make up a COVID-19 “housing and homelessness urgent action group.” The group includes State Senator Lena Gonzalez, whose district runs from Huntington Park to Long Beach, and Assemblymember Richard Bloom, whose district stretches from West Hollywood to Malibu.

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In 2016, the state put up for sale 460 homes — from small cottages in El Sereno to Craftsman mansions in Pasadena — along the planned 710 Freeway extension route. Some are rented and the state allowed tenants to purchase them once it dropped the extension project, although that process has dragged out. Several renters purchased homes from the state in 2018.

The legislators’ letter to the governor came a day after activists demonstrated in front of several vacant properties and “reclaimed” six of them for a group of families “who need safe and healthy housing,” according to City News Service. Police arrested two people involved in the action.

Shortly after, State Senator Maria Elena Durazo and Assemblymember Wendy Carillo wrote a letter expressing concern over the structural integrity of the occupied properties and called on the state to evaluate their safety.

“The vacant homes in question need to be evaluated for structural safety and adherence to human health standards,” they wrote in a letter to Caltrans, according to the L.A. Daily News. “This includes issues such as mold, unsafe roofs, bad flooring or faulty foundations that could put those attempting to occupy the homes in danger.”