Six decades after the 710-freeway expansion project was abandoned, hundreds of seized properties may soon be replaced with new homes and parks.

In an interview for "LA Times Today," staff writer Liam Dillon told host Lisa McRee about the plans.

What You Need To Know

  • Homes along the planned expansion path of the 710 Freeway could get a new life under a new proposal

  • A new proposal would turn homes seized by the state into affordable housing

  • The homes were seized to make room for a freeway, but expansion plans were abandoned

  • Caltrans manages the homes, but tenants said they mismanage the properties

In the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, there is a 4.5-mile gap between Alhambra and Pasadena, where the 710 freeway was supposed to be expanded.

Dillon explained why those plans did not come to fruition.

"For decades, the communities of El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena fought that project going through their neighborhoods. Ultimately, in 2018, they were successful. The project was killed. No freeways going there. And so now there's a big discussion about what to do about, you know, properties that the department had seized decades ago in anticipation," Dillon said.

They proposed the original expansion plan for the freeway in the 1950s. The freeway would have been connected to the San Gabriel Valley. They seized properties along the planned expansion route to make room for the road.

"The California Department of Transportation had bought or seized many of these properties in anticipation of this ruling, ultimately coming through these areas. When the freeway did not [come through], Caltrans was in charge of managing these things. [The homes] of range from these are just small bungalows in El Sereno, some small apartment complexes, but also, some craftsman mansions in some of the wealthier areas as well, including, most notably, the childhood home of famed chef, Julia Child, and that's been vacant for quite some time," he said.

Many people say Caltrans has mismanaged the homes they oversee. The department did not expect to take care of the homes for very long since they were slated to be removed.

There have been attempts to lease the homes out to people. At the start of the pandemic, the state wanted to open up some of these homes to people living in more crowded conditions.

Squatters have moved into some houses, and some were able to stay in them for a long time.

Dillon shared insight into what is planned for these properties since they will not be paved over to expand the freeway.

"City officials recently put forward an idea that was supported by a community coalition neighborhood group to turn these parcels into about 250 new homes or rehabilitated homes. There would be smaller apartment complexes or single-family homes with backyard units. They would all be made available for low- and middle-income homeowners and tenants. This is an effort to sort of reclaim these properties and help also ward off the force of gentrification, which is happening all over the city, by dedicating much of this housing boom for lower-income families," Dillon said.

The proposed plan is not a done deal. There is a lengthy process the state needs to do to get rid of these homes and make way for new or rehabilitated ones and other plans that could be put forth. 

"The bid I described is what the city of LA will put forward. But there's a very good chance, you know, some nonprofit, affordable housing developers will come up with their own plan. And there's a separate community group, one that's run by tenants of the existing Caltrans properties, who are trying to put together their own coalition. That would basically be community management, not city management, of these properties. They are still developing their plan. But in their view, there should be much more of a role for community control over them than, say, just city ownership," he explained.

If one of these plans gets approval, it could be a way to establish a path to generational wealth in these communities where that has not been possible. Dillon said this community could be a model for California and the country for affordable housing and homeownership.

"There are not many places in California and across the country where you have so many homes in so many vacant properties in the middle of a dense area. This is going to be a unique case where ultimately we'll see whether efforts to promote housing affordability or combat gentrification will work," Dillon explained.  

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