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Audit reveals rent disparity along the 710 gap

State workers were among the tenants who paid annual rent well below market rates, report shows.

August 21, 2012|By Adolfo Flores, adolfo.flores@latimes.com
  • A home owned by Caltrans at 1199 So. Pasadena Ave. in Pasadena is vacant, on Thursday, February 23, 2012. Caltrans bought homes in the area in the 50s to 70ss to make way for a possible 710 Freeway extension into Pasadena.
A home owned by Caltrans at 1199 So. Pasadena Ave. in Pasadena… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

A report released late last week by the California state auditor that found widespread mismanagement of state-owned homes along the Long Beach (710) Freeway extension corridor provides a detailed look at just how in the dark Caltrans managers were about the tenants.

Fifteen state workers were found to be among the roster of tenants for the homes owned by the California Department of Transportation in Pasadena, South Pasadena and Los Angeles, paying annual rents as much as $23,400 below market rates, according to the audit — and in most cases, their bosses said they didn't know about it.

State auditors said in their report that it amounted to either an unreported fringe benefit or “a gift of public funds.”

Caltrans owns 499 properties in the corridor where the 710 Freeway may eventually be extended to connect with the Foothill (210) Freeway in one form or another.

Auditors found Caltrans undercollected rents by $22.5 million in the last 4 1/2 years and greatly overpaid for repairs.

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The 15 employees work for numerous state agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Cal State University system. Four of them work for Caltrans. Combined, the group of 15 pays $169,524 below market value on their homes annually, according to the audit.

Some started living in the homes as far back as 1974, while the most recent arrived in 2011.

Caltrans acquired most of the properties in the 1950s as it prepared to extend the 710 Freeway from Alhambra to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena. But the project has been mired in controversy, which was exacerbated by the stinging report from the California State Auditor.

Lawmakers are calling on Caltrans to sell the homes, though agency officials say it would be improper to sell the properties while transportation planners figure out how to ease traffic in the so-called 710 gap.

The homes occupied by state workers range from a one-bedroom house in Los Angeles, occupied by an Employment Development Department staffer, to a four-bedroom Pasadena home occupied by a Cal State L.A. employee. One was paying $50 a month less than market rate, according to the California State Auditor, and the other was paying $1,950 a month under market rate.

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