Caltrans: Southern California’s Slumlord – Cerritos Community News

Editor’s Note: This story was first published in August 2013, but there is renewed focus on this part of the 710 due to expansion plans.


By Brian Hews • August 22, 2013

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is known for its “ meticulous maintenance of the state’s highways, bridges, and roads that manage more than 80,000 miles of California’s freeway and freeway lanes, but that’s not the case in the small neighborhood El Sereno, where residents claim that Caltrans, who owns many of the homes in their area, treats them like a slumlord.

Last week, Hews Media Group-Community News, State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and Senator Ed Hernandez got a firsthand look at the “slum-like conditions” in which an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 residents have been forced to live at the end of Long Beach. 710 Freeway has been around for over a generation.

A close-knit group of residents who call themselves the ‘United Caltrans Tenants’ took the group on a walk through their hilly neighborhood to see firsthand how they were neglected and forced to live in ‘substandard living conditions’ by their ‘landlord,’ Caltrans.

The group visited about half a dozen homes in the highway path and exposed a wide variety of problems that residents claim were “ directly caused by Caltrans workers. ”

Broken pipes create a “jacuzzi” in the backyard – Jimmy Gomez Assembly [left]and Senator Roger Hernandez [second from left] inspect the backyard of a home owned by Caltrans, where a broken pipe has led to what neighbors call the ‘Jacuzzi’.

Some houses had multiple gaping holes in the walls, cracked or totally broken windows, uprooted sidewalks, cracked foundations, garage doors that couldn’t be opened, and broken water pipes. One house even had a hole in their living room where you could see dirt from the ground below.

Resident Carlene Ward kept her newborn child under eight weeks in a blanket and told the group, “I’ve survived breast cancer and I’ve lived here for 17 years, and my house is in ruins.

My plumbing never works properly. I would like to make the improvements myself, but we are not allowed to make any repairs or changes without having Caltrans do them for us. “

Cracked doors and leaking plumbing Resident Carlene Ward shows Hernandez her cracked doors and walls and the substandard plumbing that Caltrans won’t let her fix.

And now the residents are faced with the ultimate insult from Caltrans; they were recently officially told that their rent would increase by 10% every six months.

For Ward and other residents living in the affected El Sereno community, the rent increases are “the last straw” in their battle with government officials.

“Caltrans has stolen our homes, and now they are going to rob us blindly about it,” said Don Jones, a community activist and resident of the area who has been an outspoken opponent of Caltrans for nearly half his adult life.

Jones directly fired on California Governor Jerry Brown during the tour by calling him “ an out of control crack addict. ”

“When does humanity come into play, Governor Brown,” Jones said wearing a cowboy hat and a United Caltrans Tenants button on his lapel.

Jones said his wife has recently passed away and that he had to spend her last days ‘fighting with Caltrans’.

“Jerry Brown lied to us when he said he cared about our community here, shame on him and his administration for continuing to help us through this living hell,” Jones said.

The tour also stopped for a gated group of three to five small bungalow styles that residents claim have been vacant for at least twenty years. The broken yellow units are covered in gang graffiti and are used as ‘shooting galleries’ for drug users. The windows are nailed shut with plywood, the doors are sealed and the roofs are falling apart.

House in ruinsThis boarded-up Caltrans house has been empty for more than 20 years. Residents have been frustrated by state officials at the “slum” conditions they endured in their communities at “the end of the 710 Freeway.”

“This area is not safe for the children who have to live here,” said Janice Dotson, another longtime adversary and vocal critic of how Caltrans has done business with this project.

“It’s time to face the facts. The 710 Freeway will never be expanded and someone has to fix this once and for all, ”said Dotson.

Mike Rivera, who has lived in one of the homes on the path of the highway, said he was concerned about “retaliation” from Caltrans officials for “telling the truth about how bad and corrupt” this situation has become.

“We don’t want to be retaliated by Caltrans, we want to be educated and told the truth,” Rivera said.

At the time of the meeting, at least two cars with Caltrans logos passed without stopping or acknowledging those present.

‘Look, see for yourself, these Caltrans employees wouldn’t care. We could stand in front of their moving cars here on our street and they would probably run us over if they had the chance, ”said one resident who did not want to be named.

Assemblyman Gomez, who is halfway through his first two-year term in the State Assembly, has recorded in the past that he opposed the expansion of the 710 Freeway.
“I have consistently opposed the extension of the 710 highway through an overhead route or a tunnel. The proposed ‘solutions’ do nothing to solve our long-term regional transportation problem, ”said Gomez.

Gomez was more than “alarmed” by what he saw.

“I had no idea the conditions were so bad here,” he said.

“We have a problem here that has been going on for far too long, and now someone at Caltrans must be held accountable,” Gomez told residents who circled him and Hernandez during the tour.

Hernandez has represented the area in the state Senate for the past six years, and even he admitted to HMG-CN that the neighborhood is in “substandard condition.”
“These are unacceptable conditions,” said Hernandez.

“I’m concerned to see what I’m looking at today,” Hernandez said. “I had no idea it was.”



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