Caltrans has agreed to sell to the highest bidder two properties alongside the San Diego Freeway that the city of Hawthorne wants to acquire for parks and open space.
Over the past few years, the city has been attempting to buy the 5.8 acres from Caltrans, but the two parties are millions of dollars apart in negotiations.
Caltrans has valued the parcels at $3.3 million, assuming they could be used for residential development. According to Caltrans officials, developers have approached the agency in Los Angeles with offers of nearly $2 million for one of the properties.
But Hawthorne officials contend that under the parcels' "urban open space" zoning, which prohibits development, the properties are worth much less.
City Manager R. Kenneth Jue said Thursday that the 4.7-acre parcel known as the Glasgow Strip has been appraised at a mere $5,000. The city does not have an appraisal on the 1.1-acre parcel, he said.
Floyd Sponsors Bill
At the urging of Holly Glen residents, Assemblyman Richard E. Floyd (D-Hawthorne) earlier this year authored a bill that would require Caltrans to sell the two parcels to Hawthorne for $200,000.
Residents contend that the long-vacant land, which has been used as a dumping ground, should be cleaned up for parks and a greenbelt.
The Assembly voted 43-24 to approve Floyd's bill, but Gov. George Deukmejian cut from the state budget a provision for the $200,000 sale. Deukmejian, explaining the cut, said the sale "would not be in the state's best interests."
At a Senate Transportation Committee hearing Tuesday on Floyd's bill, Warren Weber, Caltrans assistant director for legislative affairs, suggested an auction to resolve the issue. Weber confirmed Thursday that an auction will be held and said the agency could advertise for bidding on the land in 45 to 60 days.
"If our best offer is $20,000, we'll sell it for $20,000," Weber said in a telephone interview. "If our best offer is $2 million, we'll sell it for $2 million."
Weber said that Caltrans officials in Los Angeles have received offers from developers of nearly $2 million for one of the parcels. Los Angeles-area Caltrans officials Conrad Barber and Jim Dusini could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Jue pooh-poohed the idea that private developers would bid on the properties, saying neither commercial nor residential development would be allowed. "No one in his right mind" would buy open space land for development in the hope that the council would rezone it, he said.
The Glasgow Strip is a narrow, mile-long parcel on the west side of the San Diego Freeway between Wiseburn Street and Rosecrans Avenue. The smaller parcel is just south of Rosecrans along the west side of the freeway.
Floyd spokesman Jeff Ruch said the assemblyman views the Caltrans promise to auction the properties as a victory in a long campaign to obtain the parcels for parks in Hawthorne.
Jue declined to state how much Hawthorne would bid, but Ruch said it could be less than the $200,000 that Floyd's bill would have provided.
Ruch agreed that private developers are not likely to bid on property zoned for open space.
"And even if the city were outbid (by a developer), the buyer would be required to maintain the properties as open space," Ruch said. This, in effect, would accomplish the goal of clearing the properties and having them serve as a greenbelt.