No Additional Inyo Land Acquisitions by Los Angeles! sign now

It may not yet be public knowledge that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) has intent to acquire two 55.97 acre parcels on Oak Creek (1155 & 1115 W Oak Creek Rd., Independence). They are zoned RR5, allowing up to twenty-two 5-acre parcels with eighty-eight residential units! These properties have divergence rights on creek frontage adjacent to the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery and are apparently important to DWP because it already has diversion rights nearby and wants better control of the area. DWP is currently appraising the Oak Creek property as a prelude to purchase.

Many are aware that DWP owns over 250,000 acres in Inyo County, constituting almost 4\% of its land and water surface. However, looking specifically at Owens Valley from Lake Crowley to Haiwee Reservoir (approximately 100 miles in length and an average of 15 miles wide), DWP can be said to own approximately 25\% of the valley floor! It is also well known that the percentage of private ownership in Inyo County is extremely low, less than one-half of what DWP possesses.

While most Inyo residents and visitors savor the open space maintained by this condition, it is apparent that the dearth of developable, affordable property has a stranglehold on Owen Valleys economic independence and sustainability. The population of fewer than 20,000 (in an area larger than New Jersey!) has remained virtually unchanged for over 30 years but shifted increasingly toward Bishop, the only economically viable settlement in the Valley, and leaving Central to Southern Inyo to slowly decay.

While serious studies may not have been performed, many residents believe there is not a critical mass of population and employment opportunities here, largely due to the lack of available, affordable, and appropriately zoned land for development. It is in DWPs interest to limit the local use of water such that its primary customers in Los Angeles may never have to worry about shortages.

If not for the tourist trade, the few consumer businesses on the 395 corridor from Olancha to Big Pine would probably be reduced to a hardscrabble minimum. Inyo has been called a ghetto County, meaning it does not produce enough goods and services to satisfy its own population, forcing it to outsource, often at inflated costs. It has been suggested that a mere doubling of the Countys population, spread evenly across the 395 corridor, would be a sufficient critical mass for a sustainable local economy.

The County has previously asked DWP to give up land, which it has done in tiny increments, insufficient to meet growth potential. Recently DWP put up some 75 acres for auction, but at their top-of-the-market reserve prices, only two parcels sold! Further, the City of Los Angeles Charter forbids DWP from selling any land with water rights without a two-thirds vote of approval from City residents. So once DWP owns Oak Creek or any other land with water rights, it is unlikely to ever again be in private hands, and certainly not with water rights.

Oak Creek is part of Independence, another town in decay, whose only grocery store has shut down due to lack of customer base. A hundred and fifty residents constitutes a significant difference in a town like Independence, but if Oak Creek falls into the hands of DWP that potential will be quashed when the rare residentially-zoned parcel is taken out of circulation.

Furthermore, the less land that is available for residential development the more valuable (expensive) the remaining land becomes. Owens Valley real estate is already very high relative to other rural areas in California, limiting home ownership amongst many families.

There is a need for action here. The Owens Valley community is in a struggle for its livelihood, and must not allow Los Angeles to acquire one more square foot of property in the County without releasing at least the same amount of similarly zoned property for development.

This alone will not make the County viable, but it is a step in the right direction. More pressure must be put on Los Angeles and the other government bodies who control 98.3\% of the County to help it grow enough to sustain a viable population and corresponding local economy. Inyos own zoning and skeptical, sluggish approach to growth must be scrutinized too.

Please sign this petition, share this information with others in the community, and express your opinion directly to your elected officials!

Thank you.

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Cara HartBy:
Culture and SocietyIn:
Petition target:
The Mayor of Los Angeles & Inyo County Supervisors

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