The Real Deal Los Angeles

L.A. wants to sell land back to Owens Valley business owners

A century ago officials took land for water supply, as depicted in “Chinatown”
January 23, 2019 02:11PM

Photos of Owens Valley

More than a century after Los Angeles officials scooped up land in Owens Valley for its water supply, the city is hoping to sell some of that property back to business owners in the region about 200 miles north of L.A.

The swindle featured in the film “Chinatown” started when city officials posed as ranchers to buy land and divert the water sources to L.A. The dams dried up a lot of the region, and transformed businesses there into lessees who paid rent to far-off landlords.

But this month, the Department of Water and Power (LADWP) – which still controls 25 percent of the Owens Valley floor – has proposed selling some of the commercial property to dozens of those lessees, the Los Angeles Times reported. The undeveloped land includes trout streams, lava cliffs, canyons, marshlands and desert plains.

Anselmo Collins, a manager for LADWP, said the agency no longer needs the properties.

Officials expect to present a draft proposal to city council in a few months, and then determine market values of 57 targeted properties. If approved, LADWP will begin selling those lots before 2020.

It remains to be seen if the proposal will lead to successful negotiations, especially considering LADWP’s history of failed proposals in the region. But for now, the new plan has caused excitement.

“The opportunity to own your property is something folks around here have only dreamed about for a very long time,” Jeff Griffiths, an Inyo County Supervisor, told the Times.

In the same region, a group of Los Angeles investors paid more than $1 million last summer for a 300-acre property called Cerro Gordo, which is an abandoned mining town. [LAT]Gregory Cornfield