Housing is Bishop’s Gordian knot, defined as “an extremely difficult or involved
problem.” The city is a two square mile dot that serves as the epicenter of Inyo County, the
second largest in square miles out of California’s 58 counties but the 52 nd in population. The
majority of those 18,000-plus folks live within sight of U.S. Hwy. 395. So, what’s the problem?
The source of those numbers, the 2010 census, doesn’t include the percentage of
publicly owned land in each county. Inyo is divided up into Los Angeles Department of Water
and Power, the Bureau of Land Management and the federal Forest Service. That landscape
makes Inyo an attractive place to live but a really hard area to find a place to live.
That was the problem addressed by Bishop’s Housing Element update, required by
California law. The City Council got a run-through of that update at this week’s meeting in
preparation for a final vote of approval August 23 to meet the State’s deadline. The possibility
of Los Angeles taking a second look at divesting some of its land holdings opens up a lot of
According to a summary from the California Department of Housing and Urban
Development, Bishop fell far short of the 65 housing units needed, spread out over three
income levels, with just 23 units made available from 2014-2019. The development of Silver
units, a partnership between the City and Inyo Mono Advocates for Community
Action, will help meet the needs of lower income residents through the next cycle.
A list of potential available sites within Bishop indicates room for 67 to 130 units
distributed across low-, moderate- and above moderate income levels. The majority resting in
the moderate income spectrum. Of the eight sites, not including Silver Peaks, five are publicly
owned with only the privately-owned Home Street nursery location pending.
Inyo’s First District Supervisor Jeff Griffiths added a new wrinkle to the conversation,
noting the possibility of an Eastern Sierra Council of Government’s regional housing forum.
“Our problem is Mammoth’s problem,” he said acknowledging the number of local residents
who work in Mammoth, “Mammoth has to be involved.”
Mayor Stephen Muchovej summed up what the city needs to meet Bishop’s housing
needs: a commitment from Los Angeles to divest lands, funding to buy and a development
partner.During Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent visit to Bishop, Muchovej had the
opportunity to have that LADWP discussion.
Here’s the description of that divestiture conversation from Los Angeles: “On a recent
visit to the Owens Valley, Mayor Garcetti had conversations with local leaders and business
owners about ways that the City of L.A. could divest land …. The Mayor's staff is working with
DWP to determine the most effective path forward — a review that includes careful
examination of DWP divestiture policies in Inyo and Mono Counties, the City Charter and other
applicable laws. Bishop's economic well-being is important to Mayor Garcetti, and the City of LA
is enthusiastically supporting initiatives to create more job and housing opportunities for local
residents — including the Power System Training Center and Silver Peaks Affordable Housing
In other words, Garcetti didn’t say “no.”