It’s a dysfunctional relationship at best – DWP and Inyo County. When it comes to DWP as landlord, there is growing
discontent in Southern Inyo in particular where DWP has demolished business buildings which has left the small towns even more destitute. News of another demolition, this time in Independence, stirred emotions. As news leaked out, citizens said they felt betrayed that DWP had not been more up front about it.
Sharon Avey, President of the Chamber of Commerce in Independence, said she and others learned that DWP would tear down the former beauty shop in town. The last hair dresser, Albert Benson, died in recent times. His thank you to town’s people for their support still hangs by the door. Avey said she and others were “dumbfounded” when they heard the news that Albert’s place would be torn off the adjoining Lions Club building. Avey said DWP’s actions seem like a “systematic effort to shut us out.”
DWP’s Assistant Manager Clarence Martin said the building is in really bad shape. “It would take so much money to fix it up,” said Martin, “that it would not be worth it.” He said DWP would redo the roof of the Lions Club. The public perception is DWP has simply let many buildings go down hill with no investment and then tears them down. Martin called the plan to tear the building down in Independence “kind of sad”, but concluded that DWP is not in the business of leasing property for businesses. “We do it,” he said, “but the water shed is our primary objective.”
Citizens see DWP’s role as one of neglect with the hope that towns will shrink and go away. Clarence Martin said DWP is “not trying to get rid of Southern Inyo.” Over the years, DWP policies have changed with no one much caring about the lives of people in the Owens Valley and the erosion of their towns in the tight grip of Los Angeles. DWP, as an absentee landlord has done nothing to help build Inyo towns.
Martin points to the current effort to sell off as many business properties as possible. This new development came about after Inyo Supervisor Susan Cash leaned heavily on DWP Chief David Freeman. Martin said he’s open to suggestions and will make a public presentation of what DWP is now doing to put property in the hands of business owners. He said he would also go to the DWP Board with a resolution to confirm the policy that DWP wants to divest its properties in the Eastern Sierra. Martin said DWP “doesn’t want to be a slum lord,” but there’s a question of how much they can invest.
This week Inyo Supervisors heard about the plans to tear down another building. Supervisor Marty Fortney said he would rather DWP looked at selling buildings before tearing them down. Supervisor Richard Cervantes agreed. DWP tore down several buildings on Main St. Said Cervantes, Lone Pine doesnt look like a viable town.