Little shop of sadness

hairshop3shopdemolishedTo the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, it was just a dilapidated old building and a pain in the neck.  To many citizens of Independence the historic hair shop DWP tore down Thursday morning was valuable, memorable and one more symbol of the big city’s disdain for all things Owens Valley, except, of course, the water.

Thursday before daylight, LADWP crews apparently assembled and started to tear down the historic hair shop while most residents still slept. Nancy Masters of Independence, long active in preservation of Owens Valley history, said LADWP knew the old hair shop was considered historic.  She said insurance maps showed it was a barber shop at the turn of the century.

hair shop

This is what Hair Am I shop looked like two years ago after stylist Albert Benson had died and left his good-bye note to the town tacked to the door.

Masters called LADWP’s pattern of systematic destruction of Owens Valley


This historic photo shows the building in question which is the north end of the building beyond Jim's Cafe. The same large window and door are evident.

structures and trees “cultural genocide.”  She said they’ve been doing this since day one – “eliminating residences, ranches, dead trees, places, landscapes, memories.  If you eradicate memories, you’re destroying history,” she said.

Masters said the old barber shop was documented, and DWP was told it was an historical structure, protected under law.  “They don’t care about the laws. What we’re all seeing,” she said, “is disregard for the law.  The Water Agreement creates rules and civilized behavior.  They’re not following them.  We are nothing more to DWP,” said Masters, “than a sediment basin that holds water.”

As for rules, according to the Inyo County Building Department, LADWP applied for a demolition permit which was transferred to the Planning Department for possible approval. Procedure dictates that the permit would have to be returned to the Building Department for issuance.  Building Inspector William Ralston said he had not received it back from Planning and had not issued a demolition permit to LADWP.

We were further informed that Planning Director Josh Hart had been in conference with the County Counsel’s office over this issue.  We have not received return calls from either of those officials yet.

We placed calls to the new upcoming DWP chief in the Owens Valley, James Yanatto, and to DWP Real Estate but received no return calls.

Masters and others also added that LADWP had earlier set up a process for people to lease the building.  Masters said the Independence Civic Club had made a proposal with volunteers and money to restore the building.  Masters said, “DWP never got back to us.” Late Thursday, LADWP did email a statement to Sierra Wave Media about the demolition:

“The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power removed the old Hair I Am addition in Independence on Thursday, April 26. The Hair I Am building was actually a small addition to an existing building that is now being leased to the Independence Lions Club. The Hair I Am addition sat on a dirt and rock foundation and was unsafe and not up to code. The addition was unusable in its current condition and extensive renovations would need to be done before it was safe to occupy. A professional historical study determined that the Hair I Am addition was not a historic structure. As a result, LADWP decided the addition needed to be removed for safety reasons. The LADWP will now make improvements to the adjacent structure that is leased to the Lions Club, including siding, a new roof and windows and extending the fence to the building.”

We did not have an opportunity to speak with any LADWP official.  After hearing LADWP’s statement, Ms. Masters said that LA hired a consultant who, she believes, spent 2 hours looking at the building.  Masters said, “They did not follow the state process of determining an historic structure.”  She said DWP declined to give her the report by their consultant.

Ironically Civic Club members and others had recently met to go to work on the Independence Historic District with the first project to create a map of historic structures.  Now, Masters said, one of them is gone.  She said, “There is so little left because of the consistent practice of destruction.”

, , , , ,

15 Responses to Little shop of sadness

  1. NewEra April 30, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    Goes to show the mentality some of us are up against. they would sweep everyone of us under the carpet if they could, even you Badfinger!
    your loyal ways for a Evil Empire are never repaid!!

  2. enoughalready April 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    What did this historic building do to the LADWP that made it such a pain in the neck? Did the LADWP really think that no one would notice razing a building so early in the morning. It tends to make a little noise. It might had been better to time the destruction with a passing semi truck barreling thru town.

  3. Floyd Salyer April 28, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    The LADWP is looking out for the safety of the community and it is admirable that they took it upon themselves to rehabilitate the foundation of that old historic building. Their methods were a little bit on the crude side. Others with a little more horse sense would have supported the building while new footings were carefully added beneath the old structure. Once LADWP was aware of the safety issue they must have realized they would be held liable if the structure later collapsed and caused injury or loss of property. Now that the foundation is exposed and once the lawsuit is adjudicated the task of replicating the structure will be tremendously more expensive than a simple foundation replacement. Old buildings such as these are always able to be saved. The rehabilitation of the old gymnasium at Manzanar is a fine local example. In the future perhaps the LADWP will act more like a good steward rather than an occupying enemy force. If the LADWP acted without the proper permits the proper local government agencies should pursue this matter through direct negotiation or through the legal system.

    Floyd Salyer

  4. Dingo April 27, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    Of course, its the City of Los Angeles, thought they wouldn’t?

  5. Nancy Bright Masters April 27, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    In 2010 LADWP was advised by the State Office of Historic Preservation that the building is a historic structure, and that they needed to do an environmental impact report under CEQA. The City knew it was historic, the City knew they had to have a demolition permit that the County did not issue because the barbershop was historic, but they tore it down anyway in the secrecy of the early morning darkness.
    The remainder of the building that the Lions Club occupies is also historic, and a supporting structure in the historic district analyzed by historian Jim Fisher of CalTrans. It cannot be remodelled without compliance with CEQA. It was the Post Office for many years, and there was a connecting door to the barbershop next door. Max and Nettie Fausel lived in the back of the building, in a 1920s addition. Nettie was the postmistress and Max was the town barber. I hope the Independence Lions Club understands the cultural importance of this building, and does not acquiesce to the illegal proposed remodelling.
    By the by, this covert action on the part of LADWP reaffirms that it does not accord itself to the law, or any other agreement, and cannot be trusted. The County needs to take note of that in regard to the 1991 EIR and Water Agreement, and secure its position. “Don’t trust, and always verify.”

  6. Eastern Sierra local April 27, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    The statements from LADWP on the building’s “unsafe nature” and “not historic” are quiet interesting, considering that when Caltrans conducted it’s historic surveys for the Independence four-lane project 10 years ago that particular building was deemed “eligible” for historic listing on the National Registrar of Historic Places; that is the reason Caltrans didn’t touch those building during their construction project.

    I think someone should contact the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in Sacramento and find out if LADWP actually went through the State’s required procedure prior to demolishing the building. If they didn’t LADWP will be in some serious trouble.

    Well now that LADWP destroyed a historic building, they can now mitigate that destruction by selling that land to the private sector.

  7. Rob April 27, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    LADWP learned this trick from the railroads.

    One has to admit a good way to silence a community is to tear it down.

  8. Badfinger April 27, 2012 at 6:10 am #

    Last I heard this is still america, and a landowner has the right to tear down a dilapidated structure on his/her own property, regardless of what the local-yolkals think, hence LADWP is just doing what’s in the best interest for the community at large, a lot of people are biting the very hand that feeds them, go figure 🙂

    • Trouble April 27, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      Badfinger- just to be clear, DWP has not one thing for me and certainly has not helped feed my family in any way. Just the opposite.

    • Nancy Bright Masters April 28, 2012 at 8:52 am #

      LADWP is not just a landowner, it is a public agency. As an arm of government, it is obligated to follow the laws. Just because many people in Inyo County have fiscal relationships with the City does not mean that the City can do whatever it pleases.

  9. Trouble April 26, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Watch out Indy. DWP was doing something on the building next store (south) today.

  10. justwondering April 26, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    Isn’t LADWP subject to approval from the State Historic Preservation Program Office? My understanding is no older building can be torn down without their approval….I can’t imagine that LADWP is exempt from that, did they get approval from SHPPO?

    • anachronism April 26, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

      Sounds like DWP’s action in tearing down this historic building would be subject to a CEQA lawsuit. Maybe we should pass the collection plate and sue them. Sure It would be David against a Goliath. However, at some point we all collectively need to stand up to the bully. Every other entity and person has to follow CEQA in California…what makes DWP think that they are exempt??

    • Jay April 26, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

      I bet the DWP lawyers pay better than those at SHPPO. Note the key words in the public release, such as safety reasons and unsafe. Just as predicted, Independence is slowly drying up. Time to move the County seat to big brother in the North. Lets vote.

  11. Wayne Deja April 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    I honestly never knew DWP owned the buildings and the towns too….thought they only had the water-rights,and maybe the little cabins along the creeks…Shame on them for tearing down a 100+ year old building for no reason other than they could.What is their reason for doing it?


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.