By Deb Murphy
Locals with commercial leases from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power got a chance at input into the details of potential purchase of the land under their businesses earlier this month. Now, more details and a potential timeline are coming to the surface.
The process started with a meeting with Aqueduct Manager Clarence Martin, staff from the department’s real estate office and area lease holders. LADWP was looking for input from Inyo businesses as part of a second look at its divestiture procedure. Lease holders had until January 18 to get their suggestions back to the department.
While the specific properties are not yet identified, the number of parcels hovers around 50, according to Jessica Johnson with the department’s public information office.
The department “is selling only commercial properties that are no longer needed for watershed protection,” Johnson stated in an e-mail. Water rights don’t go with the sale.
Johnson further stated “the properties being considered are more or less categorized as low hanging fruit, medium and high.” The low hanging fruit are those commercial leased properties where the lessee has shown an interest in purchasing, have water and sewer connection and don’t need any environmental assessment.
An example of the fruit higher up on the land tree could be property with no water access or one that has a serious environmental impact, like a former gas station.
Commercial property with no current lease could be sold through the traditional auction process.
According to Johnson, LADWP’s water and real estate staff are reviewing the current policy, taking input from the January meeting. The draft amended divestment policy will go before the Board of Commissioners before June of this year. With the Board’s approval, the Real Estate Group can begin the process.
“LADWP is hopeful we can begin this process with already identified properties at the end of this fiscal year (July 1, 2019). All sales have to be approved by City Council,” Johnson stated.
Current lessees will have first right of refusal on the purchase of their leased land—no auction, no bidding process and a vast improvement over lease renewal policies presented in late 2016.
The statement from Johnson goes on….. “The Department’s reasons for amending the policy are to help facilitate LADWP’s ability to sell in-town leased properties and foster good mutual relationships between LADWP and the people of Inyo County. Providing lessees with an opportunity to invest in and own their business properties and have control of their own destiny will result in the betterment of the local communities.”