LADWP lease changes create anxiety
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Board of Commissioners finalized new ranch leases for Inyo County at its October 27 meeting. The leases contain brand new language and policies, including leases being made transferable between family members. However, a lease, typically a five-year agreement, can only be sold to a third party, once.
A rancher could sell his or her lease to another party, but when the new lease is up, it will go out to bid. This leaves little incentive for the lessees to invest in their business if they know they won’t be able recoup their capital investments.
The one-time transfer devalues the lease and nullifies investments and improvements (like structures) lessees have put into the property or business.
“If they’re not sure they can make their money back on capital improvements there’s not much incentive to grow and invest,” said Nathan Reade, Inyo-Mono County Agricultural Commissioner.
The one-time transfer appears to be in direct violation of the Charles Brown Act, California Senate Bill 883, that grants existing lessees right of first refusal before the lease goes out to bid but applies only if an entity owns more than 50 percent of private land in another county.
James Yannotta, Manager of the Aqueduct for LADWP, told The Sheet in an email that LADWP sells and leases City of Los Angeles property located in Inyo County in accordance with the Charles Brown Act, Los Angeles City Charter, and LADWP policies and procedures.
The City of Los Angeles owns about 251,958 acres in Inyo County, or about 89 percent of the private land, and 62,501 acres, or just under 50 percent of privately held lands, in Mono County.
The new leases, the first since 2009, contain language that will be consistent with practices in the City of Los Angeles where leases are generally put out to bid when they expire, according to a press release from LADWP.