In fact, the rudderless, disaster-prone, increasingly politicized DWP has no idea if any of these things will occur.
A Clean Tech Corridor was much discussed in the nascent days of the Villaraigosa administration: High-tech and low-tech green jobs would come to L.A., with local universites supplying the high-end positions and the labor union–friendly Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy supplying the low-tech assembly, administrative and maintenance jobs. The DWP and its envisioned partner, the Community Redevelopment Agency, considered using one of the utility's existing pieces of land on San Fernando Road near Taylor Yard. But later, it chose to look for land that could be rehabbed to be glitzier, as a way to appeal to prospective high-tech workers.
But why the already property-rich DWP needed to acquire real estate to launch a project with no specific tenants in hand, and only a conceptual plan, at best, created a puzzle.
In his first week as chief of the DWP, Beutner conversely announced in the Los Angeles Times that he may consider selling off some of the city's Owens Valley acreage — a prospect that outraged former DWP chiefs and commissioners.
And a short time after the DWP board gave the green light to acquire the Hewitt property, Beutner told local media that he would even consider selling the department's widely recognized signature property — the John Ferraro Building on Hope Street, across from the Music Center — to raise $300 million.
Former DWP chief H. David Nahai recently told the L.A. Weekly that the Ferraro Building "is not just another corporate asset. It is the world-renowned headquarters of the largest municipal utility in the United States. It is a city landmark, an architectural gem, a student- and tourist attraction. It symbolizes the pride and dedication of the women and men of the DWP. It bears the name of one of the most revered leaders of our city. To even talk of its sale further depresses the already-low morale of the DWP workforce and tarnishes the image of the department."
Nahai added that "a sale is inadvisable even from a pure-business viewpoint. It makes no commercial sense to sell [the Ferraro Building] in this dismal real estate market."
Water-policy watchdog Emily Green worries that the erosion of trust between DWP and the City Council adversely affects the search for a long-term general manager who could take over from the clearly shaky and aggressively nontransparent Beutner.
Finding a new DWP general manager is Beutner's self-declared top priority, but now he is also slated to find a planning department chief following the sudden departure of Gail Goldberg, as shake-ups continue to roil the struggling Villaraigosa mayoralty.
"I have spoken to many urban water managers about the challenge of finding a successor to Nahai ... and they all say the same thing: Until the position is freed from such political wrangling and a professional water manager can get in there and start managing water, it would be folly to accept it," Green says in an e-mail.