Increasing demand in the arid L.A. basin following the annexation of the State of California from Mexico in 1848 and the subsequent discovery of the Los Angeles Oil Field in 1892 called for new approaches to water and power supply and delivery. Both infrastructural undertakings with high profits at stake.

 

Conceived and constructed under the leadership of William Mulholland, chief engineer for the Bureau of the Los Angeles Aqueduct—to become LADWP—the Owens River Aqueduct would bring unprecedented water resources to Los Angeles and with water, power. The six-tiered system relied on gravity alone for water delivery and used the same force as the energetic basis for Los Angeles’ first municipal power station, San Francisquito Power Station No.1.

 

Established in 1917, the station used E.F. Scattergood’s hydroelectric method to harness energetic potential from the 422 cubic feet per second of water passing through the system.

In March of the previous year, municipal power delivery had been established in Los Angeles under the Los Angeles Bureau of Power and Light—also to become LADWP—with power purchased from the city of Pasadena. With the addition of Power Station No. 1, conditions were immediately reversed, and Los Angeles began to sell its relatively inexpensive hydroelectric excess to Pasadena.

 

The inaugural Power & Light service pole at the corner of Pasadena Ave. and Piedmont St. marked the beginning of the end for private suppliers Southern California Edison, Pacific Light & Power, and LA Gas & Electric in Los Angeles city, though all would continue to serve the county.

The surrounding real estate and water rights contro-versies in the Owens and San Fernando Valleys are too rich to address in full within the context of this inquiry. It will might suffice to draw attention to the probable exchange of insider information that surrounded the redirection of water resources to the Valley and the formation of the “San Fernando Syndicate,” a real estate alliance, including Mulholland himself, who were to purchase the soon-to-be-hydrated San Fernando Valley. Two years later, after the completion of the Owen's River Aqueduct, the city of Los Angeles annexed the land in order to legally sell surplus water to valley farmers.  This move nearly doubled the land size of the city of Los Angeles, and brought considerable profit to numerous civic agents and private enterprises including the syndicate, who subdivided and developed.  


Annexation and zoned subdivision brought populations, speculation, development, industry, and increasing demand on the electrical grid, the water supply, and the nascent Planning Committee (est. 1910).   Water and power supplies sufficient for irrigation could not contend with the influx of residents which would, in time, produce The Valley. Now home to 1.8 million residents, the San Fernando Valley ranks second only to West Los Angeles as a starting point for single-occupancy automobile commuting.  

© 2017 by Energy Zoning with support from the 2016 UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Powell Policy Fellowship

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