South Central Farmer's Community Garden Under Attack! Send Your Letter Today!

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South Central Farmer's Community Garden Under Attack! Send Your Letter Today!

Send your letter/email today to save the farm!

Send a letter to LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

For updates on the situation go to: www.southcentralfarmers.com OR LA Indymedia

What we are about?

Synopsis of the history of the 14-acre urban garden located at 41st and Alameda Streets

Since 1992, the 14 acres of property located at 41st and Alameda Streets in Los Angeles have been used as a community garden or farm. The land has been divided into 360 plots and is believed to be one of the largest urban gardens in the country.
The City of Los Angeles acquired the 14-acre property by eminent domain in the late 1980s, taking it from nine private landowners. The largest of these owners, Alameda-Barbara Investment Company ("Alameda".), owned approximately 80 percent of the site. The partners of Alameda were Ralph Horowitz and Jacob Libaw. The City originally intended to use the property for a trash incinerator, but abandoned that plan in the face of public protest organized by Juanita Tate and the Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles.

As part of the eminent domain proceedings, the City granted Alameda a right of first refusal if, within 10 years, the City determined that the parcel formerly owned by Alameda was no longer required for public use.

Following the uprising in 1992, the City set aside the 14-acre site for use as a community garden. In 1994, the City transferred title to the property by ordinance to its Harbor Department. When it received title to the property, the Harbor Department contracted with the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank to operate the property as a community garden; the Foodbank has been operating it as such since then.

In 1995, the City began negotiating with Libaw-Horowitz Investment Company ("LHIC".), the successor company to Alameda, to sell it the entire 14-acre property. The City's negotiators sent LHIC a purchase agreement, and LHIC executed the agreement and returned it to the City in October 1996. The terms of the agreement expressly made it contingent on City Council approval. The City Council never approved the agreement, and the sale was not completed. The proposed agreement fixed the sale amount at $5,227,200.

In 2002, LHIC filed suit against the City for not executing the purchase agreement. The City successfully demurred three times to LHIC's complaint, but then agreed to sell the 14-acre property to Ralph Horowitz and his business partners for $5,050,000. On August 13, 2003, the City Council discussed and approved the terms of the settlement in closed session, and then passed a motion to approve the settlement.

On September 23, 2003, the City sent the Foodbank a letter notifying it of the sale. The Foodbank, in turn, distributed the letter to the approximately 350 families that were using plots at the garden to grow their own food. The families using the plots are low‑income and depend heavily upon the food they grow to feed themselves. In addition to growing food for themselves, the people involved with the community garden hold Farmers' Markets, festivals and other cultural events for the public at large.

After receiving the notice from the City informing them that the garden property was being sold to a private developer, the farmers formed an organization "South Central Farmers Feeding Families "and began organizing to retain their right to use the property. South Central Farmers Feeding Families appealed to the City Council to prevent the sale from going through. On December 11, 2003, however, the City transferred title to the property to Ralph Horowitz and the Horowitz Family Trust, The Libaw Family LP, Timothy M. Ison and Shaghan Securities, LLC.

On January 8, 2004, Ralph Horowitz issued a notice setting February 29, 2004, as the termination date for the community garden. In the meantime before February 29, members of the South Central Farmers Feeding Families obtained legal counsel (Hadsell & Stormer, Inc., and

Kaye, Mclane & Bednarski LLP) and filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the sale of the property. The Los Angeles County Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order and later a preliminary injunction halting development of the property during the pendency of the lawsuit. Both the City and the Horowitz defendants appealed the Superior Court's order granting the preliminary injunction.

On June 30, 2005, the Court of Appeal reversed the Superior Court's order granting the preliminary injunction. The South Central Farmers Feeding Families have 40 days from June 30 to petition the California Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeal's ruling. If the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, the urban garden will be demolished in about three months.

The Court of Appeal ignored the law and sound public policy in overturning the injunction that was in place on the property. The Los Angeles City Charter allows the City to sell real property it determines that it no longer needs. Before selling property it no longer needs, the City must comply with various procedures designed to ensure that the City does not squander resources by selling property it needs. The intent of the Charter is that the City sell only property it no longer needs. The City's sale of the garden property to the Horowitz interests did not comply with the procedures required for sale of property no longer needed by the City. The Court of Appeal held, nevertheless, that the City did not have to comply with these provisions because it had not determined that it no longer needed the garden property.

In other words, the Court of Appeal ruled that the City can avoid its own charter's procedure for selling property simply by stopping short of determining whether the property it intends to sell is no longer needed by the City. By keeping the property it intends to sell designated as property it needs, the City can go ahead and sell it without having to comply with the charter provision for the sale of real property. The new procedure being approved by the Court of Appeal defeats the very purpose of the charter provision applying to the sale of real property. It encourages the type of abuse the charter provision applying to the sale of real property was meant to curtail.

Accomplishments by the South Central Farmers

1. When Michael flood and the food bank turned their backs on the poor
people of South Central. It was the South Central Farmers that
protested, marched, and attended city council meetings. In this process they were able to keep the garden open and challenge the city on the sale of the property. The food bank had an opportunity to place its expensive lawyers on the issue but they chose instead to fight against them and they continue to fight us.

2. The South Central Farmers began a process of
eliminating the corruption and self-serving attitudes that the agents of the food bank had fostered for over 11 years. This included cronism, nepetism, and extornsion. In direct violation of the permit given by the city the agents of the food bank and the food bank allowed the sale of plots to poor families. The prices began from 250 all the way up to 1000 dollars per plot. This was hurrendous. The SCFs have been attempting to remove these elements from the community garden.

3. In Feb 15, 2004, the SCF had a general assembly where two leaders were chosen democratically. The rules for governing the community garden were discussed and the type of democracy was also decided, Majority rule. From then on the leadership was given certain executives privileges always governed by the consensus of the community.

4. From that time on the community garden and its rules have been governed by the participatory membership of the South Central farmers. They chose which rules they wanted to be governed by and how transgressions should be dealt with.

5. SCFs have developed community leaders from the community garden. Some of our members have become members of the local neighborhood councils. Some our farmers have also been encouraged to become Master Gardeners. Some of our Farmers have developed their own economic development. One farmer currently rents 6 acres elsewhere and has developed his own distribution system.

6. SCFs have developed opportunities for community members. We have developed the monthly farmers market.

7. The SCFs have addressed the needs of the women membership by providing them the space to have their own cooperative space where only women work.

8. We have sustained City Council attendance, twice a week, only matched by the anti-war movement of the sixties.

9. We have developed the spiritual needs of the community by providing a monthly catholic service and a monthly Christian service. This helps to
address the needs of the community.

10. We provide an avenue for up and coming bands during our yearly anniversary celebration. We have had two of them and have showcases many up and coming community bands.

11. SCFs maintain an abundant and resilient seed stock that is grown in the community garden.

12. The SCFs have brought traditional aztec dancers and ceremonies that resonate the cultural traditions of the people who grow food.

13. The SCF have made the community garden available to its memberships to have a family space for fiestas. The SCfs have also made the community space available for cultural exchange programs. Native traditional rural teachers from all over Mexico have used the space to do cultural exchange.

14. The SCFs continue to educate their members on the democratic process and how it applies to their local government.

Send letters of support for the farm to the following individuals:

Antonio Villaraigoza
Honorable Mayor of Los Angeles
200 North Spring Street, Room 303
Los Angeles, CA 90012
mayor@lacity.org

Ed Reyes
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 410
Los Angeles, CA 90012
reyes@council.lacity.org

Wendy Greuel
200 N. Spring Street, Rm475
Los Angeles, CA 90012
greuel@council.lacity.org

Dennis P. Zine
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 450
Los Angeles, CA 90012
zine@council.lacity.org

Tom LaBonge
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 480
Los Angeles, CA 90012
labonge@council.lacity.com

Jack Weiss
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 440
Los Angeles, CA 90012
weiss@council.lacity.com

Tony Cardenas
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 455
Los Angeles, CA 90012
cardenas@council.lacity.org

Alex Padilla
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 465
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Padilla@council.lacity.org

Bernard Parks
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 460
Los Angeles, CA 90012
parks@council.lacity.org

Jan Perry
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 420
Los Angeles, CA 90012
perry@council.lacity.org

Bill Rosendahl
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 415
Los Angeles, CA 90012
rosendahl@council.lacity.org

Greig Smith
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 405
Los Angeles, CA 90012
smith@council.lacity.org

Eric Garcetti
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 470
Los Angeles, CA 90012
garcetti@council.lacity.org

Janice Hahn
200 N. Spring Street, Rm 435
Los Angeles, CA 90012
hahn@council.lacity.org

Fabian Nunez
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0046
Assemblymember.Nunez@assembly.ca.gov

Senator Cedillo
State Capitol, Room 5100
Sacramento CA 95814
gil.cedillo@assembly.ca.gov

Supervisor Gloria Molina
856 KHHA
500 West Temple St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Molina@bos.co.la.ca.us

Supervisor Ivonne Burke
KHHA
500 West Temple St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
seconddistrict@lacbos.org

Congresswoman MaxineWaters
10124 S. Broadway
Suite 1
Los Angeles, CA 90003

Michael Flood
1734 E. 41st St
Los Angeles, CA 90058-1502
mflood@lafoodbank.org
Phone: (323) 234-3030

Richard S. Wolf
Sotheby's
9665 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Telephone: (310) 274 0340
Fax: (310) 274 0899

CORPORATE SECRETARY
Karl E. Block
Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman, Machtinger & Kinsella LLP
1900 Avenue Of The Stars
21st Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Karl J. Schulze
Schulze Haynes & Co.
Figueroa Tower
660 S. Figueroa Street, Suite 1280
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Dennis A. Winston
Moskowitz, Brestoff, Winston & Blinderman LLP
1880 Century Park East,
Suite 300
Los Angeles, California 90067
Telephone: 310-785-0550
Fax: 310-785-0880
www.mbwblawfirm.com

Nishat Ahmed
Hopkins Michael Inc
9025 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 276-1028

Roy Allen
8109 1/2 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90003

Darya Allen-Attar
City National Bank
741 ILiff
Pacific Palisades CA 90210
(310)888-6233
darya.allen-attar@cnb.com

Laurie Bolt
Nestlé USA
800 N Brand Blvd
Glendale, CA 91203
(818) 549-6000

Donald Goodman
Don Lee Farms
200 E. BEACH AVENUE
INGLEWOOD, CA 90302
(310) 674-3180

Maria Hayes-Bautista
UCLA School of Medicine
Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture
924 Westwood Blvd. Suite 730
Los Angeles, CA 90024

Doug Levinson
Strategy That Rocks
12400 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 1500
Los Angeles, CA 90025
doug@strategythatrocks.com

Bonnie Lewis
Albertsons
17202 NORWALK BLVD.
CERRITOS CA, 90703

Rosey T. Miller
Cushman & Wakefield of California, Inc.,
10250 Constellation Blvd., Suite 2200
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Kenneth A. Pickar, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology
Entrepreneurial Fellowship Program
1200 East California Blvd.
MC 136-93
Pasadena, CA 91125
pickar@caltech.edu

Maita Prout
Holland & Knight LLP
633 West Fifth Street
21st Floor
Los Angeles, CA, 90071

Nick P. Saggese
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
300 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Phone: (213) 687-5000

Edgar R. Taylor
Taylor and Associates
433 N Camden Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 285-1559

Timothy Lappen
Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro LLP
1900 Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 203-8080

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Community Farming in LA

Neoliberalism at the Garden Gate

By TOM PHILPOTT
http://www.counterpunch.org/philpott03162006.html

The fate of LA's South Central Community Farm, the nation's largest
community garden, hinges on a dubious back-room deal between a developer and
an ambitious city attorney. According to the Los Angeles Times, though, it's
all pretty straight-forward.

"It would be nice to keep the South Central Community Garden, an island of
lush kitchen crops covering 14 acres amid the industrial warehouses, packing
plants and junkyards that stretch for miles in a seemingly endless sweep
along Alameda Street," the paper declared in a March 11 editorial. But the
garden sits on private property, the Times continued, and its owner "has
every right to kick out the people who have been squatting there for more
than a decade." And the putative owner, Brentwood developer Ralph Horowitz,
is exercising his right to the hilt. He has evicted the gardeners, who are
now clinging to the land on the strength of a court-ordered stay that
expires March 20.

In its place Horowitz plans to erect a warehouse-possibly for Wal-Mart. The
garden lies conveniently near the Alameda Corridor, a $2.4 billion city
project designed to facilitate the flow of goods shipped into the Los
Angeles and Long Beach ports through the metropolitan area. Since its
completion in 2002, big-box retailers have scrambled to build warehouses in
South Central.

If Horowitz and his apologists at the Times have their way, the 350 families
who tend plots at the garden, all of who whom live under the poverty line
according USDA's guidelines, will have to find a new source of fresh food.
Although they've created a "special, almost magical, place," the Times
opined, "no magic is so strong that it erases a landowner's right to either
his property or its fair value."

Irony abounds here like vegetables in a well-tended garden plot. Most of the
plot holders are immigrants from Mexico and Central America. A generation of
neoliberal policies in Latin America has turned smallholder farming there
into an economic disaster, sending legions of displaced farmers north in
search of gainful employment. These immigrants-whose hard work for low pay
has helped underwrite the U.S. inflation miracle, keeping interest rates low
so consumers can, well, consume-find few opportunities to grow their own
food here in El Norte. In this case, when they did gain access to kitchen
plots, the invisible fist of neoliberalism swooped down again, powered as
always by property's inalienable right.

Yet the ironies go deeper than double-displacement-deeper even than plunking
a big-box warehouse, groaning with goods manufactured by low-wage workers in
China, on top of a food source for low-wage Latino workers in the United
States. To understand fully the brazenness of Horowitz's power play-and the
feebleness of the Times' response to it-you have to sift through the details
of how the developer gained title to the land.

Like most urban community gardens, this one sprang up on land that no one
much wanted originally. In the late 1980s, the city seized the land under
eminent domain from an investment group led by Horowitz. Horowitz's
investment company ended up receiving $4.7 million in compensation. The
city's plan: to build an incinerator to generate electricity by burning
trash.

Most people don't like to live amid the stench of garbage, so the
neighborhood successfully organized to stop that project. By the time of the
Rodney King rebellion in 1992, the lot had become trash-strewn and
abandoned. The city agreed to allow the Los Angeles Food Bank to invite
neighborhood residents to transform it into a community garden. By all
accounts, neighborhood residents rallied around the asset, turning it into a
vital source of fresh food in an area with few grocery stores.

Here is how Dean Kuipers, whose piece in the LA CityBeat for Jan. 26, 2005
remains the best account of the farm's plight so far, describes it:

"The contrast with community gardens elsewhere in the city is shocking.
These aren't tiny weekend projects with a few tomatoes and California
poppies. The 330 spaces here are large, 20 X 30 feet, many of them doubled-
and tripled-up into larger plots, crammed with a tropical density of native
Mesoamerican plants -- full-grown guava trees, avocados, tamarinds, and
palms draped in vines bearing huge pumpkins and chayotes, leaf vegetables,
corn, seeds like chipilin grown for spice, and rank upon rank of cactus cut
for nopales. The families who work these plots are all chosen to receive one
because they are impoverished by USDA standards, and use them to augment
their household food supply. These are survival gardens."

But the birth of a thriving, productive community garden wasn't the only
thing that changed in the area after the King riots. In the 1990s, the city
of Los Angeles dropped a cool $2.4 billion to build out the Alameda
Corridor, "a modern rail and big-truck super-pipeline from the Port of Los
Angeles straight through the warehouses of South L.A. and Vernon," Kuipers
writes. And that made the once-depressed warehouse district an important hub
for big-box retailers to organize the booming influx of goods from points
west, including China. In turn, South Central land suddenly became very
valuable.

In his dealings with the city in the 1980s, Horowitz had retained right of
first refusal if the city ever decided to sell the land. In 2003, after
repeated lawsuits had failed to force the city to resell it to him, he cut
an out-of-court deal with city attorney Rockard "Rocky" Delgadillo. The city
sold Horowitz back the parcel of land for $5 million. His campaign to
bulldoze the garden began soon thereafter.

Here is where the story really gets interesting. In its March 11 2006
editorial, the LA Times averred that "the bottom line is that the courts
ruled for Horowitz." But that's not true. Horowitz regained the land in a
back-room deal with Delgadillo, not in court.

South Central Farmers spokesperson Tezozomoc has been a tireless researcher
and chronicler of this story. In his work inside and outside of the garden
gates-Tezozomoc is studying for a masters' in linguistics at California
State University, Northridge-the man has given new meaning to the old
Gramscian phrase "organic intellectual." Tezozomoc told me that back in
1994, the city valued the land at $13 million when it shifted the title from
one city bureaucracy to another. "How can it have been worth $5 million in
2003, when the city itself said it was worth $13 million in 1994-before the
Alameda corridor was even close to being finished?" Tezozomoc says. The
farmers are now suing the city to reverse the deal, on the grounds that it
sold the property from under their feet without consulting them, at a price
far below market value.

Horowitz is in turn countersuing the farmers, claiming that they're abusing
the legal system. "How are you going to sue 350 poor families for almost a
million dollars?" Tezozomoc asks.

Tezozomoc suggested that I look closer at the dealings between Horowitz and
Delgadillo, the city attorney who gave him such a sweet deal on the farm
tract. Rocky Delgadillo is an interesting figure. A Harvard law alum, he's a
darling of the neoliberal Democratic Leadership Institute, which named him
one of its "100 to Watch" in 2003. In a gushing profile on the DLC's Web
site, Delgadillo describes his path from big-time entertainment lawyer to
selfless public servant. His move, like the birth of south Central Farm,
hinged on the Rodney King rebellion.

On the day the infamous acquittals, Delgadillo says in the DLC piece, "I
felt a great sense of shock but also a great sense of purpose. Coming from
the neighborhood I did, I felt fortunate for the opportunities I had been
given. . And my parents always taught me I had an obligation to give
something back. I knew it was my time to go back and help my community."

By 2003, he was handing his community's biggest chunk of green space over to
a Brentwood-based developer at a cut rate. Perusing LA's Ethics Commission
web site at Tezozomoc's urging, I found Ralph Horowitz bolstering
Delgadillo's war chest for the city attorney race with the maximum donation
of $1000 in 2000. The only other local politicians Horowitz is on record
giving money to are council members Eric Garcetti and Victor Griego-both of
whom, Tezozomoc reports, have supported Horowitz's bid to pave the garden.

Horowitz co-owns the South Central Community Farm property with something
called Shaghan Securities, which gave Delgadillo $1000 in 2001; and with
Jack Libaw, who handed Delgadillo $500 in 2001. (Jack's brother Evan also
gave councilman Griego $500 in 1999.) As with Horowitz, these men are on
record donating cash to politicians who have directly benefited their bid to
regain control of the Farm property. When you do a search on the Ethics
Commission Web site of Delgadillo's contributors and the term "developer," a
list of seemingly interminable length emerges. Like the LA Times itself,
this fellow resides squarely in the pocket of the class that makes dirt fly
in Los Angeles-"give back to my community" prattle aside. Delgadillo is now
running for California Attorney General.

But this story is about more than back-room deals between politicians and
developers and the craven daily newspapers that coddle them. It's about the
contours of civic policy in an era of broad neoliberal consensus. To build
the Alameda Corridor-the project that made South Central Community Farm so
attractive to Horowitz-the city of Los Angeles cobbled together $2.4
billion. According to a press release from the US DOT's Federal Highway
Administration states, the money came from: "$1 billion raised by revenue
bonds issued by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, $400 million
directly from the ports, $460 million provided by the Los Angeles
Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and a $400 million loan from the U.S.
Department of Transportation."

That's an impressive array of bureaucracies united behind a single project.
The ideology behind Alameda couldn't have been more coherent. On the
corridor's 2002 debut, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta declared
that: "The Alameda Corridor will help the ports of Los Angeles and Long
Beach accommodate the increasing trade growth in the future while helping
our national economy capitalize on southern California's standing as a major
trade hub of the Pacific Rim."

The facilitation of global trade, then, receives the unquestioned backing of
state and federal authorities. Urban farming, with its myriad environmental
and social benefits, gets different treatment. Tezozomoc tells me that LA
mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who gained office last year amid an outpouring
of liberal self-congratulation, attended South Central Community Farm
meetings during the campaign and "told us what we wanted to hear." Since
then, though, "Villaraigosa has disappeared." In one of his few recent
public pronouncements on the situation, the mayor suggested that the farmers
raise $16 million in private donations and buy the tract outright from
Horowitz. (Note the tacit admission: the city severely undervalued the land
by selling it for $5 million in 2003). Thus are the costs of global trade
socialized, while low-wage urban workers are left to fend for themselves in
the free market.

Tom Philpott farms and cooks at Maverick Farms in Valle Crucis, N.C. In his
spare time, he writes about the political economy of food. He can be reached
at: tom@maverickfarms.com