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. It would be nice if the owner of the land, Ralph Horowitz, agreed to sell the property back to the city or a third party rather than insist on plowing under the greenery to build yet another warehouse. It certainly would be nice for people who live in the drab, concrete-and-asphalt neighborhood around the garden to finally have a park and a soccer field, or maybe a chance at a garden plot of their own. And it would be nice if Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa could succeed in brokering an agreement that makes everyone happy.
There are lots of things that would be nice. But the land belongs to Horowitz, and he has every right to kick out the people who have been squatting there for more than a decade. The gardeners, or farmers (be careful; your choice of wording apparently defines your position on property rights, racial oppression, environmental justice and City Hall incompetence, at least according to some players in the controversy) have made their plots into a special, almost magical, place. But no magic is so strong that it erases a landowner's right to either his property or its fair value.