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Review to delay Forever 21 plan

Owner of the South Central Farm site says environmental report will be completed first.

August 26, 2008|David Zahniser | Times Staff Writer

The company that hopes to build a warehouse on a former 14-acre community garden has agreed to prepare an environmental impact report, delaying a decision on the project for at least a year, Los Angeles officials said Monday.

Representatives of developer Ralph Horowitz sent an e-mail to City Hall this month volunteering to perform a more extensive review of the South Los Angeles project, said Maya Zaitzevsky, the city planner who had been expected to decide whether such a document was needed.

Activists who have been hoping to stop the project -- sending city officials hundreds of e-mails in protest -- said Monday that they were ecstatic to receive more time to wage their fight.

"We have an opportunity to struggle again to save the South Central Farm and restore it to its original function in the community," said the activist known as Tezozomoc, who represents the South Central Farmers group.

The 14-acre garden was ripped up in 2006, just as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was trying to find a nonprofit group to buy the land. Since then, he has received nearly $1.3 million in contributions and pledges from Forever 21, the retail chain that hopes to occupy Horowitz's project.

Forever 21 has given to such Villaraigosa initiatives as the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the election of three school board members and his effort to plant 1 million trees.

Lobbyist Brad Rosenheim, who represents Horowitz, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. But Councilwoman Jan Perry, who supports the Forever 21 project, said the extended environmental review would not derail the proposal.

"For a project of this magnitude, I think it's a good process to go through," said Perry, who contends that the distribution center would provide much-needed jobs in her council district.

Zaitzevsky, who received Rosenheim's e-mail announcing his client's plan to draft an environmental impact report, said she had received "a huge amount of public comment" on the warehouse proposal. Much of it focused on emissions from diesel trucks -- and demands that a longer review be carried out.

"It never came to a point where I had to make a decision on it," she said.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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