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In council reversal, former South L.A. farm site won't get park

The revision of a deal with the landowner, who later evicted all the farmers, deletes the plan for a 2.8-acre park on the 14-acre plot. Farm supporters feel betrayed.

November 16, 2011|By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times

The long and controversial saga of L.A.'s one-time South Central Farm moved toward a noisy end Tuesday when the City Council went back on an earlier promise to have a park built on part of the land.

For the hundreds of farmers who were evicted by a developer in a heavily publicized clash several years ago, the city's plan for a 2.8-acre park on the 14-acre plot was a silver lining.

But under a revision of the deal that council members made with the developer in 2003, no park will be built. Instead, several apparel manufacturing facilities will be constructed and the landowner will pay $3.6 million for improvements at two parks and a housing project nearby.

Farm supporters said they felt betrayed. After the City Council's 12-0 vote to revise the agreement, dozens of them erupted in shouts and chants of "Shame on you" and "No more warehouses."

Among them was actress Daryl Hannah, who camped in a tree on the farm in 2006 to protest the eviction. She called Tuesday's action, which was backed by City Councilwoman Jan Perry, an example of "shocking and even joyous corruption." The site is in Perry's district.

Former Santa Monica Mayor Michael Feinstein, a farm supporter, said the council action was hypocritical because the city's general plan calls for more open space.

The city sold the parcel to developer Ralph Horowitz in 2003. Horowitz previously owned the land, but lost it to the city in the 1980s through eminent domain. After reacquiring the parcel, Horowitz eventually evicted farmers who had gardened on the land for years, an incident that spurred an outcry — and an Oscar-nominated documentary, "The Garden."

Horowitz is in escrow with four clothing companies who are proposing to build design and distribution facilities on all of the property. Perry says the $30-million development would create 300 construction jobs and 600 permanent positions.

Employees from the clothing companies packed Tuesday's council meeting to speak on behalf of the plan.

Perry, who is running for mayor in 2013, said the neighborhood where the land is located — a heavily industrial stretch of South Los Angeles known as the Alameda corridor— is not suitable for a park because of the area's diesel truck emissions.

Horowitz's $3.6 million would go a long way to improve nearby parks and one of the city's largest housing projects, Pueblo del Rio, which hasn't seen improvements to its recreational facilities since 1986, Perry said. Among the planned improvements, she said, is the planting of gardens.

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