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The South Central Farmers Push, and City Hall Budges

by Leslie Radford Sunday, Mar. 05, 2006 at 5:22 PM
leslie@radiojustice.net

City Council proves fallow, but the Mayor's office has initiated negotiations to save South Central Farm. The Farmers still have a long row to hoe--they need to raise .35M to save the Farm.

The South Central Fa...
monitor-emulated.jpg, image/jpeg, 486x341

Los Angeles, March 3, 2006--Unimpeded by the morning's chill and rain, the South Central Farmers and several dozen supporters repeated their weekly trek to the faux-marble corridors of City Hall to demand the mighty institution find a way to rescue their 14-acre Farm from the eviction notice and bulldozers of developer Ralph Horowitz.

Unlike the very public demonstration of two weeks ago, today's smaller group of forty or so worked the halls with urgency and intensity born out of the now-imminent eviction order.

City Council Unmoved

For months, the Farmers have gone through a weekly ritual of trying to engage a disinterested City Council during public comments.  This time, the Council heard six of about twenty people who wished to speak, when Council President Garcetti cut them off, saying the Council had already indulged in an extra ten minutes of public comments.  He hurriedly mentioned that a Council member could move to extend the time and rushed on to other business.  In fact, no Council member appeared to have much interest in hearing from the Farmers.

The Farmers Push on the Mayor's Office

The band marched out of Council chambers, around the corner, and through the Romanesque hallway to the Mayor's office.  Demanding to speak with the Mayor, Rafael Gonzalez, Associate Director for Mayor Villaraigosa’s Office of Neighborhood and Community Services, eventually emerged from the maze of offices behind the reception desk.  He was introduced to the group, including representatives of LA-ANSWER, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, the Independent Action Center, Global Women's Strike, the USC Planners Network, and the Westside Greens.  

The Farmer's put forward their demands: that the Mayor hold a public meeting to explain his new plan for greening Los Angeles and respond to the Farmers, that the Mayor intercede in the eviction process, and that the City stop harassing the Farmers with parking tickets at the Farm.  Gonzalez told the assembled crowd that they needed to talk to Deputy Mayor for Neighborhood and Community Services Larry Frank, but that Frank was tied up in meetings.  Clearly, the Mayor wasn't going to come out from the labyrinth.

The Mayor's Office Steps Out

The Farmers peppered Gonzalez with questions, until he brought Frank to them.  After some generalities and faced with sharp questioning, Frank responded to the Farmers' questions for about half an hour in the 3rd floor rotunda.

Frank explained that the Mayor's Office was trying to negotiate an option to purchase the land, to forestall the eviction.  The eviction is expected to occur in seven to fourteen days after a court hearing. The land developer, Ralph Horowitz, has indicated to the Mayor's office his willingness to sell the land to the Farmers for .35M, more than threefold the .05M he paid for the property when the City sold it to him two years ago.

Horowitz is demanding K for a thirty-day option to buy and double that for sixty days.  According to Frank, the Mayor is seeking to raise the money from the Trust for Public Land.

Thus far, the Farmers have raised M, including M from an anonymous source which insists that the Farm be kept intact, and much of the rest from the Trust for Public Land.

Frank suggested that, "as a backup," that the Farmers settle for "four or five acres" at their current location and small plots scattered elsewhere throughout the city, and "you can take this as a revolution for open space, and I can get the Mayor to stand side by side with you."  He was met with several loud No's and a wall of resistance.  It was clear that for the Farmers the issue was the farm community, not token scraps to save face.

Frank showed his frustration when he admitted that the developer was "using you guys as hostages" to hold up the city.  When asked about using eminent domain to reclaim the property, Frank said that eminent domain would require that the city pay Horowitz fair market value and cited Horowitz's claim that it was worth M, a return of five to one on his purchase price and a loss of M to city coffers when the sale was negotiated.  According to Frank, Horowitz is offering the Farmers a deal at .35M.

If the land is returned to the Farmers, title and administration would be under the Trust for Public Land and the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust.

Where's the Mayor?

The Farmers continued to insist that the Mayor appear at a community meeting to answer their questions and commit to the Farm.  Frank claimed that the Mayor has been acting on the matter for six months and had interceded in two earlier eviction attempts.  He noted that the Mayor had assigned Frank to try to resolve the disagreement.  But Frank also questioned whether the city, "not just the Mayor" has the "political will," noting that "there are many other significant needs the city has."

Frank flatly and repeatedly rejected the demands for a community forum with the Mayor about the Farm and the Mayor's call for a green Los Angeles (which is likely to begin with razing the Farm), citing "practical concerns." He added that the Mayor was ready to "stand side by side with you to raise money."  When asked about the forum again, Frank snipped, "The answer is no.  Not yet."

A few minutes later, in an elevator heading to the upper echelons of City Hall, Frank, Gonzalez, and an unidentified woman were clearer:  the Farmers just didn't understand the practical situation, that the politicos who had the Mayor's ear were insisting he not be seen with the Farmers until the Farm was secured and Villaraigosa could take credit for rescuing the Farm.

If the Farmers do manage to raise .35 M before the options run out, the true heros will probably go unnoticed and unacknowledged, but they probably won't care.  It will be a late start on the planting season, and they'll be busy. 

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waiting to be heard

by Leslie Radford Sunday, Mar. 05, 2006 at 5:22 PM
leslie@radiojustice.net

waiting to be heard...
waiting_to_be_heard.jpg, image/jpeg, 528x352

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while the Council doesn't listen

by Leslie Radford Sunday, Mar. 05, 2006 at 5:22 PM
leslie@radiojustice.net

while the Council do...
council1sm.jpg, image/jpeg, 447x155

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and doesn't listen some more

by Leslie Radford Sunday, Mar. 05, 2006 at 5:22 PM
leslie@radiojustice.net

and doesn't listen s...
council2sm.jpg, image/jpeg, 447x155

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finally meeting with Larry Frank

by Leslie Radford Sunday, Mar. 05, 2006 at 5:22 PM
leslie@radiojustice.net

finally meeting with...
mtg_w_frank-sm.jpg, image/jpeg, 480x360

in the gray suit

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LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 5 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
why? Justice Sunday, Mar. 05, 2006 at 9:21 PM
Farmers will lose :) no land grab Sunday, Mar. 05, 2006 at 10:12 PM
JUSTICE? JUSTICE? Monday, Mar. 06, 2006 at 2:52 AM
350 people? johnk Monday, Mar. 06, 2006 at 11:58 AM

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