Seeds of Hope, Seeds of War:
Race, Class and the Battle for the South Central Farm
By Leslie Radford and Juan Santos (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The world is literally watching. Media worldwide have covered the case
of the South Central Farm, the largest urban garden in the United
States, the efforts of the city's elites to drive the farmers from the
land, and the farmer's remarkable resistance. On June 13th, the County
moved to evict, concentrating a massive police presence in the area to
uproot the resistor's encampment on the land.
South Central Farm arose from the ashes of the 1992 Los Angeles
rebellion, and stands as a symbol of hope to millions. Despite the
eviction, the struggle continues, with a court hearing this week
challenging the City's sale of the land to a private developer.
When the Los Angeles City Council sold the 14 acre plot called the
South Central Farm to developer Ralph Horowitz, they sold land they
For years the City, the Harbor
Department, developers and citizens groups have played a shell game,
switching land for money, while trading schemes for sweatshops and
trash incinerators in LA’s most polluted corridor for the dreams and
demands for a better life in LA’s most prominent oppressed
It has become all-but a cliché to
point to the fact that the Farm - the nations largest urban garden –
arose “from the ashes” of the 1992 Los Angeles Rebellion. Here’s the
reality. The rebellion meant the loss of huge investment opportunities
in the area for the rich, and the city set out to fix that problem for
them. The plan aimed to make high risk investments profitable for the
investor by sinking government money into their development schemes.
They were “making deals that make a difference” – to everyone but the
people whose suffering and oppression had fueled the famous rebellion.
The plan the city developed demanded of local citizen’s groups that
they make a trade. The City demanded a virtually unrestricted access
for industrial development in what is called the Alameda corridor – the
site of the Farm - in return for bankrolling investor’s plans to set up
strip malls and mini-marts in devastated South Central. Otherwise,
post-rebellion redevelopment in South Central would grind to a halt. It
was an offer the citizen’s groups couldn’t refuse, and the city knew
The city and the developers were playing chess
– a game with profits in the millions as the stakes – on the backs of
the most oppressed and outraged people in the city.
The cynicism of the top level players is profound; Mayor Villaraigosa,
for all his posturing about searching out large donors to “save” the
Farm, always had the money to save it at his disposal. He chose not to
The imminent destruction of the Farm and
of the sacred elements of the ancient cultures that thrive there is
just part of the “business” of development in LA – a negligible cost in
the drive for profit at the expense of the people of LA, most
especially of its Brown and Black communities.
Angeles generates its own reality, its own myths. A small phenomenon
becomes a story, the story transmogrifies into a cause, the cause
becomes a political force, and the force becomes reality – a myth with
substance. But since 1848, the story of Mexicans, and later
Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans—most of them Indigenous -- has been
systematically and institutionally erased. In their place, Los Angeles
has stories of their Americanized third-generation granddaughters and
grandsons, of itinerant farm workers coaxing patched-together pickups
loaded with family and belongings through remote agricultural fields.
At season's end, we are told, they make their way, pockets bulging with
a few hundred dólares, back to Mexico.
stories are seldom heard; the stories of systematic oppression; racist
power politics; anti-Mexican riots, and the stories of deliberate
degradation and enforced poverty don’t “sell.” It wouldn’t fit the
myth, the image, the marketing ploys that make LA seem something other
than what it is.
In the official lexicon Brown
people like the South Central Farmers have no place. They farm a
14-acre plot in a strip of South Central LA that was turned into a high
profile industrial zone and rail corridor in exchange for rebuilding
parts of war torn South Central following the 1992 rebellion.
The site of the Farm - the intersection of Alameda Avenue and 41st
Street - has been a battleground for decades, and Farm antagonist Ralph
Horowitz has been in the thick of it from the beginning. The city had
taken the land from several owners, and paid the largest of them, the
Alameda-Barbara Investment Company, owned by Horowitz and a partner,
some .7M for its 75% share of the ownership.
Ralph Horowitz, to put it bluntly, has Mexican problems. For years his
letterhead has carried the clichéd, stereotypical and racist
image of a
Mexican in a sombrero, sleeping slouched against a large cactus,
presumably pierced through by its sharp spines, presumably indifferent,
in his lethargy, to the pain.
By 2000, developer
Horowitz was negotiating to replace the South Central Farm with
"textile-industry tenants"—specifically, a garment industry sweatshop
for the popular women’s clothing line Forever 21.
The following year, the LA based Forever 21, worth a half billion
dollars in sales annually, was hit with a boycott called by immigrant
workers from six of its factories. They were owed hundreds of thousands
of dollars in back wages and overtime. A number of workers were fired
for speaking out about unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
"We worked ten to twelve hours a day for sub-minimum wages and no
overtime," said Esperanza Hernandez, one of the garment workers. "A lot
of our factories were dirty and unsafe, with rats and cockroaches
It was a case of globalization
writ small. Migrant farmers, driven from their lands in Mexico and
elsewhere by the impact of US domination of their economies, were to be
uprooted by Horowitz once more, so that they and their peers could be
reduced to sweatshop laborers for Horowitz’ client.
The developer has worked with an immense determination for over 20
years to regain control of the land the city took from him in 1987 for
a high-tech trash incinerator, and for 14 of those years the mostly
migrant Farmers have been tending the fields he might have turned into
His efforts to drive them from the
land have been met with years of sustained protest – the Farm feeds 350
low income families. It’s a place where Mayan and other indigenous
families sustain their cultural and spiritual traditions. The loss of
the Farm would mean more than the loss of a few vegetables and flowers.
It would mean the loss of ancient traditions of
agriculture, of heirloom seeds, some thousands of years old, and the
end of the Farmer’s ability to pass their culture on to their children.
The struggle is one for the protection of both land and life, for the
Earth and for the survival of indigenous cultures which have sustained
themselves, already, through 500 years of physical and cultural
genocide. The Farmers can pass on their living traditions to their
children - many of whom can tell the names of every plant on the land
in an indigenous language, in English and in Spanish - or they can pass
on a sweatshop. The choices are that stark, and no one is about to give
In response to his drive for profit at such
costs, Horowitz has seen his mostly-Mexican targets picket his house,
“take over” “his” land at 41st and Alameda in an encampment that drew
thousands of supporters to the site, and, when he sought to bulldoze
the Farm, he saw cucumbers dropped into the exhaust pipes of the
machines and people chain themselves down to prevent the destruction.
He’s seen the Farmer’s allies – from Willie Nelson to Danny Glover,
Joan Baez and Charlie Sheen, stand up to him, creating an international
story in which he could play no role other than the fitting one – that
of the villain. It’s an LA myth he wanted no part of, one of those
stories that have always been kept silent here, but one that suddenly
burst onto a global stage, shining a spotlight not only on Horowitz
himself, but as we will see, on a profoundly corrupt system of cronyism
between LA politicians and developers.
had been circulating for weeks: the Farmers’ pressure and their M
offer for the Farm were working, and Horowitz was considering selling
the Farm back to the Farmers—he was, after all, a business person
looking at a triple return on an investment.
any other buyer, a purchase from Horowitz would bring with it all the
ghosts of the South Central Farm, and enough press - bad and otherwise
– to cause any buyer to think twice.
mysteriously, copies of an Internet article calling Horowitz part of a
Los Angeles “Jewish development mafia” started circulating through the
corridors of City Hall. Enraged, Horowitz attributed it to the Farmers
but, in fact, it was penned by a group with no affiliation with the
Horowitz moved to evict, and a massive
and brutal law enforcement effort was launched to uproot the Farmers
and their supporters from the land, where they had built an encampment.
When Horowitz explained why the Mexican Farmer's
money wasn’t good enough for him, the local NBC affiliate reports
that he snarled, "Where does this kind of 'you owe me' mentality end?
How good is that for America? What they should have said to the
taxpayers of LA and to me is, 'This is a gracious country. Thank you
for letting us have our garden here, but we realize our time is up.
We've had our 14 years.'"
Horowitz has complained
widely about the alleged abuse of his “property rights,” and has become
an object of right wing pity in response.
despite his wounded posturing, the truth is that Horowitz doesn't own
the Farmer's land. The title is still being contested in court, and the
city's sale of the Farm's land to Horowitz was shady at best – or even
illegal. The fact is that the city didn't own the land it sold back to
Horowitz – the Harbor Department did. And the sale of property one
doesn't own is normally called fraud.
gives a different meaning to the Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's words on
the day the South Central Farmers were evicted. He said the matter was
"disheartening and unnecessary." Just how very unnecessary it was, he
didn’t say. It would have been saying too much. Far too much.
In 2005 Antonio Villaraigosa was elected in a widely-heralded alliance
of white liberals and Latinos, and with about half of the city's
African-American vote - an L.A. myth of cross-racial cooperation
seemingly come to fruition. The Mexican-descent community celebrated,
and the Mexican and Central American Farmers, who had contested the
Farm's sale since 2003, had new hope. But Villaraigosa sank no roots in
the Farm, even though he had used the Farm for campaign photo ops.
While constantly reassuring the Farmers behind the scenes, promising
them M in private fundraising to buy the Farm from Horowitz, he
cynically refused to endorse their efforts publicly.
Villaraigosa is banking his political future on the categorical support
of Spanish speaking Californians. In the meantime, like Horowitz, the
Mayor has developed his own Mexican Problem – or, at least, the Mexican
community is developing a Problem with the Mayor.
It started with his timid handling of this spring's pro-migrant
marches. Millions of Brown skinned people, citizens and non-citizens
alike, hit the streets in the biggest demonstrations in LA history –
the stuff myths are made of. While over a million of his constituents
marched to City Hall during the May 1 migrant boycott, Villaraigosa hid
in his office – fearful of appearing to embrace the boycott, a one day
national strike that the marchers were undertaking.
Earlier in the protest season, the Mayor – who, as a student activist
and MEChista had participated in the mass Chicano student walk-outs of
the 1960's – chided students for walking out to defend their parents
from mass deportation. For the Brown community, the students were
heroes. For the Mayor, they were a problem. "Go back to school," he
told them. The students, arrayed in their thousands on the steps of
City Hall, retorted, chanting "Hell, no! We Won't Go!"
In his support for the Hagel-Martinez immigration bill – which will
mean the deportation of millions of undocumented migrants –
Villaraigosa is across the political fence from most of his closest
peers – the small cadre of Mexican American activists groomed and
mentored by the late Bert Corona.
Others from that
group, like MAPA boss Nativo Lopez, lead the millions strong national
coalition that opposes Hagel-Martinez, which has protested against such
establishment groups as the National Council of La Raza on the grounds
that their support of the bill sells out their People. The Mayor was a
featured speaker at the event his cronies protested. In the meantime
there are open calls for MEChA to revoke Villaraigosa's membership in
The dust had just settled on
the pro-migrant marches when the Mayor rode in a July 4th parade that
also featured the anti-Mexican hate group the Minutemen. While other
Chicanos who protested the Minutemen's appearance were assaulted and
derided with racist epithets, the Mayor smiled and waved, apparently
oblivious of the treatment of the protestors. A letter writing and
phone campaign had urged the Mayor not to appear in the same parade
with the hate group.
Two days later, the LAPD –
the Mayor's police force – had brutally assaulted Farm supporters as
Horowitz' bulldozers raped the land; that same week the police launched
a vicious and unprovoked assault against anti-Minutemen protestors in
By then, of course, the Mayor had betrayed the Farm.
He had to: the migrants and their supporters had sent the U.S. Congress
scurrying, and Villaraigosa had to show his bosses who was boss of L.A.
He couldn't be seen bending under pressure from the Brown community –
and especially not from migrants.
Contrary to the
image he created, Villaraigosa always had the money to save the Farm.
He simply chose not to spend it. To do so would have unearthed
troubling irregularities better left buried.
1994, as part of a broader fundraising plan, the city sold the farmland
it had purchased from Horowitz for .7M, to the semi-autonomous Los
Angeles Harbor Department for the price of .3M. The City had turned
a significant profit on the sale of the plot to the Harbor, roughly
tripling the amount it had paid to Horowitz.
2000, the Harbor turned down the offer by Horowitz to use the land for
the Forever 21 sweatshop. Horowitz had a ten-year option to repurchase
the land, negotiated after the City took the land in 1986 for an
incinerator project. Horowitz had approached the City in 1995,
objecting to the sale to the Harbor, but the City Council had refused
to hear him.
By 2001, Horowitz returned to the City Council; this time, the Council
flat out refused to sell the land to him.
In 2003, the City Council abruptly reversed itself, and in closed
session arranged to sell the plot back to Horowitz.
But the City, of course, no longer owned the land it was selling. It
was the Harbor's Chief of Operations who signed over the title over to
Horowitz, finalizing the sale.
The City had cut a
deal with Horowitz and had pocketed the .6M leftover from its sale to
the Harbor - plus the .3M it made in selling the land back to
The Harbor Department confirms that is
out the .3M, and that the City has not reimbursed it for the loss.
The Harbor's budget is entirely separate from the City's. Its revenues
come from Port activities, not from tax dollars.
The Harbor's loss was the City's gain – and a massive gain for
Horowitz, as well. By 2006, Deputy Mayor Larry Frank announced the
value of the property at M. Horowitz received property now publicly
stated by City officials to be worth nearly five times his cost. Twenty
years of patience and two years of property taxes had netted him
something over M.
With the profits he may yet
accrue form the re-sale of the Farm, Horowitz will have made a
considerable fortune in transactions involving the City, and in his
role as both manipulator and pawn in at least one highly irregular
In the end, when Villaraigosa offered to
"raise" money from charitable sources to buy back the Farm from
Horowitz, he had at his disposal both the profit the City had made from
the Harbor Department sale, and also the money it had made in the more
recent back room sale to Horowitz. The Mayor didn't have to beg money
from anyone. He didn't have to lose a moment. He only had to use the
massive profits from the land to buy it back.
do so of course, would be problematic; it could only emphasize a
question the Farmers are asking this week in court – "Why would the
City sell land to Horowitz for .3M when it was worth at least three
times that amount"? Especially when the City had already sold it once
before for triple that amount?
Using City funds to
buy back property from Horowitz for M – the same property that it
had just sold to him for .3M - could only raise questions the Mayor
didn't want asked. Like, "Where would the City's money come from"? And,
"How can the City sell land it doesn't own"? And, "What happened in the
closed session as the Council sold the land back to Horowitz?" These
are questions the Mayor and the City don't want asked – or answered.
The Council records of the transaction are sealed.
Last week, Farmers stood outside the fences on the sidewalk that
surrounds the Farm, weeping as the bulldozers wiped away their
spiritual home, years of work, their family's food, and their community
base. Just the week before the Mayor had declared, "Los Angeles and
Long Beach are on the eco-urban frontier." He didn't note that
"frontier" means different things to cowboys than to Indians.
Tanks were in the streets. 55 people were dead. Huge areas were in
flames in the most intense uprising in US history - and the LAPD, the
Marine Corps, the FBI, INS, and the National Guard, in turn, carried
out the largest mass arrest in US history. The 1992 Rebellion shook the
city to its core. War was being waged between the cops and the Black
and Brown poor of South Central LA.
Nothing's really changed
in South Central - except the name. The powers that be now dub it
"South LA," as if changing the name could change the reality. But it's
still the home of bitter oppression. In the wake of the 1992 Rebellion
the City made big promises of housing and redevelopment that have never
been realized, although developers swarmed in, looking to make a buck
in deals with city hall.
As Michael Slate puts it in his
collection Aftershocks: Post Rebellion Conversations in Watts and South
Central Los Angeles, "Despite many promises, South Central L.A. and
Watts is even worse off than it was. People in these sections of the
city spit out a bitter and angry laugh when they talk about all of the
promised changes. There has been no rebuilding, no reinvestment, no new
investments, no new jobs, no new housing--no new nothing. This has been
a rude awakening for anyone who even momentarily believed that somehow
the capitalist system would be moved to meet the needs of the people."
It wasn't. Instead, the City held the people of South Central hostage,
promising new strip malls and mini marts in the war torn neighborhoods
– but only at a price.
By the time the fires of the 1992
rebellion cooled, South Central faced white panic, and white
development money had disappeared. In the aftermath, long-established
mom-and-pop groceries couldn’t find insurance to rebuild, and chain
stores withdrew their assets.
In an effort to
dissipate the anger smoldering in the area, the city the city began
what it billed as a massive effort to pour public monies into
"blighted" areas, and designated the land that is now the Farm as a
But the larger effort soon soured, caught up in "pay to play," a web of
favors and trade-offs for land and public funds.
"Rebuild L.A.", the City's knee-jerk response to the rebellion, was set
up to entice chain stores and local businesses back into
now-stigmatized South Central. By 1997 Rebuild L.A. had failed to
attract even half the investment it promised. They still hadn't hit the
Former Mayor Richard
Riordan plucked Rocky Delgadillo from the rubble of the ill-fated
effort and dropped him into the post of Deputy Mayor for Economic
Development. Riordan and Delgadillo – who would later become City
Attorney - began afresh.
The rebellion had meant
the loss of huge investment opportunities in the area for the rich, and
the city set out to fix that problem for them. The plan aimed to make
high risk investments profitable for the investor by sinking government
money into their development schemes. Their plan united private money,
a promise of public agency efficiency, and access to federal funding to
lure commercial and industrial developers to City-designated projects
in Los Angeles's "blighted” areas.
The "South Los
Angeles Comprehensive Economic Strategy" of 2001, prepared for
Delgadillo's office, lumped various industrial, commercial, and
residential districts into a single entity called "South Los Angeles"
in a scheme that pitted the needs of one section of South Central
against another. The plan the City developed demanded of local
citizen’s groups that they make a deal.
white financial flight from South Central after the rebellion and lured
by the temptation of government money subsidizing area small business,
reform oriented civic organizations signed on to the Strategy. They
promised not to contest industrial development in South Central's
Alameda Corridor – the area including the South Central Farm. In
exchange, the City would bankroll investor’s plans to set up strip
malls and mini-marts in the rest of devastated South Central.
Otherwise, post-rebellion redevelopment in South Central would grind
from a slow crawl to a halt. It was an offer the citizen’s groups
couldn’t refuse, and the City knew it.
priority was clear – develop the Alameda Corridor. The project was
bound to draw the highest levels of investment capital away from the
rest of South Central and keep its residential neighborhoods
devastated, while funneling government money earmarked for the
"rehabilitation" of the area into industry and developer's pockets. The
citizens of South Central would, as always, have to settle for the
Ten years before, just prior to the '92
rebellion, the city had planned low-income townhouses for the site that
is now the Farm, offering to sell the property to the Nehemiah Public
Housing Corporation for development.
rebellion, former Mayor Riordan nixed the deal. Instead, the City sold
the land to the Harbor Department for double the price it had proposed
to Nehemiah Public Housing.
The hopes for new
post-rebellion housing at the site were crushed because a feasibility
study had designated the Alameda Avenue as the location for a new
multi-billion dollar transportation corridor, with railway tentacles
stretching from the San Pedro ports through the poorest towns and
sections of the City to major rail lines across a 12-mile route.
Located between two train lines, the Farm land's industrial value
outstripped its housing value by M overnight.
After the City quashed the public housing deal, the Harbor Department
turned the land over to the L.A. Regional Food Bank for temporary use
as a community garden. In court documents, the Harbor Department
testified it had no plans for the property when the Department acquired
it: the Farm was only a financial investment, a tract looking for a
developer. Soon, the Harbor, having handed the City an M–plus profit,
would move to re-sell the land itself.
of the South Central Farm begins and ends with massive and artificial
inflation of land values, contrived by players in a development game
that arose from the ashes of the South Central rebellion. It was and
remains a game played on the backs of poor peoples of color - a game
whose rules were crystallized in the "South Los Angeles Comprehensive
Economic Strategy" of 2001.
Horowitz, a partner in the Alameda-Barbara Investment Group, which once
owned most of the Farm tract, had negotiated a side deal with the city
giving it the right of first refusal on any sale for 10 years. Horowitz
When the Harbor Department called for
high-priced development bids, Horowitz attention approached the City,
objecting to the Harbor Department's plans to sell the land, but the
City Council refused to hear him.
Citizens is a citizen's group that had morphed into a "non-profit
developer," made a bid for the land – one backed by then - City Council
member Rita Walters. Caught between Walters' political clout and
Horowitz's unsettled lawsuit, the Harbor accepted none of the proposals
for the land.
Meanwhile, the Food Bank and area
gardeners cleared the land of debris and ramshackle buildings, and made
the 14-acre patch arable, adding to the land's value. And the South
Central Farm began to flourish.
As the impasse
between Horowitz and Concerned Citizens stretched over nine years, the
Harbor Department formalized the garden's existence by giving the L.A.
Food Bank a permit for an urban garden on the site.
Doris Bloch, then executive director of the Los Angeles Regional Food
Bank, recognized that teaching a person a to till, plant, and harvest
was a better strategy than giving them corn: “Right after the civil
disorders, I decided it was important for people to see that Los
Angeles could be a place where constructive programs that involved and
helped people in tough circumstances occurred,” she noted.
But her dream of empowering people with the means to employ native
skills for self-sufficiency was not part of the Los Angeles story; it
had no place in the South Los Angeles Comprehensive Economic Strategy.
Horowitz returned to the City Council in 2001; this time, the Council
flatly refused to sell the land to him.
The attractiveness of the Alameda Corridor / South Central area was
growing, and the Farm was in a prime location.
In accordance with the Strategy, the city had set up a tangle of city
agencies and officials to designate tracts for redevelopment and dole
out public redevelopment funds. But the Farm land would stay with the
Harbor, where it could entice developers to work the bureaucracy and
contribute to campaign coffers.
Development in the
wealthier sections of the city had been quashed by slow-growth
advocates ranting against pollution and making racist claims about
crime-prone apartment dwellers.
to redevelopment—investing public monies into "blighted" areas – or war
torn ones like South Central - for their bread and butter. They came
knocking at South Central council members' doors for entrée to
grab, and a knock at the door meant a drop in the campaign bucket as
well. This is called "rehabilitating" post rebellion LA – and it had
finally become profitable.
Finally, however, in
2003, City Council agreed in closed session to break the stalemate at
the Farm, and turned the land over to Horowitz for .05M.
The Harbor – the actual owner - signed its land over to the developer,
giving up its .3M investment. Horowitz' payment for the land went to
The best that can be said for the Harbor
Department is that it was out from under land that had turned into a 13
million dollar headache. Perhaps a more realistic assessment is that it
had done someone in the City a favor by transferring land in a way that
was highly irregular, perhaps even illegal.
Farmers, who by now had 14 years of sweat equity on what has become an
internationally-recognized Los Angeles jewel, now became the direct
target of a redeveloper's greed.
But the Farm remains undeveloped and - in LA politics - that means the
story isn't over.
Jan Perry is a pro-development politician, whose 9th District includes
Skid Row and ranges from the rapidly gentrifying historic downtown core
to South Central.
Perry rode into office with the
help of the executive director of Concerned Citizens, and with
developers' endorsements and campaign contributions: city records show
nearly ten million dollars from developers flowing into Perry's
As City Controller Laura Chick explained
to CityBeat last year, "This is how it happens now: Developers will
approach a council office, and say, 'Boy, have I got a deal for you!
Look at this project I want to do in your area.' Convince a council
office to approach the CRA [Community Redevelopment Authority] and say,
‘Do it.'" "Convincing" was a matter of money, and Jan Perry had
grown up in City Hall. She is said to be a master of the game.
After fighting off a redistricting plan that would have moved downtown,
a major redevelopment center, out of her district, she led a charge to
criminalize downtown's homeless residents, sweeping them from the
streets into city and county jails and distant shelters, shelters
anywhere, everywhere, as long as the homeless were forced out of the
center of the city.
Backed by the Central City
East Association, a business improvement district which represents
industrial and manufacturing companies with over 600 properties - many
located in Skid Row - Perry proposed an ordinance that would prohibit
downtown homeless people from erecting tents and that would penalize
groups that provided food for them.
police sweeps of homeless residents. Downtown was turning into a
redevelopment dream, and developers and their new tenants wanted the
homeless out of downtown. Flea bag hotels that served Skid Row were
being converted into loft space for the upper middle class and newly
rich. LAPD and city hall announced they would arrest people for
sleeping on public sidewalks.
The Central City East
Association had met with LAPD chief Bill Bratton and police began
citing people on Skid Row for jaywalking, for sleeping – even sitting
in front of building or standing and talking on the sidewalk.
As one homeless advocate put it, Central City East security personnel
began to "operate as an arm of the police," ordering them to move,
confiscating their bags, their blankets their beds and other
To hear Perry, who spearheaded the effort, tell
it, she was doing the homeless a favor. The ACLU and the National
Lawyers Guild didn't see it that way, and sued.
Perry called it a "nutty lawsuit," but U.S. 9th Circuit Court of
Appeals agreed with the ACLU, ruling that arresting people for sleeping
or sitting on public sidewalks of skid row constitutes cruel and
unusual punishment. The court noted that sleeping is an involuntary
act, and that there are simply not enough beds in homeless shelters.
People have no choice but to sleep in the street.
Perry called the ruling "a loss for skid row," and called for the City
to appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court.
In a word, Perry acts as a high level enforcer for developer's
interests. On the streets she would be called a thug.
Using her experience targeting the homeless and their encampments,
Perry would later mastermind the plan to evict Farm supporters from
their tents, deprive farmers of the food, and bulldoze the Farm while
protestors were beaten by LAPD. The aim was to clear the Farm land for
Ralph Horowitz the same way she'd tried to clear the homeless from
downtown for other developers.
Perry had other
friends with an interest in the Farm, and, in the developmental feeding
frenzy that her district had become since the '92 rebellion and the
implementation of the South Los Angeles Comprehensive Economic
Strategy, she had other obligations.
was Perry's friend Ayahlushim Hammond of the Community Redevelopment
Agency, who'd been honored in 2004 as a "Catalyst of the Downtown
Renaissance" by the Central City Association.
2003, Hammond survived a scandal at the CRA over City funds she had
routed to her developer husband Chris for redevelopment projects.
Chris Hammond, a former Los Angeles Parks Commissioner, became the most
prolific redeveloper in South Central, with forty redevelopment
projects spread across his three companies.
company, Capital Visions, was hit with five tax liens, and then bounced
checks to the city, along with campaign checks to the Mayor and council
members. The LA Times notes three dozen instances in which Hammond
bounced checks for more than 0,000 total. Among the results are a
number of lawsuits that complicate his redevelopment projects.
In early 2004 Chris Hammond approached the Farmers and offered to buy
the Farm "for them." The Farmers rejected the offer, having read of
Hammond's financial misbehaviors, and believing the offer was a trap
set for them by Jan Perry. In light of later developments, the Farmers
intuition served them well. Perry was their enemy, and so was Hammond.
On January 7, 2006, Perry offered the Farmers 3/4 of an acre if they
would abandon the 14 acre plot at 41st and Alameda. On December 17,
2003, in a meeting of the Council's Environmental and Waste Committee,
Perry had the Farmers removed from the agenda, and then tried to have
them removed from the room - a move that shocked even her fellow
Council members, who objected to their expulsion.
Then Perry had Rufina Juarez, elected representative of the South
Central Farmers, investigated twice on her job. Both allegations proved
For three years, on two or three
mornings of each week, the Farmers left their crops and their jobs to
speak at City Council meetings and ask for the Council's help in
returning the Farm to them.
Perry led the City
Council in its determined disdain of the Farmers: the Council members
rescheduled and cancelled public comments, and routinely and sometimes
literally turned their backs on the Farmers' when they were allowed to
Not a single Council member requested the
City Attorney's opinion on ways to help the Farmers, offered a motion
in support, or held a public meeting to address the Farmer's plight.
Perry was not alone in her devotion to developers, and Mayor
Villaraigosa had his own motives.
raced against the eviction clock in their search for the .3M
Horowitz demanded of them for the Farm. Meanwhile, the land remained
pristine, unsullied by industry and redevelopment.
But Perry never saw a piece of undeveloped land she couldn't wrangle
into a deal for her development buddies.
She became Ralph Horowitz's new best friend and advisor. U.S.
Representative Maxine Waters referred to Horowitz and Perry as
Now, a City Council
representative from South Central was advising a Westside developer on
how best to turn a parcel of South Central land into a sweatshop - or
perhaps a Wal-Mart warehouse. Perry shepherded Horowitz through the
purchase of the Farm and the eviction of the Farm supporters.
After the eviction, Perry's other friend, Chris Hammond, returned to
the Farmers with strong-arm threats. He promised "ghetto style"
retribution if the Farmers targeted Perry politically for her role in
attacking the Farm.
Days later, on June 13, 2006,
Perry dined with Horowitz at his home to plan one more operation: the
16-hour bulldozing of the Farm. They hoped to destroy not only the
land, but the community there and all it means.
They hoped to break the resistance of a people whose spirit of
resistance has endured for 500 years. They hoped to return South
Central to business as usual. They hoped, finally, to shatter the one
shining hope that had arisen from the 1992 war that the people of South
Central had waged against their oppressors.
That had been the plan all along.
As we go to press, an unidentified security guard in the pay of
developer Ralph Horowitz has attacked a supporter of the South Central
Farmers, causing two breaks in the nose and a broken eye socket. The
attack took place on a public sidewalk outside the disputed land.
Though notified of the attack immediately, the LAPD was slow in
In the morning, the Farmers return to
court, pressing their case that the City's sale of the Farm land to
Ralph Horowitz in 2003 was illegal.
Maxine Waters, who has declared Mr. Horowitz’s bulldozing of South
Central Farm “unconscionable" told the Farmers “You are not alone . . .
No matter what the court decides on July 12, we will not let this land
Juan Santos is a Los Angeles writer and editor of Mexica Tlahtolli. He
can be reached at Juan_Santos@Mexica.net
Leslie Radford is an adjunct professor of communications and a
freelance journalist living in Los Angeles. She can be reached at LRadford@RadioJustice.net
 “Mayor: Eviction Is 'Disheartening, Unnecessary,’” NBC4 TV, 14 June
Figueroa Media Group, et al., http://www.usc.edu/schools/sppd/ced/South%20LA%20CEDS_Final%20Report.PDF.
 DMJM /Moffatt & Nichol, "Draft Report: Alameda Corridor,
Employment, Construction Supplies and Materials, a Summary of the
Economic Opportunities Provided by the Alameda Corridor Project, March
 Hoffman, "History of the South Central Farm," The New Standard, 5
Apr. 2006 http://newstandardnews.net/content/index.cfm/items/3028.
 Bobby Murray, "Laura Chick: The Los Angeles City Controller on the
City's Shady Contracting Process and Why Hahn Hasn't Done Anything
About It," City Beat 5 Feb 2005 http://www.lacitybeat.com/article.php?id=1628&IssueNum=87.