A year ago, developer Ralph Horowitz sold the land at 41st and Alameda. The new owner has been working with PIMA, a partnership of garment companies (i.e., Miss Me, Poetry, Active, and Impact USA), which would build four industrial facilities there. This would bring in at least 2,000 additional Diesel trucks per day. PIMA has emphasized that perhaps as many 400 jobs (maybe as much as 650) would be created.
On June 5, a hearing was held at City Hall, on very short notice, over the required subdivision. Nevertheless, the room was packed with South Central Farm supporters (organizer Leslie Radford estimated 75, and indeed, with all 52 seats filled, a sizable crowd was standing in the back of the room).
City Councilwoman Jan Perry was represented by her Senior Deputy Marie Rumsey.
Many strong and cogent statements were made both by South Central residents and supporters of the South Central Farm.
“There are so many storage warehouses in that community and so many other sites that can be used for the same purposes,” said Elizabeth, a community member. “There's more than enough other space for manufacturers to build their warehouses. . . . There's no reason to build on a space that has a lot of history within the community.”
Silvia, a long-time neighbor, mentioned the school and residential areas that would be affected by more pollution and added that “we're already saturated with factories,” that “the traffic there is already logistically a nightmare,” and “we don't trust the environmental impact studies that they've done because we haven't been consulted regarding the proposed project in the area. . . . There's a recycling plant nearby. There have been violations.
“We are Hispanic, but we would like you guys to consider health issues.”
Michael Flood, president/CEO of the LA Regional Food Bank, echoed a concern expressed by other speakers regarding increased traffic. He added that “this site has an incredible history going way back to the 1980s when it was proposed as the infamous Lancer site, where a trash incinerator was going to be built. Community opposition led to the overturning of that decision, and then, of course, you're aware that this turned into a community garden for many, many years. So this isn't just some property that's sitting there that needs to be developed or should developed--this is a property that has a really unusual, unique history. And for that reason, I think that's why there are so many people today. It really is going to require an extraordinary effort by the city to engage the community on the development of this property, to really make sure you're hearing from the community. We have some neighbors who are here—there are apartments right across the street from this development. It's mostly industrial, but there are apartments right there, and as soon as you cross Long Beach, it's very heavily residential with regards to homes and apartments. So I think it's very it's very important--because of the rich history of this lot and the controversy around this lot—that some extraordinary effort is made to really engage the community on this project.”
Refugio Ceballos, a former resident of the area, whose involvement with the farm goes back about 11 years, said: “. . . The issue is not that we have any problem in creating factories. We have enough other warehouses in that area to put all those other workers in. . . . We want a space that's green, that's going to give more oxygen into our area, is going to help even the other industrial places there—they'll have a place to come and sit down, and watch the plants grow, and learn. We wish to have classes there and teach people what the value of Mother Earth is, what she has to offer us.
“Yes, we all have to work—we're fully aware of that. We're fully aware of the fact that you guys are trying to make a balance in our society, and we respect that. Let's consider the workers, the ones that we know are out there doing work that we would not like to do ourselves but has to be done. We need to be considerate of those people's psychological, mental, spiritual, and physical health, this was part of what that whole area was intended to be.
“If it were in your community, what would it be like if you had factories surrounding your house as well? . . .”
Still another community member, Alberto, said, “We want green jobs in our neighborhood.”
Representatives of PIMA included employees who started out at the company in low-paying jobs, but due to their hard work, one of them is now a sales manager, and another currently has “one of the highest positions in the company.” (The latter grew up in the area, started at PIMA after attending the local high school, and was thrilled to find a job so close to her home.)
There was emphasis on PIMA manufacturing its items in the US, something of a rarity in this age (although, the LA Times reported in 2011: “All but one of the Los Angeles-based companies makes their clothes overseas. The proposed development in South LA would be used primarily as a design and distribution site.” http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/10/south-central-farm.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A
In regards to jobs, Leslie Radford stressed that based on statements by PIMA representative Myung-Soo Seok, most jobs would be ones that already exist in the community (e.g., that of the aforementioned employee who grew up there) which would simply be transferred over to this new facility.
She added: “He said that the jobs would consist of perhaps slightly above minimum wage jobs of some number without benefits, that that's what he was, and I quote him 'striving for.'”
Due in large part to environmental concerns (e.g., contaminated soils as stated by Councilwoman Jan Perry herself in 2011), Zoning Administrator Fernando Tovar said that he would take the matter under advisement. Public comments may be submitted to him until June 26 at the end of the business day. He noted that the various claims need to be substantiated.
“With respect to the environmental document,” he continued, “the reason I am going to take it under advisement is because I'm going to do my due diligence, and I want to make sure that the environmental document is adequate. If it's not adequate, if it hasn't properly addressed all of the potential areas of environmental impact associated with this project, then the question is can it be cured? Can it be cured without requiring an EIR [Environmental Impact Report], or does it need an EIR?”
“Some statements were made to me today about toxic contaminants on the site.”
He also underscored the limitations of his authority pertaining to land use and employment by the proposed facility. “With regard to the proposed uses that are going to take place in the four buildings that are proposed to be developed, the property is zoned in M2-1, and garment manufacturing and a number of other types of uses are allowed by right under the zone. I don't really have any discretion or jurisdiction to restrict or prohibit the types of uses that are proposed. So approval or denial of this parcel map is not going to hinge on whether a thousand jobs are created or whether 20 jobs are created. Again, it all falls back on the issues that I already mentioned.”
Organizers for the South Central Farm indicated that a new battle is beginning.