Time: Monday, October 24, 2:00pm - 5:00pm
Location: Los Angeles City Hall, Room 1010, 200 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90012
Los Angeles, October 23, 2011--On Monday, October 24, Los Angeles Councilmember and Mayoral candidate Jan Perry will meet with City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee to propose that residents of her Central-Alameda neighborhood give up a proposed City soccer field at 41st and Long Beach for improvements to another park eight blocks away.
The South Central Farmers, who lost their Farm of two generations to Perry's determination to industrialize the east side of her district, will be at the meeting with area residents to demand that the City fulfill its promise to the community and build the park. Last night, OccupyLA agreed by consensus to join the Farmers to protect public land from another grab for private development.
The proposed soccer field isn't just any park. It's what remains of the South Central Farm, just 2.7 of the original 14 acres that provided this impoverished neighborhood in the heart of a food desert with fresh produce. Six years ago, the City Council sold the South Central Farm, the largest urban farm in the United States, for $5.3M. County sheriffs and LAPD arested over 40 people and protected developer Ralph Horowitz while he demolished the Farm. The City left the neighborhood with only the promised soccer field.
With the help of City Council, Horowitz now hopes regain the 2.7 acres to sell all of original fourteen acres as a block to PIMA Development, a garment industry conglomerate rumored to be affiliated with Forever 21. In an Associated Press story, the San Jose Mercury News reported that PIMA is requiring all 14 acres as a condition of sale. In exchange, the approximate $3M price tag for the 2.7 acres will, according to Perry, be invested in improvements to Fred Roberts Park.
In 2008, Forever 21 proposed placing a massive trucking facility on the 41st and Long Beach location. The City Planning Commission issued a preliminary declaration that the planned development had no significant environmental effects. Alarmed residents of the working class community, organized by the South Central Farmers Support Committee, collected thousands of signatures, packed a Planning Department meeting to overflowing, and testified for hours in opposition to the proposed development. The Planning Commission reluctantly reversed itself, requiring an Environmental Impact Report before construction for the shipping center could begin. The project was shelved.
A similar project, proposed by the PIMA group, emerged about six months ago, and Perry appears to be pushing for the sale of the land before the state ends funding for Community Development Grants. Without state aid, the land has little value to developers while large swaths of developed industrial warehouses and transportation centers are vacant. Because the land originally belonged to the Harbor Commission, Perry took the matter to them in August. In the face of pressure by the Farmers and residents at their meeting, the Harbor Commission punted and sent the matter to City Council without a recommendation.
Giving up their source of healthy food added $5.3M to City coffers, and still their Councilmember doesn't think they deserve two parks in the neighborhood. Area residents believe otherwise. On October 13th, Perry's staffers were run out of a meeting at Fred Roberts Park where they were pitching the sale of the soccer field land. Residents complained of being a “sacrificial community” for the developer friends of politicians. Silvia Duran, a 30-year resident near the proposed park, declared, “Jan Perry has always ignored us when we have complained of all the traffic and noise!”
In the 2003 sale of the Farm land, the City sold Horowitz the land for something slightly more than $500,000 per acre. Today, with the real estate market in shambles and vacant warehouses littering Los Angeles' industrial and commercial zones, Horowitz has agreed to contribute close to $1.4 million per acre to Perry's district, roughly three times the rate he and the city negotiated in the initial deal at the apex of the real estate boom.
Jan Perry plans to bus in residents from an area housing complex and Fred Roberts Park for a free lunch before the Budget and Finance Committee meeting. Most residents, however, are determined to halt the industrialization of their neighborhood, with its attendant home value depreciation, impaired health, and noise and diesel pollution. The neighborhood lies along the Alameda Corridor, a major truck route carved out of low-income residential and commercial neighborhoods over the past two decades between the Los Angeles Harbor and downtown rail lines. The taking of the South Central Farm is the most recent of a long history of land transfers, including the Cornfields, Chavez Ravine, and the Ballona Wetlands, from publicly-held quality of life spaces to commercial and industrial developers.
In an L.A. Superior Court hearing challenging the sale of the Farm in 2006, Perry testified that the soccer field would be a public benefit mitigating the loss of the Farm. But in a recent letter to the Harbor Commissioners arguing now for the sale of the soccer field, NBC LA reports that Perry acknowledged the consequences of adding a manufacturing and transportation plant to her residents, declaring that the soccer field is impractical because of the pollution the plant will cause and, ironically, citing the same 2008 Environmental Impact Report that had stalled the project before. Removing the park could reduce some costs for mitigating construction and operation pollution for the developer and the buyer, but it would have no effect on long-term neighborhood pollution exposure from the facility.
Until the South Central Farm was demolished, its healthy food, healthy air, and healthy lifestyle were palpable relief for residents overwhelmed with nearby industrialization. When Horowitz posted an eviction notice on the Farm's chain link fence, hundreds of supporters occupied the Farm, and city residents, celebrities, and farmers from around the globe pressured the City Council to preserve the Farm. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa interceded between the Farmers and Horowitz until the developer declined a full-price offer from area non-profits to save the Farm. That chapter of the Farm history is the subject of several documentaries. The Farm remains an international symbol of low-income residents creating their own environmental justice.