FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Battle for South Central Farm

South Central Farm, Los Angeles.

The showdown is likely here this week over the preservation of this nation’s largest urban farm worked by 350 families for 13 years to feed themselves and their neighbors a dazzling variety of organic produce.

Will the Sheriff of Los Angeles County move on this 14 acre farm with dozens of squad cards to enforce an eviction notice on behalf of its developer-owner?

Or will the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio R. Villaraigosa, come up with the private benefactors to match what has already been raised in order to meet the hefty selling price of about $16 million by its present owner, Ralph Horowitz?

Wednesday seems to be the day of decision. The Sheriff is focusing on eviction and has laid elaborate battle plans featuring overwhelming force in the early dawn hours and hoping for a minimum of injuries. He proudly swears that this is not going to be “another Seattle,” meaning a prolonged, out of control, media-saturated struggle.

At the same time, the Mayor, desiring to let the farmers continue their urban community gardens and farmers’ market, is racing to raise the over $1 million per acre price tag. He wants to avoid what could become a very ugly confrontation between determined residents, practicing organized non-violent civil disobedience against police with clubs, tear gas and other eviction tools. The Mayor knows that he could become either the hero of this vast, impoverished area of this city or its memorable villain.

Yesterday, I visited South Central Farm and felt the energy of its people-creative energy brimming with plans to make their acres a “hub of a city-wide green movement, a learning center for schoolchildren, a demonstration garden for home gardeners, a community space for art and performance, a plaza for our farmers’ market, a commons for all of us.” Mr. Horowitz wanted the land for use as a warehouse.

The South Central Farm is fast becoming a cause-celebre earning the designation-“The Whole World is Watching.” Celebrities from Hollywood, the musical and political arenas have visited. The stalwart of stalwarts, Julia Butterfly Hill-of Redwood Residence fame-is living in a tree there and is in her 20th day of fasting. Contributions and expressions of support are coming in from many countries.

Walking through the gardens felt like the two meanings of the word-verdure-“the greenness of growing vegetation and a condition of health and vigor.” The corn was shoulder high, vines, vegetable and fruit plants of large varieties were coming to fragrant fruition. The seeds are a big deal. People here talk about them lovingly. Many came from Mexico and none are the kind that are subjected to a regular payment to Monsanto. They are passed from one small farmer to another.

A dualistic sense of impending doom or victory is everywhere. Having experienced a series of legal defeats, due to a bizarre history of City Hall dealings with this land, there appear to be more pessimists than optimists. At least a foreboding pessimism. To people here the law is seen as an instrument of oppression instead of a mechanism for justice.

A little history will frame the present conflict. In 1986, the City of Los Angeles took over this scarred, debris-ridden tract by eminent domain for the purpose of building a waste incinerator. The city paid a developer, Horowitz, $5 million with the proviso that if the land was ever resold he would have the right to buy it back. Attorneys for the farmers assert this is an illegal proviso and there is a trial date to litigate the question on July 12th.

Local opposition to the incinerator stopped the project. In 1992 after the upheavals in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, then Mayor Tom Bradley let the farmers move onto the land under the aegis of the L.A. Food Bank. They cleaned up the area and in their words, “made the soil live again.”

In 1995, the city shifted the property to the L.A. Harbor Department as part of the Alameda Corridor plan-a commercial zone set up for development.

In 2002, Mr. Horowitz sued the city alleging that the transfer violated his earlier buy back agreement with the city. Attorneys for Los Angeles won three separate motions to dismiss his case but Mr. Horowitz persisted. Suddenly city officials agreed to sell the land back to him for the same $5 million, in secrecy, even though these officials knew the land was worth over twice that sum. The developer received title in December of 2003.

The next month, Mr. Horowitz told the farmers to get out immediately. A flurry of lawsuits followed-the farmers have good, conscientious attorneys-but the court ruled for the developer and issued an order of eviction on May 24th 2006.

After I spoke with a well-placed city official, my prediction is that South Central Farms will be like its soil. It will continue “to breathe, drink and sweat. It will continue to harbor life and dreams.”

It will not be destroyed because its people are indomitable. People who are indomitable, who stay together and take a stand in a righteous cause with overwhelming public support, often can end political careers.

For more, see www.southcentralfarmers.com, or contact southcentralfarmers@yahoo.com.

The whole world is watching.

 

 

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail