City Seeks to Fund Parks From Sale of South Central Farm

It was a vacant piece of land in an industrial part of Los Angeles that became an urban oasis for local residents. Later it became the center of controversy that was subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary.

Now the 14-acre property at 41st and Alameda is about to be sold and the city is hoping to see that funds from the sale go towards other parks.

In a letter to the Port of Los Angeles, Councilwoman Jan Perry said she supports the selling the property over building a park.

A new, amended agreement with the current owner would "allow the property to be fully utilized for job creation and provide support to existing recreation facilities," Perry wrote.

Nearly five years ago the site was the scene of a surreal eviction and the subject of "The Garden," an Oscar Nominated documentary.

Local farmers, who had created urban gardens in a small section, along with protestors including actress Daryl Hannah, were forcibly removed by sheriff's deputies.

The city had acquired the land from developer Ralph Horowitz using eminent domain laws.

The city had plans to build a trash incinerator on the site but that went up in smoke when residents protested.

Saddled with the land, the city decided to lease it a local food bank, which then allowed the farmers to use it. Later, they sold it to the Port of Los Angeles to help balance the budget.

The trouble was, since the city didn't build on the land as it was required to do through the eminent domain rules, Horowitz sued. As part of the settlement, he was allowed to buy the property back --with the stipulation that 2.6 acres be set aside for a park.

Angered by their eviction, the farmers fought back.  For nearly five years the property sat vacant as they challenged the settlement in court. But in 2009, the California Supreme Court declined to hear the case and the deal was done.

One of the evicted farmers, who identifies himself as Tezozomoc, said in June that it was "devastating" to see a space that was once a thriving garden devolve into a weed-choked vacant lot.  

"Anything that requires us to move forward in beautifying our neighborhoods, we're always overlooked," Tezozomoc said at the time. "We're very angry about that."

Now, Horowitz plans to sell the property to a developer who is seeking to build a garment business, according to a letter sent by Perry to the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners.

In the letter, Perry asked the Board to amend the original pledge and instead of a park, requested $3.6 million, the value of the land.

The developer needs the entire 14-acre site, the letter said, and a new environmental report suggested pollution in the area made it a bad site for recreational use.

The funds would go toward funding improvements and activities at other parks in the city.

"Considering the City's immediate need for jobs and tax revenues and the location of the site on the Alameda Corridor," Perry wrote, "I ask that the pledge be amended."

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