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South Central Garden Loses Another Battle In The Fight To Preserve Community Farm

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A community park that was meant to placate the displaced farmers of the South Central Garden is looking more and more like another one of the Los Angeles' broken promises.

In a vote that was approved Monday by the Los Angeles City Council's Budget and Finance Committee, a 2.6 acre sliver of the land that used to be a South Central community farm will now be exchanged for $3.6 million in park programs, reports the Los Angeles Times.

This means that instead of building a community park on the 2.6 acres (as was promised in a settlement between the city and landowner Ralph Horowitz), the plot will return to Horowitz so he can sell the entire 14 acres to a group of clothing manufacturers, according to The City Maven.

Now the proposal is up for a full city council vote and, judging on how business-friendly Los Angeles has been lately, will likely be approved.

Council President Pro Tempore Jan Perry originally helped settle the sale of the land from the city to Ralph Horowitz in 2003, which is what sparked the struggle between the farmers and the city. As part of the sale, Horowitz agreed to donate 2.6 acres of the land to the community for a park.

In August of this year, Perry also proposed amending the settlement to support selling the land as opposed to building a park, according to NBC Los Angeles.

In a document that Perry's office released, it states that the land has always been zoned for industrial use and that a park in the neighborhood would be unsafe because of the area's air pollution. Additionally, the manufacturers who wish to build on the site promise to bring up to 600 new jobs in the area and "implement local hire."

Perry also said this in a statement:

The city has the opportunity to enhance recreation and park spaces for people in the immediate area and support job creation through this amendment. At a time when unemployment is in excess of 20% for the area, this is an important goal.

The City Maven has more on the history of the struggle between the city and the South Central Farmers:

Twenty-five years ago, the city of Los Angeles took possession of the land, referred to as the Lancer property, for the purpose of constructing a trash incinerator. That project never happened and the land was transferred to the Harbor Department, which allowed 400 community members to farm the land. In the meantime, the original owner of the land, Libaw-Horowitz Investment Company, sued the city in an effort to recoup the property.

A settlement reached in 2003 gave the land back to Libaw-Horowitz with the stipulation that 2.6 acres be set aside for a park. That settlement was challenged by the farmers who were using the land for their community gardens.

Their struggle was captured in an Oscar-nominated film by director Scott Hamilton Kennedy made in 2008. It posed these questions:

Why was the land sold to a wealthy developer for millions less than fair-market value? Why was the transaction done in a closed-door session of the LA City Council? Why has it never been made public?

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