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Seeds of Hope, Seeds of War:Race, Class and the Battle for the SouthCentralFarm

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    Seeds of Hope, Seeds of War: Race, Class and the Battle for the South Central Farm By Leslie Radford and Juan Santos (lradford@radiojustice.net) The world is
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 13, 2006
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      Seeds of Hope, Seeds of War:
      Race, Class and the Battle for the South Central Farm
      By Leslie Radford and Juan Santos (lradford@...)

      The world is literally watching. Media worldwide have covered the
      case of the South Central Farm, the largest urban garden in the
      United States, the efforts of the city's elites to drive the farmers
      from the land, and the farmer's remarkable resistance. On June 13th,
      the County moved to evict, concentrating a massive police presence in
      the area to uproot the resistor's encampment on the land.

      The South Central Farm arose from the ashes of the 1992 Los Angeles
      rebellion, and stands as a symbol of hope to millions. Despite the
      eviction, the struggle continues, with a court hearing this week
      challenging the City's sale of the land to a private developer.

      When the Los Angeles City Council sold the 14 acre plot called the
      South Central Farm to developer Ralph Horowitz, they sold land they
      didn't own.

      For years the City, the Harbor Department, developers and citizens
      groups have played a shell game, switching land for money, while
      trading schemes for sweatshops and trash incinerators in LA's most
      polluted corridor for the dreams and demands for a better life in
      LA's most prominent oppressed neighborhood.

      It has become all-but a cliché to point to the fact that the Farm -
      the nations largest urban garden – arose "from the ashes" of the 1992
      Los Angeles Rebellion. Here's the reality. The rebellion meant the
      loss of huge investment opportunities in the area for the rich, and
      the city set out to fix that problem for them. The plan aimed to make
      high risk investments profitable for the investor by sinking
      government money into their development schemes.

      They were "making deals that make a difference" – to everyone but the
      people whose suffering and oppression had fueled the famous
      rebellion. The plan the city developed demanded of local citizen's
      groups that they make a trade. The City demanded a virtually
      unrestricted access for industrial development in what is called the
      Alameda corridor – the site of the Farm - in return for bankrolling
      investor's plans to set up strip malls and mini-marts in devastated
      South Central. Otherwise, post-rebellion redevelopment in South
      Central would grind to a halt. It was an offer the citizen's groups
      couldn't refuse, and the city knew it.

      The city and the developers were playing chess – a game with profits
      in the millions as the stakes – on the backs of the most oppressed
      and outraged people in the city.

      The cynicism of the top level players is profound; Mayor
      Villaraigosa, for all his posturing about searching out large donors
      to "save" the Farm, always had the money to save it at his disposal.
      He chose not to spend it.

      The imminent destruction of the Farm and of the sacred elements of
      the ancient cultures that thrive there is just part of the "business"
      of development in LA – a negligible cost in the drive for profit at
      the expense of the people of LA, most especially of its Brown and
      Black communities.

      Los Angeles generates its own reality, its own myths. A small
      phenomenon becomes a story, the story transmogrifies into a cause,
      the cause becomes a political force, and the force becomes reality –
      a myth with substance. But since 1848, the story of Mexicans, and
      later Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans—most of them Indigenous --
      has been systematically and institutionally erased. In their place,
      Los Angeles has stories of their Americanized third-generation
      granddaughters and grandsons, of itinerant farm workers coaxing
      patched-together pickups loaded with family and belongings through
      remote agricultural fields. At season's end, we are told, they make
      their way, pockets bulging with a few hundred dólares, back to

      The real stories are seldom heard; the stories of systematic
      oppression; racist power politics; anti-Mexican riots, and the
      stories of deliberate degradation and enforced poverty don't "sell."
      It wouldn't fit the myth, the image, the marketing ploys that make LA
      seem something other than what it is.

      In the official lexicon Brown people like the South Central Farmers
      have no place. They farm a 14-acre plot in a strip of South Central
      LA that was turned into a high profile industrial zone and rail
      corridor in exchange for rebuilding parts of war torn South Central
      following the 1992 rebellion.

      The site of the Farm - the intersection of Alameda Avenue and 41st
      Street - has been a battleground for decades, and Farm antagonist
      Ralph Horowitz has been in the thick of it from the beginning. The
      city had taken the land from several owners, and paid the largest of
      them, the Alameda-Barbara Investment Company, owned by Horowitz and a
      partner, some $4.7M for its 75% share of the ownership.

      Ralph Horowitz, to put it bluntly, has Mexican problems. For years
      his letterhead has carried the clichéd, stereotypical and racist
      image of a Mexican in a sombrero, sleeping slouched against a large
      cactus, presumably pierced through by its sharp spines, presumably
      indifferent, in his lethargy, to the pain.

      By 2000, developer Horowitz was negotiating to replace the South
      Central Farm with "textile-industry tenants"—specifically, a garment
      industry sweatshop for the popular women's clothing line Forever 21.

      The following year, the LA based Forever 21, worth a half billion
      dollars in sales annually, was hit with a boycott called by immigrant
      workers from six of its factories. They were owed hundreds of
      thousands of dollars in back wages and overtime. A number of workers
      were fired for speaking out about unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

      "We worked ten to twelve hours a day for sub-minimum wages and no
      overtime," said Esperanza Hernandez, one of the garment workers. "A
      lot of our factories were dirty and unsafe, with rats and cockroaches
      running around."

      It was a case of globalization writ small. Migrant farmers, driven
      from their lands in Mexico and elsewhere by the impact of US
      domination of their economies, were to be uprooted by Horowitz once
      more, so that they and their peers could be reduced to sweatshop
      laborers for Horowitz' client.

      The developer has worked with an immense determination for over 20
      years to regain control of the land the city took from him in 1987
      for a high-tech trash incinerator, and for 14 of those years the
      mostly migrant Farmers have been tending the fields he might have
      turned into a sweatshop.

      His efforts to drive them from the land have been met with years of
      sustained protest – the Farm feeds 350 low income families. It's a
      place where Mayan and other indigenous families sustain their
      cultural and spiritual traditions. The loss of the Farm would mean
      more than the loss of a few vegetables and flowers.

      It would mean the loss of ancient traditions of agriculture, of
      heirloom seeds, some thousands of years old, and the end of the
      Farmer's ability to pass their culture on to their children. The
      struggle is one for the protection of both land and life, for the
      Earth and for the survival of indigenous cultures which have
      sustained themselves, already, through 500 years of physical and
      cultural genocide. The Farmers can pass on their living traditions to
      their children - many of whom can tell the names of every plant on
      the land in an indigenous language, in English and in Spanish - or
      they can pass on a sweatshop. The choices are that stark, and no one
      is about to give in.

      In response to his drive for profit at such costs, Horowitz has seen
      his mostly-Mexican targets picket his house, "take over" "his" land
      at 41st and Alameda in an encampment that drew thousands of
      supporters to the site, and, when he sought to bulldoze the Farm, he
      saw cucumbers dropped into the exhaust pipes of the machines and
      people chain themselves down to prevent the destruction.

      He's seen the Farmer's allies – from Willie Nelson to Danny Glover,
      Joan Baez and Charlie Sheen, stand up to him, creating an
      international story in which he could play no role other than the
      fitting one – that of the villain. It's an LA myth he wanted no part
      of, one of those stories that have always been kept silent here, but
      one that suddenly burst onto a global stage, shining a spotlight not
      only on Horowitz himself, but as we will see, on a profoundly corrupt
      system of cronyism between LA politicians and developers.

      The rumors had been circulating for weeks: the Farmers' pressure and
      their $16M offer for the Farm were working, and Horowitz was
      considering selling the Farm back to the Farmers—he was, after all, a
      business person looking at a triple return on an investment.

      For any other buyer, a purchase from Horowitz would bring with it all
      the ghosts of the South Central Farm, and enough press - bad and
      otherwise – to cause any buyer to think twice.

      Suddenly and mysteriously, copies of an Internet article calling
      Horowitz part of a Los Angeles "Jewish development mafia" started
      circulating through the corridors of City Hall. Enraged, Horowitz
      attributed it to the Farmers but, in fact, it was penned by a group
      with no affiliation with the Farmers.

      Horowitz moved to evict, and a massive and brutal law enforcement
      effort was launched to uproot the Farmers and their supporters from
      the land, where they had built an encampment.

      When Horowitz explained why the Mexican Farmer's money wasn't good
      enough for him, the local NBC affiliate reports that he
      snarled, "Where does this kind of 'you owe me' mentality end? How
      good is that for America? What they should have said to the taxpayers
      of LA and to me is, 'This is a gracious country. Thank you for
      letting us have our garden here, but we realize our time is up. We've
      had our 14 years.'"

      Horowitz has complained widely about the alleged abuse of
      his "property rights," and has become an object of right wing pity in

      But despite his wounded posturing, the truth is that Horowitz doesn't
      own the Farmer's land. The title is still being contested in court,
      and the city's sale of the Farm's land to Horowitz was shady at best –
      or even illegal. The fact is that the city didn't own the land it
      sold back to Horowitz – the Harbor Department did. And the sale of
      property one doesn't own is normally called fraud.

      Reality gives a different meaning to the Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's
      words on the day the South Central Farmers were evicted. He said the
      matter was "disheartening and unnecessary." Just how very
      unnecessary it was, he didn't say. It would have been saying too
      much. Far too much.

      In 2005 Antonio Villaraigosa was elected in a widely-heralded
      alliance of white liberals and Latinos, and with about half of the
      city's African-American vote - an L.A. myth of cross-racial
      cooperation seemingly come to fruition. The Mexican-descent
      community celebrated, and the Mexican and Central American Farmers,
      who had contested the Farm's sale since 2003, had new hope. But
      Villaraigosa sank no roots in the Farm, even though he had used the
      Farm for campaign photo ops. While constantly reassuring the Farmers
      behind the scenes, promising them $5M in private fundraising to buy
      the Farm from Horowitz, he cynically refused to endorse their efforts

      Villaraigosa is banking his political future on the categorical
      support of Spanish speaking Californians. In the meantime, like
      Horowitz, the Mayor has developed his own Mexican Problem – or, at
      least, the Mexican community is developing a Problem with the Mayor.

      It started with his timid handling of this spring's pro-migrant
      marches. Millions of Brown skinned people, citizens and non-citizens
      alike, hit the streets in the biggest demonstrations in LA history –
      the stuff myths are made of. While over a million of his constituents
      marched to City Hall during the May 1 migrant boycott, Villaraigosa
      hid in his office – fearful of appearing to embrace the boycott, a
      one day national strike that the marchers were undertaking.

      Earlier in the protest season, the Mayor – who, as a student activist
      and MEChista had participated in the mass Chicano student walk-outs
      of the 1960's – chided students for walking out to defend their
      parents from mass deportation. For the Brown community, the students
      were heroes. For the Mayor, they were a problem. "Go back to school,"
      he told them. The students, arrayed in their thousands on the steps
      of City Hall, retorted, chanting "Hell, no! We Won't Go!"

      In his support for the Hagel-Martinez immigration bill – which will
      mean the deportation of millions of undocumented migrants –
      Villaraigosa is across the political fence from most of his closest
      peers – the small cadre of Mexican American activists groomed and
      mentored by the late Bert Corona.

      Others from that group, like MAPA boss Nativo Lopez, lead the
      millions strong national coalition that opposes Hagel-Martinez, which
      has protested against such establishment groups as the National
      Council of La Raza on the grounds that their support of the bill
      sells out their People. The Mayor was a featured speaker at the event
      his cronies protested. In the meantime there are open calls for MEChA
      to revoke Villaraigosa's membership in that organization.

      The dust had just settled on the pro-migrant marches when the Mayor
      rode in a July 4th parade that also featured the anti-Mexican hate
      group the Minutemen. While other Chicanos who protested the
      Minutemen's appearance were assaulted and derided with racist
      epithets, the Mayor smiled and waved, apparently oblivious of the
      treatment of the protestors. A letter writing and phone campaign had
      urged the Mayor not to appear in the same parade with the hate group.

      Two days later, the LAPD – the Mayor's police force – had brutally
      assaulted Farm supporters as Horowitz' bulldozers raped the land;
      that same week the police launched a vicious and unprovoked assault
      against anti-Minutemen protestors in Hollywood.

      By then, of course, the Mayor had betrayed the Farm.

      He had to: the migrants and their supporters had sent the U.S.
      Congress scurrying, and Villaraigosa had to show his bosses who was
      boss of L.A. He couldn't be seen bending under pressure from the
      Brown community – and especially not from migrants.

      Contrary to the image he created, Villaraigosa always had the money
      to save the Farm. He simply chose not to spend it. To do so would
      have unearthed troubling irregularities better left buried.

      In 1994, as part of a broader fundraising plan, the city sold the
      farmland it had purchased from Horowitz for $4.7M, to the semi-
      autonomous Los Angeles Harbor Department for the price of $13.3M. The
      City had turned a significant profit on the sale of the plot to the
      Harbor, roughly tripling the amount it had paid to Horowitz.

      In 2000, the Harbor turned down the offer by Horowitz to use the land
      for the Forever 21 sweatshop. Horowitz had a ten-year option to
      repurchase the land, negotiated after the City took the land in 1986
      for an incinerator project. Horowitz had approached the City in
      1995, objecting to the sale to the Harbor, but the City Council had
      refused to hear him.

      By 2001, Horowitz returned to the City Council; this time, the
      Council flat out refused to sell the land to him.

      In 2003, the City Council abruptly reversed itself, and in closed
      session arranged to sell the plot back to Horowitz.

      But the City, of course, no longer owned the land it was selling. It
      was the Harbor's Chief of Operations who signed over the title over
      to Horowitz, finalizing the sale.

      The City had cut a deal with Horowitz and had pocketed the $8.6M
      leftover from its sale to the Harbor - plus the $5.3M it made in
      selling the land back to Horowitz.

      The Harbor Department confirms that is out the $13.3M, and that the
      City has not reimbursed it for the loss. The Harbor's budget is
      entirely separate from the City's. Its revenues come from Port
      activities, not from tax dollars.

      The Harbor's loss was the City's gain – and a massive gain for
      Horowitz, as well. By 2006, Deputy Mayor Larry Frank announced the
      value of the property at $25M. Horowitz received property now
      publicly stated by City officials to be worth nearly five times his
      cost. Twenty years of patience and two years of property taxes had
      netted him something over $20M.

      With the profits he may yet accrue form the re-sale of the Farm,
      Horowitz will have made a considerable fortune in transactions
      involving the City, and in his role as both manipulator and pawn in
      at least one highly irregular deal.

      In the end, when Villaraigosa offered to "raise" money from
      charitable sources to buy back the Farm from Horowitz, he had at his
      disposal both the profit the City had made from the Harbor Department
      sale, and also the money it had made in the more recent back room
      sale to Horowitz. The Mayor didn't have to beg money from anyone. He
      didn't have to lose a moment. He only had to use the massive profits
      from the land to buy it back.

      To do so of course, would be problematic; it could only emphasize a
      question the Farmers are asking this week in court – "Why would the
      City sell land to Horowitz for $5.3M when it was worth at least three
      times that amount"? Especially when the City had already sold it once
      before for triple that amount?

      Using City funds to buy back property from Horowitz for $16M – the
      same property that it had just sold to him for $5.3M - could only
      raise questions the Mayor didn't want asked. Like, "Where would the
      City's money come from"? And, "How can the City sell land it doesn't
      own"? And, "What happened in the closed session as the Council sold
      the land back to Horowitz?" These are questions the Mayor and the
      City don't want asked – or answered. The Council records of the
      transaction are sealed.

      Last week, Farmers stood outside the fences on the sidewalk that
      surrounds the Farm, weeping as the bulldozers wiped away their
      spiritual home, years of work, their family's food, and their
      community base. Just the week before the Mayor had declared, "Los
      Angeles and Long Beach are on the eco-urban frontier." He didn't note
      that "frontier" means different things to cowboys than to Indians.
      Tanks were in the streets. 55 people were dead. Huge areas were in
      flames in the most intense uprising in US history - and the LAPD, the
      Marine Corps, the FBI, INS, and the National Guard, in turn, carried
      out the largest mass arrest in US history. The 1992 Rebellion shook
      the city to its core. War was being waged between the cops and the
      Black and Brown poor of South Central LA.
      Nothing's really changed in South Central - except the name. The
      powers that be now dub it "South LA," as if changing the name could
      change the reality. But it's still the home of bitter oppression. In
      the wake of the 1992 Rebellion the City made big promises of housing
      and redevelopment that have never been realized, although developers
      swarmed in, looking to make a buck in deals with city hall.
      As Michael Slate puts it in his collection Aftershocks: Post
      Rebellion Conversations in Watts and South Central Los
      Angeles, "Despite many promises, South Central L.A. and Watts is even
      worse off than it was. People in these sections of the city spit out
      a bitter and angry laugh when they talk about all of the promised
      changes. There has been no rebuilding, no reinvestment, no new
      investments, no new jobs, no new housing--no new nothing. This has
      been a rude awakening for anyone who even momentarily believed that
      somehow the capitalist system would be moved to meet the needs of the
      It wasn't. Instead, the City held the people of South Central
      hostage, promising new strip malls and mini marts in the war torn
      neighborhoods – but only at a price.
      By the time the fires of the 1992 rebellion cooled, South Central
      faced white panic, and white development money had disappeared. In
      the aftermath, long-established mom-and-pop groceries couldn't find
      insurance to rebuild, and chain stores withdrew their assets.

      In an effort to dissipate the anger smoldering in the area, the city
      the city began what it billed as a massive effort to pour public
      monies into "blighted" areas, and designated the land that is now the
      Farm as a community garden.

      But the larger effort soon soured, caught up in "pay to play," a web
      of favors and trade-offs for land and public funds.

      "Rebuild L.A.", the City's knee-jerk response to the rebellion, was
      set up to entice chain stores and local businesses back into now-
      stigmatized South Central. By 1997 Rebuild L.A. had failed to
      attract even half the investment it promised. They still hadn't hit
      the re-development jackpot.

      Former Mayor Richard Riordan plucked Rocky Delgadillo from the rubble
      of the ill-fated effort and dropped him into the post of Deputy Mayor
      for Economic Development. Riordan and Delgadillo – who would later
      become City Attorney - began afresh.

      The rebellion had meant the loss of huge investment opportunities in
      the area for the rich, and the city set out to fix that problem for
      them. The plan aimed to make high risk investments profitable for the
      investor by sinking government money into their development schemes.
      Their plan united private money, a promise of public agency
      efficiency, and access to federal funding to lure commercial and
      industrial developers to City-designated projects in Los
      Angeles's "blighted" areas.

      The "South Los Angeles Comprehensive Economic Strategy" of 2001,
      prepared for Delgadillo's office, lumped various industrial,
      commercial, and residential districts into a single entity
      called "South Los Angeles" in a scheme that pitted the needs of one
      section of South Central against another. The plan the City developed
      demanded of local citizen's groups that they make a deal.

      Cowed by white financial flight from South Central after the
      rebellion and lured by the temptation of government money subsidizing
      area small business, reform oriented civic organizations signed on to
      the Strategy. They promised not to contest industrial development in
      South Central's Alameda Corridor – the area including the South
      Central Farm. In exchange, the City would bankroll investor's plans
      to set up strip malls and mini-marts in the rest of devastated South

      Otherwise, post-rebellion redevelopment in South Central would grind
      from a slow crawl to a halt. It was an offer the citizen's groups
      couldn't refuse, and the City knew it.

      The City's priority was clear – develop the Alameda Corridor. The
      project was bound to draw the highest levels of investment capital
      away from the rest of South Central and keep its residential
      neighborhoods devastated, while funneling government money earmarked
      for the "rehabilitation" of the area into industry and developer's
      pockets. The citizens of South Central would, as always, have to
      settle for the crumbs.

      Ten years before, just prior to the '92 rebellion, the city had
      planned low-income townhouses for the site that is now the Farm,
      offering to sell the property to the Nehemiah Public Housing
      Corporation for development.

      After the rebellion, former Mayor Riordan nixed the deal. Instead,
      the City sold the land to the Harbor Department for double the price
      it had proposed to Nehemiah Public Housing.

      The hopes for new post-rebellion housing at the site were crushed
      because a feasibility study had designated the Alameda Avenue as the
      location for a new multi-billion dollar transportation corridor, with
      railway tentacles stretching from the San Pedro ports through the
      poorest towns and sections of the City to major rail lines across a
      12-mile route.

      Located between two train lines, the Farm land's industrial value
      outstripped its housing value by $6M overnight.

      After the City quashed the public housing deal, the Harbor Department
      turned the land over to the L.A. Regional Food Bank for temporary use
      as a community garden. In court documents, the Harbor Department
      testified it had no plans for the property when the Department
      acquired it: the Farm was only a financial investment, a tract
      looking for a developer. Soon, the Harbor, having handed the City an
      $8M–plus profit, would move to re-sell the land itself.

      The story of the South Central Farm begins and ends with massive and
      artificial inflation of land values, contrived by players in a
      development game that arose from the ashes of the South Central
      rebellion. It was and remains a game played on the backs of poor
      peoples of color - a game whose rules were crystallized in the "South
      Los Angeles Comprehensive Economic Strategy" of 2001.

      Ralph Horowitz, a partner in the Alameda-Barbara Investment Group,
      which once owned most of the Farm tract, had negotiated a side deal
      with the city giving it the right of first refusal on any sale for 10
      years. Horowitz sued.

      When the Harbor Department called for high-priced development bids,
      Horowitz attention approached the City, objecting to the Harbor
      Department's plans to sell the land, but the City Council refused to
      hear him.

      Concerned Citizens is a citizen's group that had morphed into a "non-
      profit developer," made a bid for the land – one backed by then -
      City Council member Rita Walters. Caught between Walters' political
      clout and Horowitz's unsettled lawsuit, the Harbor accepted none of
      the proposals for the land.

      Meanwhile, the Food Bank and area gardeners cleared the land of
      debris and ramshackle buildings, and made the 14-acre patch arable,
      adding to the land's value. And the South Central Farm began to

      As the impasse between Horowitz and Concerned Citizens stretched over
      nine years, the Harbor Department formalized the garden's existence
      by giving the L.A. Food Bank a permit for an urban garden on the

      Doris Bloch, then executive director of the Los Angeles Regional Food
      Bank, recognized that teaching a person a to till, plant, and harvest
      was a better strategy than giving them corn: "Right after the civil
      disorders, I decided it was important for people to see that Los
      Angeles could be a place where constructive programs that involved
      and helped people in tough circumstances occurred," she noted.

      But her dream of empowering people with the means to employ native
      skills for self-sufficiency was not part of the Los Angeles story; it
      had no place in the South Los Angeles Comprehensive Economic

      Horowitz returned to the City Council in 2001; this time, the Council
      flatly refused to sell the land to him.

      The attractiveness of the Alameda Corridor / South Central area was
      growing, and the Farm was in a prime location.

      In accordance with the Strategy, the city had set up a tangle of city
      agencies and officials to designate tracts for redevelopment and dole
      out public redevelopment funds. But the Farm land would stay with the
      Harbor, where it could entice developers to work the bureaucracy and
      contribute to campaign coffers.

      Development in the wealthier sections of the city had been quashed by
      slow-growth advocates ranting against pollution and making racist
      claims about crime-prone apartment dwellers.

      Developers turned to redevelopment—investing public monies
      into "blighted" areas – or war torn ones like South Central - for
      their bread and butter. They came knocking at South Central council
      members' doors for entrée to the land grab, and a knock at the door
      meant a drop in the campaign bucket as well. This is
      called "rehabilitating" post rebellion LA – and it had finally become

      Finally, however, in 2003, City Council agreed in closed session to
      break the stalemate at the Farm, and turned the land over to Horowitz
      for $5.05M.

      The Harbor – the actual owner - signed its land over to the
      developer, giving up its $13.3M investment. Horowitz' payment for the
      land went to the City.

      The best that can be said for the Harbor Department is that it was
      out from under land that had turned into a 13 million dollar
      headache. Perhaps a more realistic assessment is that it had done
      someone in the City a favor by transferring land in a way that was
      highly irregular, perhaps even illegal.

      The Farmers, who by now had 14 years of sweat equity on what has
      become an internationally-recognized Los Angeles jewel, now became
      the direct target of a redeveloper's greed.

      But the Farm remains undeveloped and - in LA politics - that means
      the story isn't over.

      Jan Perry is a pro-development politician, whose 9th District
      includes Skid Row and ranges from the rapidly gentrifying historic
      downtown core to South Central.

      Perry rode into office with the help of the executive director of
      Concerned Citizens, and with developers' endorsements and campaign
      contributions: city records show nearly ten million dollars from
      developers flowing into Perry's coffers.

      As City Controller Laura Chick explained to CityBeat last year, "This
      is how it happens now: Developers will approach a council office, and
      say, 'Boy, have I got a deal for you! Look at this project I want to
      do in your area.' Convince a council office to approach the CRA
      [Community Redevelopment Authority] and say, `Do it.'" "Convincing"
      was a matter of money, and Jan Perry had grown up in City Hall. She
      is said to be a master of the game.

      After fighting off a redistricting plan that would have moved
      downtown, a major redevelopment center, out of her district, she led
      a charge to criminalize downtown's homeless residents, sweeping them
      from the streets into city and county jails and distant shelters,
      shelters anywhere, everywhere, as long as the homeless were forced
      out of the center of the city.

      Backed by the Central City East Association, a business improvement
      district which represents industrial and manufacturing companies with
      over 600 properties - many located in Skid Row - Perry proposed an
      ordinance that would prohibit downtown homeless people from erecting
      tents and that would penalize groups that provided food for them.

      She urged police sweeps of homeless residents. Downtown was turning
      into a redevelopment dream, and developers and their new tenants
      wanted the homeless out of downtown. Flea bag hotels that served Skid
      Row were being converted into loft space for the upper middle class
      and newly rich. LAPD and city hall announced they would arrest people
      for sleeping on public sidewalks.
      The Central City East Association had met with LAPD chief Bill
      Bratton and police began citing people on Skid Row for jaywalking,
      for sleeping – even sitting in front of building or standing and
      talking on the sidewalk.
      As one homeless advocate put it, Central City East security personnel
      began to "operate as an arm of the police," ordering them to move,
      confiscating their bags, their blankets their beds and other
      To hear Perry, who spearheaded the effort, tell it, she was doing the
      homeless a favor. The ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild didn't see
      it that way, and sued.

      Perry called it a "nutty lawsuit," but U.S. 9th Circuit Court of
      Appeals agreed with the ACLU, ruling that arresting people for
      sleeping or sitting on public sidewalks of skid row constitutes cruel
      and unusual punishment. The court noted that sleeping is an
      involuntary act, and that there are simply not enough beds in
      homeless shelters. People have no choice but to sleep in the street.

      Perry called the ruling "a loss for skid row," and called for the
      City to appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court.

      In a word, Perry acts as a high level enforcer for developer's
      interests. On the streets she would be called a thug.

      Using her experience targeting the homeless and their encampments,
      Perry would later mastermind the plan to evict Farm supporters from
      their tents, deprive farmers of the food, and bulldoze the Farm while
      protestors were beaten by LAPD. The aim was to clear the Farm land
      for Ralph Horowitz the same way she'd tried to clear the homeless
      from downtown for other developers.

      Perry had other friends with an interest in the Farm, and, in the
      developmental feeding frenzy that her district had become since
      the '92 rebellion and the implementation of the South Los Angeles
      Comprehensive Economic Strategy, she had other obligations.

      Among them was Perry's friend Ayahlushim Hammond of the Community
      Redevelopment Agency, who'd been honored in 2004 as a "Catalyst of
      the Downtown Renaissance" by the Central City Association.

      In 2003, Hammond survived a scandal at the CRA over City funds she
      had routed to her developer husband Chris for redevelopment projects.

      Chris Hammond, a former Los Angeles Parks Commissioner, became the
      most prolific redeveloper in South Central, with forty redevelopment
      projects spread across his three companies.

      His company, Capital Visions, was hit with five tax liens, and then
      bounced checks to the city, along with campaign checks to the Mayor
      and council members. The LA Times notes three dozen instances in
      which Hammond bounced checks for more than $200,000 total. Among the
      results are a number of lawsuits that complicate his redevelopment

      In early 2004 Chris Hammond approached the Farmers and offered to buy
      the Farm "for them." The Farmers rejected the offer, having read of
      Hammond's financial misbehaviors, and believing the offer was a trap
      set for them by Jan Perry. In light of later developments, the
      Farmers intuition served them well. Perry was their enemy, and so was

      On January 7, 2006, Perry offered the Farmers ¾ of an acre if they
      would abandon the 14 acre plot at 41st and Alameda. On December 17,
      2003, in a meeting of the Council's Environmental and Waste
      Committee, Perry had the Farmers removed from the agenda, and then
      tried to have them removed from the room - a move that shocked even
      her fellow Council members, who objected to their expulsion.

      Then Perry had Rufina Juarez, elected representative of the South
      Central Farmers, investigated twice on her job. Both allegations
      proved unfounded.

      For three years, on two or three mornings of each week, the Farmers
      left their crops and their jobs to speak at City Council meetings and
      ask for the Council's help in returning the Farm to them.

      Perry led the City Council in its determined disdain of the Farmers:
      the Council members rescheduled and cancelled public comments, and
      routinely and sometimes literally turned their backs on the Farmers'
      when they were allowed to speak.

      Not a single Council member requested the City Attorney's opinion on
      ways to help the Farmers, offered a motion in support, or held a
      public meeting to address the Farmer's plight. Perry was not alone
      in her devotion to developers, and Mayor Villaraigosa had his own

      The Farmers raced against the eviction clock in their search for the
      $16.3M Horowitz demanded of them for the Farm. Meanwhile, the land
      remained pristine, unsullied by industry and redevelopment.

      But Perry never saw a piece of undeveloped land she couldn't wrangle
      into a deal for her development buddies.

      She became Ralph Horowitz's new best friend and advisor. U.S.
      Representative Maxine Waters referred to Horowitz and Perry
      as "business partners."

      Now, a City Council representative from South Central was advising a
      Westside developer on how best to turn a parcel of South Central land
      into a sweatshop - or perhaps a Wal-Mart warehouse. Perry shepherded
      Horowitz through the purchase of the Farm and the eviction of the
      Farm supporters.

      After the eviction, Perry's other friend, Chris Hammond, returned to
      the Farmers with strong-arm threats. He promised "ghetto style"
      retribution if the Farmers targeted Perry politically for her role in
      attacking the Farm.

      Days later, on June 13, 2006, Perry dined with Horowitz at his home
      to plan one more operation: the 16-hour bulldozing of the Farm. They
      hoped to destroy not only the land, but the community there and all
      it means.

      They hoped to break the resistance of a people whose spirit of
      resistance has endured for 500 years. They hoped to return South
      Central to business as usual. They hoped, finally, to shatter the one
      shining hope that had arisen from the 1992 war that the people of
      South Central had waged against their oppressors.

      That had been the plan all along.

      As we go to press, an unidentified security guard in the pay of
      developer Ralph Horowitz has attacked a supporter of the South
      Central Farmers, causing two breaks in the nose and a broken eye
      socket. The attack took place on a public sidewalk outside the
      disputed land. Though notified of the attack immediately, the LAPD
      was slow in responding.

      In the morning, the Farmers return to court, pressing their case that
      the City's sale of the Farm land to Ralph Horowitz in 2003 was

      U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, who has declared Mr. Horowitz's bulldozing
      of South Central Farm "unconscionable" told the Farmers "You are not
      alone . . . No matter what the court decides on July 12, we will not
      let this land go."


      Juan Santos is a Los Angeles writer and editor of Mexica Tlahtolli.
      He can be reached at Juan_Santos@...

      Leslie Radford is an adjunct professor of communications and a
      freelance journalist living in Los Angeles. She can be reached at

      "Mayor: Eviction Is 'Disheartening, Unnecessary,'" NBC4 TV, 14 June
      2006 http://www.nbc4.tv/news/9360966/detail.html.
      Figueroa Media Group, et al.,
      DMJM /Moffatt & Nichol, "Draft Report: Alameda Corridor,
      Employment, Construction Supplies and Materials, a Summary of the
      Economic Opportunities Provided by the Alameda Corridor Project,
      March 1995 http://www.scbbs.com/alameda/alameda2.htm.
      Hoffman, "History of the South Central Farm," The New Standard, 5
      Apr. 2006 http://newstandardnews.net/content/index.cfm/items/3028.
      Bobby Murray, "Laura Chick: The Los Angeles City Controller on the
      City's Shady Contracting Process and Why Hahn Hasn't Done Anything
      About It," City Beat 5 Feb 2005 http://www.lacitybeat.com/article.php?
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