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Fate of disputed South L.A. farm site up to City Council

October 24, 2011 |  6:12 pm

South Central Farm protest
A plan to strip a promised park from land once used by the South Central Farm took a step forward Monday when a Los Angeles City Council committee voted 4 to 0 to send the proposal to the full council.

The plan calls for changes to a 2003 deal the city made when it sold the land to real estate developer Ralph Horowitz. That deal stipulated that Horowitz donate 2.6 acres for use as a park -– a promise seen as a silver lining for farmers who had gardened on the land for years and were later evicted.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who helped engineer the original deal, is now asking the city to allow Horowitz to keep the land designated for park space and instead pay about $3.6 million for renovations and programs at parks and a public housing community nearby.

She says Horowitz is in escrow with a buyer, a group of four clothing companies that want to build factories that would require all 14 acres of the property. Perry says the $30-million development would create 300 construction jobs and 600 permanent positions. She says the land, which is in a heavy industrial area, is not suitable for a park because diesel emissions in the area may pose health risks.

Her office bused in dozens of people to speak in support of the plan at Monday’s Budget and Finance committee meeting, including some people who work at the garment companies. The companies -- Poetry, Impact, Miss Me, and Active -- have joined together under an umbrella group, PIMA Development. All but one of the Los Angeles-based companies makes their clothes overseas. The proposed development in South L.A. would be used primarily as a design and distribution site.

Supporters of the plan wore sky blue t-shirts that read, “Jobs Now, PIMA Now.” Many of those opposing the plan wore green South Central Farm shirts. They told the council members that the neighborhood, a gritty stretch with heavy truck traffic, desperately needs new park space.

When Councilman Bill Rosendahl asked if the manufacturers could spare 2.3 acres for a park, a PIMA representative said no.

Myung-Soo Seok, who works for the lobbying firm Sage Strategies, said a park was "incompatible" with the surroundings and the companies needed room to grow.

"The fact that they're actually making a $30-million investment is something that you don't see," Seok said.


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Photo: Actvists protested this summer against a plan to convert space at the former site of the South Central Farm from a proposed park to commercial development. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times