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City panel to debate fate of disputed community farm site

October 24, 2011 |  7:03 am

A controversial proposal involving land that was once South Central Farm will come before a Los Angeles City Council committee
A controversial proposal involving land that was once home to the South Central Farm will come before a Los Angeles City Council committee Monday.

The land, a 14-acre-plot in the middle of a heavily industrial neighborhood in South Los Angeles, was used as a community garden for years. In 2003, the city sold the plot to real estate developer Ralph Horowitz in a $5-million deal that stipulated that Horowitz donate 2.6 acres for use as a park. That promise was seen as a silver lining for many of the farmers whom Horowitz later evicted from the land.

But in July, Councilwoman Jan Perry asked the Board of Harbor Commissioners, which oversaw the sale the land, to revise the deal to allow Horowitz to keep that section of land and instead pay about $3.6 million for renovations and programs at nearby parks and a public housing community. The board declined to rule on the matter, punting it to the City Council.

Perry has said the land is not a good place for a park because there is a heavy truck traffic in the area and diesel emissions may pose health risks. She said Horowitz is in escrow with a buyer -– a clothing manufacturer named PIMA Development, which wants to build factories that would require all 14 acres of the property.

The council's Budget and Finance Committee will take up the proposal Monday at 2 p.m. in what is expected to be a contentious meeting. A vocal contingent of activists has been rallying against the plan. Over the weekend, they received the support from one of the city's newest political forces: Occupy L.A.

If the plan is approved, it will then go before the full City Council.


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-- Kate Linthicum at City Hall

Photo: A garden was uprooted in South Central Los Angeles in 2006, and still-angry activists are fighting plans to develop it for a clothing manufacturer. Credit: Benjamin Reed / Los Angeles Times