L.A. City Mayor Villaraigosa Fails to Raise Matching Funds to Save 350 Poor Families in South Central Los Angeles From Brentwood Developer

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For the last three years, 350 families have been fighting to preserve the largest contiguous piece of open green space in South Central Los Angeles. On April 22nd 2006, Trust for Public had negotiated a 30 day buy option that depended on the city matching 5 Million put up by a private foundation. It appears that the City of LA and the Mayor's office will not match the money and the land will fall to Brentwood Developer.

We are outraged that the community is now being asked to bear the profit of 11 million dollars for the real estate developer. Further, we address the primary decision maker regarding the land, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, urging him to do more than suggest that the working class community connected to the farm raise $16 million or more through individual contributions.

For three years 350 families have been fighting against the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Port, and Brentwood real estate developer Ralph Horowitz to preserve 14 acres of contiguous open green space in the form of the largest urban farm in the U.S. On March 6, 2006 the community of the South Central Farm, located at 41st and Alameda, was served an eviction notice from the Los Angeles Superior Court giving the Farmers 5 days to prevent the eviction by the Los Angeles Sheriff's department.

The community rallied and organized themselves through the South Central Farmers and went to court to prevent the eviction. In what was deemed close to being a miracle when the Trust for Public Land, along with Mayor Villaraigosa's office negotiated a 30 day buy option from developer Ralph Horowitz.

This situation arose when the city erroneously settled a lawsuit in a backroom deal without giving the community due process. "As citizens and tax payers of the City of Los Angeles, we are outraged that the city of LA settled a speculative lawsuit(BC272571 LIBAW HOROWITZ INVESTMENT COMPANY VS CITY LOS ANGELES ET AL) with Mr. Horowitz." Even after Judge W. Crispo had ruled three times against Horowitz, the city officials conceded to give the land back to Horowitz for a mere 5.1 million dollars, extremely under the fair market value, since in 1994 it had been sold for 13.3 Million dollars.

"We are outraged that the community is now being asked to bear the profit of 11 million dollars for the real estate developer. Further, we address the primary decision maker regarding the land, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, urging him to do more than suggest that the working class community connected to the farm raise $16 million or more through individual contributions."

"It is not necessary to destroy the community farm. Help us prevent the destruction of this 14-year project that has become an asset to South Central Los Angeles. We call upon you to reconsider the destruction of the 14-acre community farm in South Central Los Angeles," says Fernando Flores, Organizer of the South Central Farmers' Support Committee.

In the week of May 15 2006 the community was informed that, "Mayor Villaraigosa and his office would not be able to raise the matching 5 Million that he had promised to the community," stated Tezozomoc, elected representative of the South Central Farmers.

"The community is in shock. Everyone thought that it was a done deal and now families face a bleak future with the possible destruction of the community farm," stated Albert Tlatoa, farmer. According to the Los Angeles Superior Court Brentwood real estate developer has already acquired the legal right to deploy the Los Angeles Sheriffs department to remove 350 families from the largest urban farm in the U.S. This could happen as soon as May 24th, 2006.

The South Central Farmers will be holding nightly vigils at the Getty House, the official residence of the Los Angeles Mayor. On May 19th, 2006 at 9 am the farmers and community supporters will be holding a protest outside of the LA convention center at w. Pico and Figueroa and a press conference at 10:00 am. They will make one last overture to the Mayor of Los Angeles and the City Council who may be able to save the farm by stepping up to the plate and displaying real leadership.

Discussions with elected representatives and grassroots supporters centered on the disbelief that Mayor Villaraigosa was not able to raise the matching funds and that he would so easily give up on the people that he touts to represent. "If Villaraigosa can not wrestle 14 acres in South Central, how does he hope to tackle a leviathan like LAUSD?" asked Tezozomoc, elected representative of the South Central Farmers.

The community expressed a great desire to continue pressing the issue to the press, city officials and people across the city.

http://www.southcentralfarmers.com

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Fernando Flores
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