By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Most of the people there were supportive protesters, many carrying signs scornful of Villaraigosa. A few campesinos watched nervously.
“I feel very frustrated, very angry, very sad, but, at the same time, I hope we can still win,” said farmer Manuel Cedillo, 49.
Nearby, facing microphones and tape recorders, a harried Tezozomoc said in Spanish, “The battle will continue. This is only one stage.” Tezozomoc made an unintentional point. While the battle over the immediate physical makeup of the South Central Farm ended ingloriously, in a broader context, the fate of 41st and Alameda is still up in the air. After all, 14 acres of green land in the middle of an industrial and redevelopment corridor in one of the densest cities in America doesn’t come up for grabs very often. Which serves as a good reminder that although the news media and blogosphere relied heavily on the visual aspects of the story, the battle over the South Central Farm is, in fact, a classic L.A. narrative: a development struggle.
“I think it’s just beginning,” said City Councilwoman Jan Perry. “It’s the last piece of assembled land this large in the 9th District, . . . and I would imagine [Horowitz] has any number of suitors lined up to speak with him.”
Perry has said that, in addition to the soccer fields and possibly more green space, she’d like to see environmentally sound jobs generated on the site, and a redevelopment project that would pump money back into the neighborhood. Horowitz did not say if he had received other offers for the property, but, by the sound of things, Perry’s vision will materialize.
“Of course it will happen,” Horowitz said. “She wanted two things, she wanted jobs and she wanted a soccer park, and I agree to give her both. Of course, that makes me a bad guy. . . . It’s not an uncommon place for me to be. No media ever cast a developer next to Santa Claus.”
Horowitz said he was also driven to inflexibility by the manner in which he was demonized by the farmers and their supporters. In his City Hall press conference, Villaraigosa said Horowitz was subjected to anti-Semitic innuendo on the South Central Farm Web site.
Villaraigosa was hoping for a progressive-uniter photo finish, reminding people that the farm could have been a step forward in making L.A. “the greenest big city in America.” But Villaraigosa never directly addressed an obvious barrier to progress on the farm: the farm organizers themselves. He only hinted that the leadership’s sometimes-divisive rhetoric was to blame for the breakdown in talks. “Unacceptable. Anybody that would make remarks that are anti-Semitic, or racial remarks, have no business” doing so, the mayor said.
Outside the Mayor’s Office, farmers and their supporters stood helplessly, lobbing criticism at Horowitz and Villaraigosa alike. “That’s a park for my children. It’s a park where they feel comfortable, it’s a way to ease stress,” said farmer Benjamin Velasquez, 39. “And where is Villaraigosa? Where is he? We want him to show his face. They’re destroying all the greenery.”
Velasquez was near tears, understandably. For an almost unbelievable 14 years, the South Central Farmers stuck to their cause and kept a hold on an enormous parcel of land in the middle of the city, defying lawsuits and court orders, rejecting the city’s traditional political arena, and remaining stubbornly confident in the overriding strength of their moral argument: He who works the land, owns the land.
As for Horowitz, was he ever moved by the concepts of green space, self-reliance, urban gardening, immigrant agriculture? Ever? Even slightly?
“No,” he said. “They sued the city and sued me as thanks for letting them use the land for free for 12 years. I thought the gardeners’ conduct completely deteriorated after that. Why should I reward that kind of conduct?”