We knew L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry liked to cozy up to rich real-estate types, but this takes City Hall's sleazy development hounding to new lows.
It all started in 2003, when the city sold a South L.A. land parcel hosting the community's beloved South Central Farm to developer Ralph Horowitz — on the promise that 2.6 acres would be turned back into a park. For the last half-decade, a group of South L.A. residents known as the South Central Farmers have been protesting, passing around petitions and flat-out begging…
… the L.A. City Council to hold Horowitz to his promise. Yet it only took one council vote to unanimously dash those hopes into the dirt today.
Perry has been urging her colleagues since early July to let Horowitz open a compound of clothing factories (called Poetry, Impact, Miss Me and Active) on the full 14 acres, without conceding any to the South Central Farmers.
“It was all a setup,” says Tezozomoc, an organizer for the farmers whose father helped break ground in the mid-1990s. “We don't have a full staff of people just to bring people in [and sway the Council]. We spent months collecting 2,500 petitions from the community, and it had no value at the end of the day.”
At the meeting, Perry justified the deal by asserting that the full development plan would create (up to) 600 jobs in tough economic times. Plus, Horowitz has promised to pay $2.7 million into a fund reserved for nearby park services and renovations to the city-run Pueblo del Sol housing project.
Latina seamstresses out of work, hosted by the clothing manufacturers set to take over the property, advocated for Perry's plan over the farmers'. (As if providing more sweatshop-esque employment “opportunities” — only 30 percent of which must be local — is the solution to bringing South L.A. out of the third world.) So did residents of Pueblo del Sol, of course.
But until the city puts that money where its mouth is, and makes South L.A. shine — hugely abysmal track record there — the only real winner in the room was a certain 1 percenter named Ralph Horowitz. He'll be making all sorts of cash moneys off the factories in no time, and $2.7 million will be but a plink in the city's leaky coin jar.
“You can't do anything in this city for $3 million, [especially] in the underfunded parks system” says Tezozomoc. “That land would have belonged to our community. [Perry] was saying this was not the appropriate place to begin. Well where are you going to begin?”
The councilwoman's U-turn excuse, via City News Service:
Perry, who argued for the park in 2003, said it has become clear the industrial zone would make a poor location for a new greenbelt. Instead, she said, the city should focus on improving deteriorating parks in adjacent residential areas.
Really? Arguing that setting up more dirty factories in an industrial area is somehow more productive than getting one green foot in the door — in this case, the 2.6-acre park so important to an invested group of residents — is the reason ghettos stay ghettos. It's a classic political tactic: Claim one small step “isn't enough,” then avoid fixing the problem altogether.
What a sad twist of fate, that the lady with the sparkliest dollar signs in her eyes should reside over the poorest sector of our class-polarized city.