By Eugene Ruyle
Posted on February 14, 2015 by the Communications Committee
Update: on March 9, 2015, the State Central Committee adopted the following resolution, which was transmitted to the EIR Analysis Section of the Los Angeles City Planning Department the next day: "We ask that the Draft EIR for the 4051 South Alameda Street Project be re-written to give fair consideration to all alternatives and that the City of Los Angeles listen to the voices of the people of Los Angeles and reject the proposed development, thereby preserving the land for agricultural purposes."
For twelve years, from 1994 to 2006, the South Central Farm was an oasis of ecological diversity in the industrial wasteland of South Central Los Angeles. In 1994, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley dedicated the land that became the South Central Farm to the people, selling it to the Harbor Department which issued a permit for its agricultural use under the supervision of the L.A. Regional Food Bank. The South Central Farmers accepted responsibility for maintaining the Farm for the health of the neighborhood.
The 14 acres were farmed by about 350 families, mostly immigrants from Mexico and Central America, who grew an estimated 100 to 150 species of plants for food, herbal medicine, and spiritual uses. This diversity led UCLA to establish an agricultural research station there.
However, in spite of widespread support for the urban farm, the City of Los Angeles sold the land to developer Ralph Horowitz, in a closed door session in 2003. The movement to Save the South Central Farm included such celebrities as Joan Baez, Leonardo DiCaprio, Danny Glover, Daryl Hannah, Julia "Butterfly" Hill, Ron Kovic, Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, and Willie Nelson. Although supporters had raised enough funds to purchase the land for more than he paid, Horowitz refused to sell. On July 5, 2006, he ordered the farm bulldozed amidst protest and acts of civil disobedience. For the last eight years, the land has remained vacant, although developer Horowitz wants to move a garment factory and three trucking centers to the site. In August, 2014, dozens of Farm supporters jammed a City Planning Commission meeting and demanded an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) before development could begin. That turnout forced the City to reassess its position and require an EIR and public comment.
The City has now released the Draft EIR, a sorry document even for an EIR. The site is described as "an approximately 13-acre vacant lot with scattered weeds and grasses," "not designated as or suitable to be designated as" agricultural land, in spite of the fact that it was so used for over a decade and the Angeleno public has demonstrated its opposition to any other use. The two decades of community struggles to preserve the land for agricultural purposes are barely mentioned in the pro-development EIR.
The Draft EIR acknowledges that the "air quality in Southern California does not meet state and federal standards," and that the American Lung Association "consistently gives Los Angeles County failing grades in the amount of ozone and particulate pollution in the air." It further acknowledges that the proposed project, consisting of four industrial buildings totaling nearly 500,000 square feet, would “have the potential to result in significant impacts related to global climate change," but it nowhere compares the proposed project with the agricultural alternative favored by the community. Indeed, the community agricultural alternative proposed by public comment was rejected out of hand because it would not provide any industrial space!
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was passed in 1970 to institute a statewide policy of environmental protection and makes environmental protection a mandatory part of every California state and local agency's decision making process. The City of Los Angeles not only has the discretionary power to reject this project, it must exercise this power to protect the environment.
If it approves this project, the City of Los Angeles will be telling the world that it does not care about global climate change or the environment, and that it does not care about immigrants or the concerns of Angelenos.
The public comment period for the Draft EIR is Jan 22 through March 9, 2015. To obtain a copy and find out how to comment, visit the South Central Farmers web page at southcentralfarmers.com.
For more background, Wikipedia has an informative entry at wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Central_Farm".
Eugene Ruyle is a member of the State Central Committee from Alameda County, where he has twice been a Peace and Freedom Candidate for State Assembly. His website is ru4peace.