Sheriff's deputies arrived in force at the South Central Community Garden this morning to carry out court-ordered evictions and make arrests. IndyMedia posted a first bulletin at 5:20 am and reports that by 9 am, ten people had already been dragged away. "Bulldozers are breaking down the fences, and the tree is being cut. Traffic is bottlenecked around Alameda," says the activist site. They want protesters to clog downtown traffic and to honk outside Mayor Villaraigosa's residence this evening. Some of the farmers chained themselves to their plots to avoid eviction, and Daryl Hannah tried to resist from her perch in the tree where she and other celebs had been supporting the cause. The LAPD, meanwhile, has called a citywide alert.
* Update: Villaraigosa will meet the media at 1 pm to talk about the evictions. His office had tried to broker a buy-out of owner Ralph Horowitz's interest in the land at 41st and Alameda.
REMARKS BY MAYOR VILLARAIGOSA REGARDING THE SOUTH CENTRAL URBAN FARM
As you know, this morning Sheriff's deputies began evicting farmers and activists at the South Central Farm.
Today's evictions are unfortunate and come at the end of a tumultuous turn of events that at times was not always discussed in public due to the nature of real estate negotiations and the discussions that various parties were having with the property owner.
In light of today's events and the fact that it appears that the owner will not accept a proposal that meets his asking price of $16 million - I felt it was important to brief you today.
Today's events are unfortunate, disheartening and unnecessary. After years of disagreement over this property we had all hoped for a better outcome.
I'd like to be clear about what has transpired.
The property owner asked for $16 million * and last week, after 10 months of negotiations and efforts by my staff and others from the Trust for Public Land and the Annenberg Foundation * a proposal for a full-price, $16 million purchase was made by the Annenberg Foundation to the property owner.
The foundation expressed a clear, sincere interest and commitment by its trustees to acquire the property for $16 million dollars.
This morning, in a conversation with the property owner I reiterated my confidence in and support for the Annenberg purchase. Even after meeting his asking price, Mr. Horowitz told me that he would not sell the property to the Trust for Public Lands and the Annenberg Foundation.
Everyone involved who cares about this garden and who cares about the farmers who have built an oasis in a sea of industry and concrete has done everything possible to meet the property owner's demands. First it was about price, well*. we met his price. He set the bar very high and we met it.
Now the bar has been moved.
I understand a businessman's need to invest and make a profit. I also have a high respect for and will defend property rights. That is the spirit under which we all operated when trying to negotiate and resolve this issue.
But I also believe that we are called upon by a sense of community and civic duty to do the just and right thing. I had hoped that the landowner would have heeded that call.
For those who say that there is no plot of land for urban farming in South LA, you should know that the City will continue plans to relocate farmers to an alternate 7.8 acre site, which has the capacity to house 200 garden plots. Already, 30 farmers have been allowed to begin cultivating the land located at 111th St & Avalon.
We want to make sure the farmers are properly relocated. In addition, there are about 100 more plots located around the City that we have identified for community gardens.