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When Goliath Wins: The Triumph of Redevelopment in Los Angeles

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In fact, nothing has changed, or at least nothing that the councilmembers will say out loud. Ironically, Perry's claim of air pollution comes from a 2008 Environmental Impact Report to develop a similar project, a manufacturing and shipping facility for a garment manufacturer. The South Central Farmers, displaced from the land but still active in the community, demanded the EIR for that proposal. The results of that study showed that the project would increase area air and noise pollution to unacceptable levels. Waving that report, Perry and the council presumably will deny the neighborhood their soccer field to make room for a facility that will generate the pollution that makes the soccer field untenable. No one has mentioned that the sale will further depreciate a low-income neighborhood that's already reeling.

Perry has also held out the L.A.-based manufacturing consortium's promise of 600 permanent jobs. How many of these are transfers from existing Los Angeles operations is unknown, but even if the promise is 600 new jobs, the impact will be to reduce the city's unemployment rate by a mere two-tenths of one percent, according to October figures from the CA Employment Development Department. In spite of the pollution, the property depreciation, and the infinitesimal effect on unemployment, the people living in Central-Alameda are most likely to wake up on Wednesday morning without their soccer fields.

Apparently, the councilmembers are no less beholden to developer Horowitz today than they were a half-decade ago when they defied massive public support for the Farm and practically gave the land to him. All that has changed since the city accepted Horowitz's pledge to gift the land is that Horowitz has finally found a buyer, and that buyer is demanding that the package include the soccer field acreage. In exchange, Horowitz has put $3.6M on the table to get out of his agreement. Perry wants to put the money in trust to refurbish an area housing development and two other parks in her district, effectively flipping the money back to the developers, maybe to Horowitz himself. Perry and the manufacturing consortium packed a Budget and Finance Committee meeting last month with housing residents and a cohort of employees in matching blue T-shirts, but their demands for desks and chairs for the housing project were unable to drown out the voices of neighbors and farmers who presented hours of testimony recognizing that a park would serve the neighborhood long after the $3.5M was spent. Councilmember Rosendahl raised significant issues, including why the manufacturers needed to take the soccer field land for their facility, but just before the vote, Councilmember Parks held a long, whispered conversation in Rosendahl's ear, and the final committee vote was, unsurprisingly, unanimously in favor of Perry.

On Tuesday, Central-Alameda neighbors and the South Central Farmers, the Davids of this story, will face the city council in what has become a familiar showdown. On dozens, maybe more than a hundred, occasions over the past decade, since the Farm was first put up for sale, the residents and the Farmers have gone to city council to ask to be heard. The council has never investigated their concerns or referred them to committee for consideration. Perry has never lost: in ten years of votes related to the Farm land, not a single dissenter has broken the lockstep of city council.

Perry for Mayor

Perry has made her career out of feeding bits and pieces of land in her district to developers, regardless of whether that is megadeveloper Eli Broad for downtown gentrification or a bit player like Horowitz for a factory instead of a farm. Her latest proposal is to replace the defunded Community Redevelopment Agency, a state agency that provided money for developers, with "a very independent, highly focused, small group of people to continue to attract, retain and develop business, retail and housing opportunities in and around the Downtown area," reports the Downtown News. Perry is mounting an elite power base to determine downtown's future.

Perry is running for Mayor. The largest part of her 2009 council campaign funding, nearly one-fourth of the money she raised, came from the real estate industry. Perry is a major player in the speculative deal with developer AEG to build a football stadium in downtown with the dream that if L.A. builds it, a team will come.

Undoubtedly it is those connections to developers and influential people, the Goliaths behind city hall, that Perry hopes to transform into a successful bid for the Mayor's office. Tuesday's vote will hand her the implicit endorsement of city council for her election (no doubt to the consternation of fellow mayoral candidate and city council President Eric Garcetti). In the unprecedented event that the council did vote against Perry, their rebuke of the land transfer would signal that Perry's alliance with developers was not in the city's best interest, effectively pulling the lynchpin out of her support with the voters she is relying on to support her plans for further development. And assuredly, the campaign chests of those who oppose her would suffer the wrath of the development beast. To developers, city council rejecting Perry's proposal would signal that Perry could not manage the city council or shut down grassroots opposition in the interest of those developers. On the other hand, a council vote for the transfer is a clear message that, although development in Los Angeles may be over, Perry and the redevelopment monster are will be fed. Los Angeles's Age of Redevelopment, when tearing things down to rebuild them becomes the core of Los Angeles's urban economic "growth," formally begins on Tuesday with the destruction of the last vestige of South Central Farm.

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