The urban garden, with dismantling underway.www.southcentralfarmers.com
According to Quigley, noted tree sitter Julia “Butterfly” Hill—who occupied “Luna,” a California redwood, from 1997 to 1999 to prevent it from being cut down—originally contacted Hannah about the South Central Farm. No stranger to causes, Hannah says, “On a daily basis, I try to practice my belief system. Especially in my personal life
I’ve gotten my homes off the grid. [They’re energy] sufficient and self-sustaining, and for 13 years they’ve run on solar power. I drive using bio-fuels. I eat and grow organic, and observe fair trade principles when I purchase foods and products.
“I try to be supportive to anything that seems to be healthy, loving, kind and a sane way of life, that incorporates animal rights, humanitarian and environmental issues,” adds Hannah. “They’re all one and the same to me. I just respond from the heart.”
Perhaps best known for her first starring role, as the mermaid opposite Tom Hanks in 1984’s Splash, Hannah has also appeared in several socially conscious movies. “The thing about films is that very few are specifically made with the intention of affecting change,” she says. “Most are just entertainment-based. If there’s something you can believe in, that actually sends a deeper message, other than just trying to expand the imagination and your ability to have compassion, that’s rare.” Hannah co-starred in indie director John Sayles’ 2004 Silver City, which likewise had an ecological theme and satirized a George W. Bush-like candidate and his Karl Rovish spinmeister.
Hannah believes Horowitz acted June 13 on the court-ordered eviction because “he’s had lots of frustrations,” in his dealings over the years with the farmers and city bureaucracy. According to Lafferty, these frustrations may include picketing at his home and office. The Times of London quoted Horowitz as saying that the land was costing him almost $30,000 a month in mortgage payments and other costs. He has been incensed by a Spanish-language website (not owned, operated or linked to by the farmers) that accused him of being part of a “Jewish mafia” that controls Los Angeles. “We’ve made, in the last three years, enough of a donation to those farmers,” he said.
The plight of the garden has stirred passionate protest from supporters.www.southcentralfarmers.com
The Los Angeles Times has been somewhat sympathetic to Horowitz, writing, “One wonders how the luminaries joining the protests would react if urban farmers camped out full-time on their assorted Malibu or Hollywood Hills estates.”
For her part, Hannah sees the evictions as simply unnecessary. “It was all such a waste of taxpayers’ money,” she says. “The money was on the table, the deal was there.” She was referring to millions the farmers, city and foundations (including the Annenberg Foundation and the Trust for Public Land) had reportedly raised. But the funds failed to meet the asking price of $16 million sought by Horowitz (who paid far less).
The Lawyers Guild’s Lafferty says that a trial set to begin July 12 will determine whether or not the city’s long-ago sale of the land to developer Horowitz was legal. If not, Lafferty says the sale could be voided and the land, which had originally belonged to the city, would be returned to the municipality.
Lafferty says, “All the city had to do was declare eminent domain, but the mayor and City Council never recommended it. The U.S. Supreme Court recently allowed eminent domain to build a shopping center,” so it would presumable apply also to green space that feeds poor people in a heavily urbanized d
Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A.‘s first Latino mayor since the 19th century, campaigned as an environmentally active candidate. Although he visited the farm and tried to negotiate a buyout deal, his efforts weren’t successful. Jan Perry, the city councilwoman whose district includes the South Central Farm, sought alternate sites for the gardens but was similarly thwarted.
Actress Darryl Hannah, perhaps best known for 1984's Splash, was one of several celebrities fighting to protect the garden.
City-dwellers can benefit from open green garden space more than almost any type of development. New York’s Ground Zero could have become a park, which would be invaluable for Manhattanites squeezed between high rises. But for developers and city officials, a park on Wall Street is no more likely to happen for New Yorkers than a garden is for Angelenos (who need another warehouse about as much as Manhattanites need another high rise).
Of the role star power can play vis-ã-vis causes, Hannah says: “The only thing we can really offer is to redirect some of the attention that’s shined on us into a direction that is worthy of it.” Other notables who came to the farm to show solidarity include actors Martin Sheen, Mimi Kennedy, Amy Smart, Laura Dern, Rosanna Arquette and Danny Glover; environmentalists Hill and Quigley; plus singers Willie Nelson, Michelle Shocked (who was arrested for crossing police lines) and Baez. The venerable folkie, a troubadour for peace during the Vietnam War, performed at the people’s farm and even spent a couple of nights in the walnut tree. Sometimes performers’ best roles and songs are played off the screen.
Los Angeles-based freelance writer Ed Rampell wrote Progressive Hollywood: A People’s Film History of the United States (see www.ProgressiveHollywood.com).
South Central Farmers