South Central Farmers v. City of Los Angeles

South Central Farmers v. City of Los Angeles

In February 2004, the firm then known as Hadsell & Stormer successfully obtained a temporary restraining order and eventually a preliminary injunction preventing the removal of over 300 low-income families from a 14-acre urban community garden in South Los Angeles. The firm concurrently filed a lawsuit on behalf of the grass roots organization South Central Farmers and individual farmers challenging the City of Los Angeles’ sale of the land to a private developer, Ralph Horowitz, as part of a settlement of an earlier lawsuit.

In the mid-1980s, the City of Los Angeles had acquired the property by eminent domain from the Alameda-Barbara Investment Co. and other individuals. For many years thereafter, the property was used by members of the community as an urban farm and community garden. Then, in 2002, Libaw-Horowitz Investment Co. (LHIC), the successor to Alameda, filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the City of Los Angeles Harbor Department for alleged breach of an agreement to sell the property. LHIC based its claims on the alleged contractual obligations of the city arising from a 1991 condemnation order, an unexecuted settlement agreement from 1996, and an alleged oral agreement to refrain from enforcing LHIC’s alleged rights under the 1991 condemnation order and 1996 unexecuted settlement agreement. After prevailing in three straight demurrers, the city suddenly and inexplicably agreed to settle the LHIC lawsuit in 2003.

The lawsuit brought on behalf of the South Central Farmers and individual farmers in 2004 alleged, among other things, a taxpayer claim for waste brought under Code of Civil Procedure section 526a. During the pendency of the taxpayer action, the city and Horowitz appealed the order granting the preliminary injunction. In April 2005, the court of appeal reversed the injunction. The farmers were evicted in June 2006.

In July 2006, the taxpayer action finally went to trial. Three months later, the trial court issued a written decision in favor of the defendants. In September 2008, the court of appeal affirmed and the case was dismissed.

In 2008, the fight to save the garden was made into an Academy Award-nominated documentary, “The Garden.”

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