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Judge Rules for Urban Farmers

Times Staff Writer

South Los Angeles urban farmers scored their first victory in court Wednesday in their last-ditch effort to regain what used to be a lush community garden in a rough industrial area.

Judge Helen I. Bendix ruled that developer Ralph Horowitz could not exclude evidence about the deal he made with the city of Los Angeles in 2003.

The farmers’ attorneys accuse the city and Horowitz of making a back-door deal to resell the land to Horowitz, a move they said violated their constitutional right of due process.

Horowitz evicted the farmers from the 14-acre site June 13. The farmers have sued to stop him from erecting warehouses while their objections about the deal are heard in court. Opening arguments in the case are scheduled to begin today.

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Had Bendix ruled in Horowitz’s favor during Wednesday’s pre-trial arguments, the farmers’ case would have died before it was allowed to go to trial, said attorney Dan Stormer.

The farmers hope to prove that the city improperly sold the land back to Horowitz after allowing people to plant garden plots.

The city in 1994 forced Horowitz to sell it the land, which it wanted for a trash-incineration facility, paying him $13.3 million. In 2003, after the plans for the facility fell through, it sold the property back to Horowitz for $5.1 million.

If a jury rules in the farmers’ favor, Horowitz’s land would revert to the city, and officials could then decide whether to restore the gardens.


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