Business Squatters Farm

Daryl Hannah’s Garden

When Squatters Take Your Land

By Daniel Muniz

In inner-city Los Angeles lie 14 acres of cultivated gardens and flowers that has been tended to for over a decade by about 350 urban farmers and gardeners. For year after year, this small urban oasis of farmland, surrounded by warehouses and railroad tracks, has yielded an abundance of crops and produce.

However, a greedy developer has stepped in with plans to build a warehouse.

Naturally, the urban farmers fought back. They filed lawsuits to halt construction but to no avail. A judge eventually signed an eviction order to remove the gardeners.

The farmers, along with numerous protestors and even a Hollywood actress, barricaded themselves inside the urban farm to brazenly protest the court ordered eviction. As a result, 120 sheriff’s deputies showed up, many wearing riot helmets and armed with batons.

At the center of the tempest was actress Daryl Hannah who insisted:

“I’m very confident this is the morally right thing to do, to take a principled stand in solidarity with the farmers.”

Source: The Associated Press

Hannah and another tree sitter had climbed up a walnut tree while others securely chained themselves to picnic tables and concrete-lined barrels. People had also planted themselves in the middle of the crops and produce refusing to leave.

Other protestors blocked traffic in the vicinity of the urban farm while blowing whistles and chanting in Spanish “We’re here and we’re not going to leave!” Another group of demonstrators staged a sit-down on the adjacent railroad tracks with their arms linked together.

In addition to actress Daryl Hannah, this crusade also attracted the support of other celebrities like Willie Nelson, Danny Glover, and Joan Baez. Activists like environmentalist John Quigley and tree sitter Julia Butterfly Hill also lent their support to this cause.

In the end, deputies forcibly removed the protestors and arrested many of them including Daryl Hannah. Firefighters with chainsaws removed the people who had chained themselves to concrete barricades.

But there is one slight detail to this story.

The greedy developer, who plans to build a warehouse, Ralph Horowitz, doesn’t consider himself to be greedy at all. In fact, he has “owned” that land the entire time that the urban farmers have used it to plant their crops. Every month, Horowitz pays about $25,000 to $30,000 in mortgage payments and other associated costs. And the property is even zoned for factories and warehouses.

But instead of getting a “thank you” from the urban farmers, they and their supporters have filed lawsuits and have demonstrated in front of his personal residence and his office.

In support of the urban farmers, the Los Angeles city council stepped in. But since the farm is actually private property that legally belongs to someone else instead of to the gardeners, there really wasn’t much that the city council could do other than demonize Horowitz like what everybody else was doing. Afterwards, the city council opted to allow the urban farmers to use other locations for their gardens and crops.

Incidentally, out of 350 urban farmers, most of them actually left Horowitz’s property and went to the other sites provided by the city to start new gardens. The remaining urban farmers, emboldened by celebrities and media attention, opted to fight the law.

Now here is what I would like to ask Daryl Hannah.

Exactly, what is it that is so immoral about Horowitz?

After all, it is his property and he is paying a mortgage on it. And he did allow people to grow crops on it his land without any obstruction on his part for over a decade. And the property is zoned for factories and warehouses so it is not like he is building his warehouse in an environmentally sensitive area.

In addition, the city has found other locations so that these urban farmers can plant their illicit gardens somewhere else even though they do not own the land and really have no rights to it. And are people really entitled to plant crops on property that does not belong to them?

But here is a question for all of the Hollywood celebrities who support the urban farmers.

Obviously, land in California is expensive although acreage in the inner-city ought to be a heck of a lot cheaper. So, if celebrities feel so emotionally devastated by this issue, then why not “buy” some property with their own money and give it to the urban farmers?

After all, you guys are rich. Okay, a celebrity like Willie Nelson is always having problems with the IRS but the other supporters like Hannah and Leonardo DiCaprio are not hurting for money.

Why should Hollywood celebrities demand that someone else surrender the use of his own land that he has been making mortgage payments on when you have the means to acquire similar property yourself?

But let’s take this one step further.

Daryl Hannah, why don’t you let these people or anybody else for that matter, plant crops and gardens on your own properties?

I realize that Hollywood celebrities highly value their own privacy and security but since you are trespassing on someone else’s property, why don’t you allow squatters to use your own land for what they want to do since you are demanding the very same thing from someone else. If you and other celebrities don’t want to spring for buying land, why not let people use your own property?

After clearing the property of protestors, Horowitz finally got full possession of his land. But it is amazing to see how people react to what they feel that they are entitled to even though they have absolutely no rights attached to it.

UPDATE:
A number of news sources, especially People Magazine, portrayed Hannah and the urban farmers as the ones who got the raw deal while never mentioning that they do not own the land and that the gardeners have been squatting on it for years. Many of the news stories simply omitted the facts when they covered the story as a trendy crusade.