RANCHO PALOS VERDES — The Rancho Palos Verdes City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to reconsider a majority vote from last year to end its lease with Hatano Farm.
The 5.5-acre property is the last vestige of the Japanese American farms that once operated throughout the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and the last commercial farm on the peninsula. James Hatano, an Army veteran, started the farm in the early 1950s on land leased from the Army. He died in 2016.
The farm is operated by Martin Martinez, who began working for Hatano in the early 1980s and now pays the city $100 a year for the right to cultivate cactus and flowers for commercial purposes.
Last November, the City Council voted 4-1 to terminate the lease, with Councilmember David Bradley, who is now mayor, casting the only “no” vote. That vote was reconsidered at the request of Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Ferraro.
“The feedback that I have gotten is that the community felt like we’re just tossing him out on the street, we’re getting rid of the farm, we’re throwing away all the history,” Ferraro said on Tuesday.
“I think that it has community benefit in itself,” Bradley said, “in a nod to the heritage of the traditional Japanese farmer on the hill and Mr. Martinez’s legacy in connection with the last Japanese heritage farmer.”
City staff was directed to come back at the Feb. 15 meeting with various options for the lease, but also alternatives for highlighting the farm’s importance to the city and the peninsula’s history as an educational source to local students.
Councilmember John Cruikshank voted to reconsider, but said that the use of city property for $100 a year “just feels like a gift of public funds and I’m still in favor of ending the lease.”
Also voting to reconsider were Councilmembers Eric Alegria and Ken Dyda.