After nearly 200 years, the Tongva community has land in Los Angeles County, but that’s about to change when the County Board of Supervisors OKs a proposal to allow the Tongva people to lease the property to the State of California for $1 a year.
The Tongva community of Los Angeles is a community of about 100 people who speak an African language and have lived in a traditional village for nearly two centuries. They live in four villages: Ola, Tumbi, Ome, and Nene. The Tongva people are of East African descent and call themselves the “people of the forest.”
The Tongva have never been on good terms with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. In 2016, the board narrowly repealed an ordinance that would have protected the Tongva community and land from development and imposed a 1% annual tax on land that is subdivided without their permission.
The Tongva community fought the repeal, which had passed on a 4-4 vote, through the legal system. In a lawsuit brought by the Tongva against the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the city of Torrance, they argued that the decision was anti–tongva, and therefore unfair. The Tongva argue that in repealing the ordinance, the board violated their free speech, due process, and equal protection rights.
In a June 15, 2018 ruling, the Superior Court agreed with the Tongva.
“The Board’s action in repealing the Ordinance constituted a discriminatory infringement on the speech and equal protection rights of the Tongva community,” said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark B. Taylor. “In effect, the Board has forced the Tongva community to pay a fee for the exclusive use of the land.”
The Tongva people were not the only people whose property the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had wanted to rezone for development. In 2013, the Board of Supervisors tried to rezone land for three other projects, including the redevelopment of a former hotel in Playa Vista, two blocks from the Ola Tongva community, and a development proposed for a building that was once the home of a former Tongva leader.
In December, 2017, the Board of