LOS ANGELES – The City of Los Angeles has announced a grant for the historic Watts district – a 2-square-mile area on the city’s South Side that has struggled for renewal since it was devastated by unrest more than 50 years ago.
The grant is part of the city’s Great Streets initiative with the aim to create “a radical and positive transformation” in Watts by focusing on public health, green space, sustainable sidewalks and streets, and affordable housing near transit.
It provides funds for technical assistance and the promise of developing a partnership with the city to bring infrastructure improvements. The announcement comes on the heels of a $500,000 investment announced at the state level from the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, as well as a court settlement with Los Angeles County that will put $2.8 million toward a Green Streets project in Watts.
Both the city and state investments support the community-driven Watts Re:Imagined project led by Grant Housing & Economic Development Corp (Grant EDC) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Following is a statement from Chris Jordan, executive director of Grant Housing, connected to Grant AME Church, which has been part of Watts for more than 100 years:
“Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City of Los Angeles are making a great investment in a wonderful community that has been neglected for much too long. Watts has a rich culture that is important to the history and success of LA as a whole. This grant will help push us forward in bringing our residents’ vision for Watts into reality. It's going to be good for health, opportunity and our children’s future.”
Following is a statement from Shelley Poticha, director of NRDC’s Urban Solutions program:
“Watts is part of all our history, and the lessons we’ve learned from these community leaders are perhaps more important today than ever. This grant will help Watts residents achieve what we all strive for – clean air, access to healthy food, affordable places to live and job opportunity. These are core priorities for our work and we’re so proud of what Watts has accomplished.”
Watts is home to 40,000 people who have the worst life expectancy in the state. The neighborhood has the most single-parent households in California, but also boasts the internationally known art installation, the Watts Towers, street music and art, and a community that has continued to work for improvement in the wake of the Watts Uprising in 1965 and racial tension in subsequent decades. In recent years, it has experienced the beginnings of an influx of attention from nonprofit organizations, restaurant owners, and public and private development working with local residents.
Grant Housing began work in Watts in 1996 and a 92-unit low-income housing development was completed in 2009. The City of Los Angeles awarded the Imani Fe Project development of the year -- a first for Watts.
NRDC’s Urban Solutions program began working with Grant Housing in 2014, helping to secure public and private support and hosting with other community-oriented groups a colorful “pop-up” park that will be developed into a mixed-use site with green space.
Late last year, a judge approved a settlement with Los Angeles County that will result in the county funding $4 million in environmental improvements – including $2.8 million for Watts. The lawsuit was filed in 2008 by NRDC and Los Angeles Waterkeeper against the County and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District.
- Mayor Garcetti announces winners of Great Streets Challenge
- Watts Re:Imagined website
- Watts after 50 years: ‘Still here. Not done’, Chris Jordan’s LA Daily News op-ed on the Watts Uprising’s 50th anniversary
- “Mega Watts,” Shelley Poticha’s blog on Watts Re:Imagined
- Chris Jordan, Shelley Poticha and Kristen Pawling, Los Angeles Urban Solutions coordinator, are available for interviews.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.