$35 Million to Heal Watts

Watts’ history is a tangled fabric of beauty and tension. Like threads weaving through a quilt, its story is a mixed patchwork of personality, diversity– but also pain. Streets running through the city hold deep memories of conflict and fire, but like the Watts Towers, the people’s resilience and character are strong. It’s been 53 years since the uprising that left $40 million in damages in its wake. The people here have suffered ongoing chronic health problems, crime and poverty, but change is coming for this historic community in the heart of LA.

Historic, Transformative Change

Thanks to the Strategic Growth Council, Watts will see a 3-year, $35 million revitalization focused on taking on environmental injustices and economic disparity. Led by the Housing Authority of Los Angeles (HACLA), TreePeople and other Watts Rising Collaborative partners will co-create equitable access to green spaces, cleaner transportation and sustainable housing. Together, #WattsRising will work with the people to build strength from strength in the 2.12-mile community.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, TreePeople Founder & President, Andy Lipkis and other #WattsRising partners celebrate at grant announcement press conference, February 1, 2018.

All of the 25 projects will advance a commitment to climate readiness, as the funds are Cap-and-Trade dollars from California’s Transformative Climate Communities program. The goal is to improve the lives of thousands of residents in this urban neighborhood impacted by pollution while also dramatically reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs). Some initiatives include: redeveloping dilapidated units in Jordan Downs public housing development, opening 118,000 sq.ft. of new commercial space, offering electric vehicle car sharing and electric shuttle buses, the launch of a food waste prevention program to divert 300 tons from landfills, and much more.

Trees: Our Life Support

The people of Watts deserve justice from their years-long struggle with inequity. TreePeople’s vision is to inclusively work with the people to transform urban landscapes filled with hard edges of concrete, steel, and glass to green spaces softened with the cooling shade of trees to improve public safety and community health.TreePeople CEO, Cindy Montañez

TreePeople is playing a leadership role supporting all the urban greening projects including but not limited to:

  • Planting 4,400 trees, increasing total tree canopy by 42%, TreePeople is planting 850 of these
  • Shading a section of the Compton Creek, removing 4,000 sq. ft. of concrete and planting trees
  • Removing 10,00 sq. ft. of asphalt, replacing it with cool paving and tree canopy to protect kids from heat on schoolyards and other greening projects at: 96th Street Elementary, Weigand Street Elementary, Ritter Street Elementary and Grape Street Elementary

This transformative change won’t be possible without deep public engagement. We’ll need hundreds of volunteers to work with us to create lasting change and equity in one of California’s most disadvantaged communities. Our most vulnerable urban neighborhoods are the first on the frontlines of climate change’s impacts, and we’re standing ready to swiftly respond– for the people, with the people.

Keep an eye out for updates. We’ll be starting the work in the next few months and need you– our TreePeople to be part of this movement to heal Watts. Can’t wait to get started? Visit our Calendar to sign up for a volunteer event today!

Jessica is TreePeople’s Director of Marketing and Communications. A native Southern Californian, you can find her wandering local trails, hanging out with her sidekick, Penny the Rescue Puppy, on her yoga mat, reading some Phillip K. Dick, or in her kitchen cooking up vegan confections. Jessica's professional background goes back to her time working at PETA where she worked on celebrity campaigns, and a stint in the entertainment industry, where she worked at Technicolor on their Global Marketing Team.