Watts Rising Collaborative 

The Watts Rising Collaborative is a place-based neighborhood transformation initiative to improve the public, environmental, and economic health of the Watts community. Built with the concept of collective impact in mind, Watts Rising consists of 50+ public, nonprofit, community-based, and private organizations, and is co-led by the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (MOEO) and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), with significant support from the Office of Councilman Joe Buscaino, Council District 15

Watts is a community with a strong and unique identity -- its residents are part of a rich history that includes progressive activism, vivid cultures and countless contributions that have shaped the story of Los Angeles. But along with that rich cultural and political history, is an often ignored story of public and land use policy failure resulting in a community that is facing staggering environmental health, public health, and economic challenges. Alarmingly, residents of Watts have among the lowest life expectancies in California, 12 years lower than the wealthiest areas of LA, according to the 2015 Plan for a Healthy LA. Watts is in the highest quartile statewide for indicators including asthma, low birth weight, and pollution burden, according to CalEnviroScreen (CES 3.0). Several project area census tracts are in the top 5% of the most pollution burdened and vulnerable communities in the state, including the top 5% for clean-up (toxic) sites statewide, according to CES 3.0. Further, Watts' neighborhoods are plagued with unhealthy air, ranking in California's worst 15% for modeled air concentration of toxic chemical releases.  Low birth weight rates reported in the area range from 5-10% -- some of the highest rates reported in the state, according to CES 3.0 data. Residents of Watts have low access to traditional grocery stores and quality food sources. A 28% childhood obesity rate was reported for the Southeast LA Community Plan Area, which includes Watts. Among the highest rates of auto/pedestrian and auto/bicyclist collisions in the city were reported for this area, according to the city's Vision Zero High Injury Network. Economic challenges are pervasive, with 42% of households having incomes below $20,000 annually vs. 21% in Los Angeles and 16% in the MSA – resulting in a poverty rate among families more than twice that of the city (41% vs. 18%) and more than triple that of the MSA (13%). 

Along with this, eleven years ago, HACLA and the City of Los Angeles initiated an ambitious plan to revitalize Jordan Downs, a groundbreaking 70-acre, billion dollar, public mixed-use development which will build new, LEED-certified housing units doubling density from 700 to 1500 homes including townhome developments for affordable home ownership; install a network of green spaces; and create gathering spaces and community-serving retail including the development of Freedom Plaza, an 115,000 sq. ft. commercial shopping center.

The endemic public health struggles and the catalytic Jordan Downs redevelopment served as the backdrop for the Watts Rising Collaborative to pursue funding to address deep-seated environmental, public healthy, and economic issues, and help realize the vision that Watts residents have articulated for decades via tireless advocacy, community visioning, and dedicated hard work.

SUMMARY OF SERVICES

In 2018, Watts Rising was awarded and is currently implementing a $33.25M California Strategic Growth Council Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) grant focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stimulating the local economy through climate infrastructure investment. As part of the TCC grant, Watts Rising is facilitating 24 climate infrastructure projects in the areas of urban greening, sustainable housing,  and low- and no-carbon transportation. Residents will be able to access free solar photovoltaic systems and energy efficiency retrofits, enjoy cleaner air from the planting of nearly 4,000 trees and the electrification of the Dash Bus Watts Route fleet, access zero emissions vehicles via an EV car-sharing program, and consume healthy produce from community and private gardening projects, and more!

Building upon the momentum of the TCC grant award, in 2020, Watts Rising was awarded a $35M U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhood Implementation grant. This grant will fund subsequent phases of the $1B Jordan Downs Public Housing Redevelopment Project, a variety of human capital development programs for Jordan Downs residents, and neighborhood economic opportunity and beautification projects. 

MAYOR’S OFFICE ROLE

The Mayor’s Office plays an instrumental role in this initiative as co-administrator of the TCC grant, and Neighborhood Plan Implementation Entity for CNI. In these capacities, the Mayor’s Office ensures that established goals are met, engages with the community to ensure community priorities are reached, and convenes City departments to address and troubleshoot challenges that may impede successful project management. 

Additionally, recognizing that large-scale investment in historically resource-starved neighborhoods can have the unintended effect of neighborhood destabilization which may trigger displacement, the Mayor’s Office is currently implementing a Displacement Avoidance Plan (DAP) which consists of various measures to connect Watts residents to information and resources to help them improve their economic and housing security.

To support the City and HACLA’s successful HUD Choice Neighborhood Implementation grant award, Mayor Garcetti championed the project by committing 10% of the City’s Program Year 46 Consolidated Plan Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) allocation as leverage to meet grant eligibility and compliance requirements. This demonstrated a deep commitment to the community of Watts and this important initiative to positively transform the community for existing residents.

More information about the Watts Rising Collaborative may be found at www.wattsrising.org

Promise Zones

Los Angeles Promise Zone

Established in 2014, the LA Promise Zone (LAPZ) Initiative is a collective-impact project that aims to create economic opportunity, improve educational outcomes, boost public safety, and build sustainable and livable communities for residents and neighborhoods by providing resources and leadership to public, non-profit, and community-based organizations that are committed to making Central Los Angeles a better place to live, work, and play. The City of Los Angeles is the lead agency, the Operations Team is housed within the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, and there are over 70 implementation partners involved in the initiative as of 2021.

The LA Promise Zone comprises five ethnically and linguistically diverse neighborhoods based in Central Los Angeles -- Hollywood, East Hollywood, Pico-Union, Westlake, and Wilshire Center.

The LA Promise Zone goals are:

  • Create Economic Activity
  • Improve Educational Outcomes
  • Boost Public Safety
  • Build Livable and Sustainable Neighborhoods

In 2011, President Obama Administration established the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), which was a White House led interagency collaborative with a sole purpose to executive a place-based strategy to support local communities. This initiative was grounded in several key grants - Choice Neighborhoods (Housing), Promise Neighborhoods (Education), and Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation (Crime). The NRI grants served to provide a new approach at community revitalization by providing improved coordination across federal programs to align better to local needs, place-based strategies that leveraged resources, and allowing flexibility to adapt to changing community priorities. 

The Promise Zone initiative was subsequently established to build on the first term successes of the NRI which saw $350 million of  investment. To be designated as a Promise Zone, applicants were required to have been awarded at least one of the three NRI grants, which demonstrated communities were experiencing severe poverty-related conditions but had existing organizations committed to revitalization. The City of Los Angeles had already been awarded all three grants and applied with a partnership of 50 organizations to be designated by HUD as one of the initial Promise Zones. 

President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address officially announced the first five Promise Zones in the nation, one of which was awarded to the City Los Angeles as the lead agency- the LA Promise Zone. In 2016, a second Promise Zone was awarded in Los Angeles with LA Trade Technical College as the lead agency - South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone or SLATE-Z.

SUMMARY OF SERVICES & POPULATION

As of 2021, there are 22 Promise Zones across the Country in urban, rural, or tribal communities. Each Promise Zone receives 

  • A federal liaison assigned to help navigate federal resources
  • Competitive preference points for select federal grant programs and technical assistance from participating federal agencies
  • Five AmeriCorps VISTAs to engage in the Promise Zone activities
  • And Promise Zone Tax Incentives, now retooled as Opportunity Zones

PARTNERS

The LA Promise Zone has over 70 cross sector organizations involved and is supported by a Leadership Council that provides guidance and other support for the initiative. The Council represent the following organizations

MAYOR’S OFFICE ROLE

The Mayor’s Office is responsible for coordinating and overseeing LA Promise Zone efforts across the strategic plan. This includes convening partners regularly to advance Promise Zone goals, coordinate the use of federal benefits such as preference points, facilitating community and resident engagement, and reporting. The LA Promise Zone Manager also works closely with the HUD Community Liaison and manages the AmeriCorps members per initiative benefits. 

South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z)

The South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z) is a place-based initiative and collective impact partnership  whose mission is to revitalize South Los Angeles by moving residents to economic opportunity. To achieve our mission, we focus on five overarching and interrelated goals:

  • Move 10,000 residents into living wage jobs.
  • Increase economic activity by investing in businesses, entrepreneurs, and community-oriented infrastructure.
  • Increase student attainment of certificates, degrees, and preparation for careers by guaranteeing post-secondary career pathway enrollment and support.
  • Reduce violent crime through effective prevention, intervention, re-entry and community engagement.
  • Increase the safety, affordability, and use of public transit.

The SLATE-Z collaborative received the HUD Promise Zone designation in 2016. SLATE-Z activities are coordinated by a backbone support team, housed at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, which provides strategic leadership and convening power to advocate for increased investment in South Los Angeles. The SLATE-Z geographic area is approximately five miles wide, from Crenshaw Boulevard to Central Avenue, and is roughly framed by LA Metro's Expo, Crenshaw and Blue Line light rail systems.