Watts Community Studio Full Report

Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, representing the 15th Council District, is proud to present the Watts Community Studio Report. The Watts Community Studio has been a participatory economic development and planning project aimed at learning more about Watts from the people who live and/or own businesses in the community. Councilman Buscaino believes that involving residents in the decision-making process for their neighborhood will help produce programs, projects and policies that will successfully improve their quality of life. The Watts Community Studio’s final report offers recommendations for supporting residents and businesses in Watts as they build towards the future. A major component of the research was obtaining approximately 750 surveys from the neighborhood and including the young people of Watts in the research process. The results of the survey and various other analyses are included in the Community Summary and Full Report available at the  link below. 

Full Watts Community Studio Report

Watts Residents Engage in the Holiday Spirit!

Since the Watts Community Studio presented on its findings, the neighborhood of Watts continues to offer exceptional events that involve community service, civic engagement, and cultural diversity. From the Dia de los Muertos event hosted by INSPIRE Youth Academy, to the Resident Advisory Council elections at some of the developments, to our local Lee’s Market and ESR partnering to deliver food on Thanksgiving, Watts continues to challenge the dominant narrative that it’s an unsafe, violent, and disengaged community.
Students at Grape Elementary School enjoy a snow experience in Watts.

Students at Grape Elementary School enjoy a snow experience in Watts.

Watts is active and during these last few weeks residents have offered their participation in the WeCleanWatts event, the 5k Turkey Trot and Farmers’ Market, along with turkey giveaways on behalf of multiple partnerships of agencies committed to serving the residents of Watts like Watts Health Foundation, Children’s Institute, Kaiser Learning Center, Kedren, First Five LA, and many more. Residents have met to offer ideas on the future of Watts through the Our Town Project facilitated by the WLCAC. Additionally, Parents of Watts gave away over 100 bikes to the youth of Watts to continue the active living and cycling movement ongoing in the community.These particular events have had active participation of local residents that demonstrate the continued community engagement in Watts.
Sweet Alice Harris and the Parents of Watts blessed the community with over 700 turkeys.

Sweet Alice Harris and the Parents of Watts blessed the community with over 700 turkeys.

During this holiday season, the Watts Community Studio has witnessed the cultural history that is alive in Watts. Local churches are participating in events like the traditional Posadas preparing for Christmas and honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe on Dec 12, which is also a Catholic tradition. Watts residents celebrated the Watts Christmas parade and unveiled a mural at the civic center that was a product of two great artists from two distinctly diverse communities: Mexico and Philadelphia.
Revving up for the Watts 2nd Annual Turkey Trot and so much more... good times!

Revving up for the Watts 2nd Annual Turkey Trot and so much more… good times!

These events are just a summary of the work that is ongoing in Watts that offer a great introduction to the ways in which Watts challenges its misrepresented identity. This most important during this season in which culture, tradition, and values establish a basis for holiday cheer. The Watts Community Studio will continue to share pictures, videos, media coverage, and data about Watts during this season to introduce a Watts that is very different from popular perspectives.
Is that a group of Watts residents I see riding down Central Ave? Yes it is!

Is that a group of Watts residents I see riding down Central Ave? Yes it is!

Inspire Academy Maps Watts

High school students at Inspire Academy created a map Pedestrian Bridge of some community assets within walking distance of the school in Watts. Community asset mapping is a great tool for educators, neighborhood groups and community organizations to inventory the places they live in. Even if we know what’s in our neighborhoods, seeing it on a map can help us understand where there might be more opportunities for small businesses, youth organizations, green space and more. Check out the work these teens did in just a few hours. None of them had previously ever mapped anything before. They also took the photos.

On Healing Divisions in Watts

Reflections from a WCS Survey Administrator:


The Mother of Humanity, a 16 ft tall bronze sculpture and water garden in Watts created by Nigel Binns.

“Today’s experience was wonderful. I can really relate to what some of the residents of Watts are saying, because I myself am a resident of Watts and see many of the same challenges that they do; for this reason, I like the survey work even more because we get to hear these problems and help out the community. Many of the Mexican/Hispanic people I surveyed were concerned about racism. Their comments made me remember when I was in middle school and I had to deal with a lot of that. I don’t deal with that as much as I did but it is still a big challenge in our community; nevertheless, I have to recognize the improvement that Watts has made since that time. To summarize, I can say that Watts has improved; nonetheless, more improvement is necessary.”

This survey administrator is a 19-year old Watts Resident and a fun-loving Pisces.

The Watts Community Studio is halfway through administering the resident and small business surveys in the Watts neighborhood. Over 250 surveys have been collected and the issue of black-brown* tension has been a recurring theme. The Council District is aware that this is an issue in the Watts community and is ready to support initiatives that promote peaceful resolution and community building. The five-year strategic plan for Watts, currently being created, will address this issue.

At this time, the WCS has met with the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, a city department that has done great work to drastically reduce violent crime in Watts. Progressive programmatic and policy solutions are all being considered.

*’Black-brown’ is how Watts residents talk about African American and Latino relations in the community.

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him”. “At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.“

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Call To Action: Health Atlas for the City of Los Angeles

By Cynthia Gonzalez

Curbed LA released an article entitled “Watts Residents Will Die 11.9 Years Before Bel Air Residents” to provide a summary of the findings from the Health Atlas for the City of Los Angeles. Multiple questions come up when looking at both the article and the Health Atlas. Though intriguing, the title of the article falls short from further discussing the importance of these findings.

Imperial Hwy & Central Avenue

Imperial Hwy & Central Avenue

Now that we have the data, what can we do to use research, community engagement, and policy to collectively improve the health, social, and physical conditions of our neighborhoods? How can we, as stakeholders, participate in advocating with and for the diverse communities that make Los Angeles a diverse and culturally rich city? How can we be mindful of the conditions of the people living in these communities? How can we rethink research in ways that does not abuse, but reconnects with the communities that were once affected by it? How can we contribute to self-sustainable communities?

Moreover, though enraging, these findings demonstrate urgency for influencing policy that begins to direct its efforts to neighborhoods identified as vulnerable and/or underserved. How can we begin to challenge and redirect policy that has failed communities like Watts? How can the Watts PUMA have the lowest rate in California, “representing the same life expectancy rate for the US from almost 40 years ago” and we not question the influence that policy has on these conditions, historically? Though our first reaction to these findings may have multiple responses, lets begin to take action and participate in collaborative efforts that are inclusive of multiple stakeholders, which brings up an overall question: How can we collectively engage at multiple levels (residents, community/faith-based organizations, citywide, statewide, and/or nationwide)?

We, the Watts Community Studio, are committed to efforts that are collective, collaborative, and community-based.  A neighborhood should transform with the people living in the community. Therefore, neighborhood conditions can only change with the inclusion of those who live and take leadership in these areas.  Please become active with your local neighborhood council and become informed about the various projects ongoing in your community.

The Health Atlas is now moving along with its next steps in outreach about their findings to inform its next chapter. The Health and Wellness Chapter will serve as a policy mandate to prioritize health as the City develops and grows. The citywide document will use planning-based tools such as transportation, land use, open space and environmental standards to increase opportunities for healthy activities, choices and living in Los Angeles.  Please visit the Resources & Data page and click on Health Atlas for the City of Los Angeles for further information on the Health and Wellness Chapter.