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.
At the beginning of the Watts Community Studio project, our resident data nerds brought you the fun facts that the average person in Watts is 24 years old and that 39% of Watts residents are under 18. Watts is a young place, full of families (see Resources Page) and this matters as we think about how we can improve the quality of life for the neighborhood.
This summer, young people from Watts joined the Watts Community Studio through the Summer Youth Employment Program and conducted over 700 resident surveys. These youth got to know their own neighborhood in a more intimate way than so many of us get a chance to. Can you imagine asking 700 of your neighbors what they feel needs to be improved in the community?
Within the last few weeks, these incredible Watts young people have entered resident survey data into spreadsheets for data analysis and continued to participate in other aspects of the project. As school has now started, their time with the WCS is coming to a close. Yet before they leave, we decided to turn the tables on these teens and ask them what they think Watts needs.
For two weeks, the youth met with each other and talked about their experiences growing up in Watts and being a part of this project. They presented the WCS team with their ideas and recommendations last week. The team was blown away by their thoughtful insights into what the young people of Watts want the most. Their idea will be in our final report. It will remain a surprise for now, but here is a sneak preview by way of Wordle:
The Watts Community Studio wants to make sure that all the different areas of Watts have a say in how Council District 15 can improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. This is why we want to collect as many surveys from residents across Watts as possible. The project team is using different ways to reach out to residents, like (1) walking door-to-door, (2) surveying at places where there are a lot of residents, like Ted Watkins Park, (3) attending local events, like the LAPD Night Out, (4) partnering with local organizations to administer surveys, and (5) working with local churches and faith-based organizations.
This past month, the Summer Youth Employment participants dedicated time from their weekend to survey the residents at a partnering church. San Miguel Catholic Church (San Miguel) is a local church in a residential area of Watts that offers a number of community-related programs, like Catechism, English as a Second Language courses, citizenship classes, and vocational skills workshops. San Miguel graciously offered their space for survey administration on a Sunday during all of their services. The priest encouraged church members to meet one of the Watts Community Studio representatives in front of the church while they were heading out to complete surveys. Residents responded to the request and added a number of thoughts for advocacy, support, and commitment on all levels to insure the future of Watts, which led to the collection of 124 surveys.
The experience was exciting. Civic engagement was very present at this event! The residents expressed that they felt a sense of community, comfort, and culture that is only present in Watts. Most residents have lived in the area for over 15 years and have witnessed a change in community dynamics. For example, people come out of their homes more often and are actively utilizing the resources in the community, like the newly remodeled Ted Watkins Park. They felt that there’s a need to invest in employment and social spaces at a local level and that simple solutions, like beautification projects, would go a long way.
The Watts Community Studio would like to thank San Miguel Church for their support.
Reflections from a WCS Survey Administrator:
“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.
And look at who they got to meet! The Watts Community Studio (WCS) Survey team posed with U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters at the Watts LAPD Night Out event. The WCS survey team are local youth funded through the City of Los Angeles 2013 Summer Youth Employment Program. Many are from Watts and go to school in the area. They show great courage and commitment to their neighborhood by conducting small business and resident surveys every day of the work week in Watts. Throughout the next few weeks, we will bring you their thoughts and reflections on working to improve the quality of life in Watts.