Mayor Eric Garcetti recently hosted a press conference celebration and ceremonial tree planting to mark the beginning of the implementation phase of a $35 million grant in the community of Watts. The press conference was held at the site of the new Watts Healing Tech Garden, located at Edwin Markham Middle School (1650 E. 104th Street, LA).
The initiative was led by Housing Authority of the city of Los Angeles (HACLA). John King, community relations officer for HACLA stated, “this is a huge accomplishment and something which Watts deserves. This investment will help improve the quality of life for the residents of Watts for years to come. From electric buses, solar paneling to bike paths and clean, efficient, new affordable housing, it’s just a blessing to build upon and be a part of transforming Watts.”
The grant was awarded to the Watts Rising Collective for the Transformative Climate Communities program and will be distributed over the next three years. Other collaborators include the Community Healing Gardens (CHG) in partnership with the Los Angeles Clentech Incubator (LACI).
LACI has partnered with Community Healing Gardens to create a first-of-its-kind Community Healing Tech Garden in Watts featuring clean technology deployment, a community tree planting program, STEM education, new paths for green jobs and community engagement. The program provides a working model for Title 1 schools across the country and will feature demonstrations of LACI portfolio company technologies in the garden. “It’s all about health, wellness and education,” stated Karen Lewis advisor for Community Healing Gardens.
Tim Watkins of WLCAC (Watts Labor Community Action Committee) an organization who for over 53 years has been at the forefront of environmental justice, environmental consciousness and sustainability was on hand to bring remarks. He was cautiously optimistic when he shared with us, “so many of friends who were born and raised in Jordan Downs, at a gathering like this I use to see their faces, a sea of black faces. Today I only see a sprinkling of those black faces. I don’t know where they go? He continued,” I don’t want to up end anybody’s project, I’m not trying to be politically controversial I just wonder where all those black faces went because I know a population of blacks has risen dramatically down on Alameda and 6th Street.”
Watkins also spoke about how WLCAC planted over 60,000 trees back in the 70s and 80s. Many of the trees were later destroyed due to various city needs and other reasons. He stated, if we’re going to plant trees, if beautiful streets and curves and building are going to be a part of this, there has to be a way to keep them beautiful, and I don’t know if we always think about the long-term maintenance of the project. So, I’m really going to be bearing down on that.”
On September 14, 2016, California Governor Brown signed AB 2722 (Burke), which created the Transformative Climate Communities Program, a California Climate Investment grant program administered by the Strategic Growth Council. The Housing Authority played a significant role in the procurement of this grant and believes that Watts can become a model 21st century urban community that focuses on greenhouse gas reduction strategies that will favorably impact the lives of 40,000 residents.
The Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) program funds development and infrastructure projects that achieve major environmental, health, and economic benefits in California’s most disadvantaged communities.