Los Angeles’ future is haunted by its past in the South L.A. neighborhood of Watts. A community that has experienced social, economic, and environmental neglect for decades is now the center of the city’s ambitious plans to make housing and transportation more accessible across the increasingly expensive metropolis.
After Watts erupted in massive street protests and riots in 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King declared that the struggle of those living in and around the neighborhood was an “environmental and not racial” problem stemming from “economic deprivation, social isolation, inadequate housing, and general despair.” More than five decades later, those issues persist. The area’s poverty rate has ballooned to 2.5 times higher than the national average, and life expectancy is 10 years shorter than it is in the affluent enclaves of West LA. On top of all that, no other place in California suffers more cumulative environmental burdens, according to the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
These perils are exemplified on the corner of Century Boulevard and South Alameda Street. To the east is the Alameda Corridor, a 20-mile long freight ... Read more