2021 Grants Challenge

Watts Rising - Transformative Community Climate

Watts Rising is a collaborative of over 40 different partners and residents of the Watts community with the goal of improving public health, environmental and economic outcomes in the community of Watts. Watts Rising supports community-prioritized efforts to make physical and systemic improvements that will make Watts a leader in localized approaches to climate resiliency, economic equity and developing a neighborhood-level culture of health.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South LA

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

The City of Los Angeles (LA) released the Health Atlas for the City of Los Angeles (Health Atlas), a report that compared health outcomes and social determinants across neighborhoods to address important elements contributing to the health of LA. They determined that Watts faces the poorest health outcomes and social determinants with limited access to resources compared to affluent LA neighborhoods. Watts is perpetually constructed as an underserved community with low-performing schools, inadequate health care, poor housing, and high unemployment that impact community health; residents experience the poorest health outcomes. Watts is a dense community with 70% of residents Latino and 28% African-American. 30% of Watts residents live in poverty and households continually experience unemployment/underemployment. Watts Rising is focused on turning around these stark statistics through resident-informed investment in the physical environment, local jobs, education, and entrepreneurism.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Funds from the LA2050 grant will support our Watts Rising Street Team (WRST), a group of resident ambassadors in Watts who focus on community engagement, trust-building and adaption and utilization of new community investments. One of the primary goals of the Watts Rising Collaborative is the creation and implementation of a meaningful and transformative Community Engagement Strategy, to ensure that as many Watts residents as possible are informed about and thereby able to take advantage of the various opportunities provided as a part of Watts Rising and provide input on the design of our programs and projects. The WRST is also about building local capacity, offering Street Team members the ability to establish themselves as consultants, providing them with a platform for additional work in or outside their community using their learned engagement, marketing and leadership skills. Together, the WRST supports these twenty six projects which have the goals of (1) reducing local sources of air pollution; (2) improving public health outcomes and addressing health disparities; (3) preventing displacement and its impact on physical and mental health; (4) address and mitigate non-GHG sources and exposure to pollution; and (5) create safe and secure public spaces. A few of our projects to target these goals include: creating a fully electric local bus line, providing an electric car sharing program, installing solar roofing for family homes, and developing a major urban park.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 3,000

Indirect Impact: 44,000

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Considering various local reports on community health, Watts is usually within the most underserved and under-resourced areas. Service Planning Area 6, which includes Watts, has the County’s lowest educational attainment, highest unemployment and poverty rate, and limited language proficiency and homicide is the leading cause of premature death posing a critical question related to social determinants of health. Watts Rising’s partners are focused on environmental investments to combat asthma, heart disease and the effects of industrial contaminants & provide affordable healthy food; pathways to employment and entrepreneurism to promote economic equity; and creation of a community of health through walking and biking clubs as well as support for Safe Routes to School and parent clubs. Watts is working together to move from having the lowest life expectancy in the County to the highest.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Watts Rising is currently working with three institutions of higher learning, USC, UCLA and Charles Drew University on various studies and indicator tracking over the next four years that will assess the impact of the initiative on the health and environment of Watts. Each project funded is being tracked on its measurable deliverables and secondary outcomes. Some of the important indicators we are tracking include: (1) Reducing Local Sources Of Air Pollution: Metrics will be tracked with a community-wide survey on household behaviors, traffic counts, and participation in shared fleet and weatherization programs. (2) Improving public health outcomes and addressing health disparities: Annual community surveys will track goals of increased daily physical activity, healthy eating habits and improved perceptions of individual and community health as determined by resident engagement with Watts Rising projects.

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.

The Watts Rising Collaborative’s implementation work is divided up based on four areas: (1) Sustainable Housing; (2) Active Transportation; (3) Urban Greening; and (4) Low Carbon Transportation Hub. Below are a few of our partners who support our shared goal of leveraging environmental solutions to improve public health outcomes in the community of Watts: • From Lot To Spot • Green Commuters • Habitat For Humanity • LA Clean Tech Incubator • LADOT • Michael’s Development Company • Partnerships For LA Schools • Primestor • Restore Neighborhoods LA • TreePeople • Urban Peace Institute • Watts Century Latino • Watts Labor Community Action Committee • Watts Clean Air Action Committee • Eastside Riders • Children’s Institute • BRIDGE Housing • Watts Neighborhood Council • Watts Gang Taskforce

Which of the LIVE metrics will you impact?​

Healthcare access