Los Angeles’ Watts Community Entitled to Investment Irrespective of City’s Redevelopment Plans

Jordan Downs is a public housing community in Watts, Los Angeles. The Watts community is a community of color; historically an African-American neighborhood, now with Latino residents forming around sixty per cent, and African-American residents forming around forty per cent of the neighborhood.

As part of a one billion dollar redevelopment, the Housing Authority of Los Angeles (HACLA) has been planning to transform the Jordan Downs public housing community into a new "mixed-income" neighborhood. The redevelopment site includes a disused factory site adjacent to Jordan Downs, acquired by HACLA in 2008. This site has been found to contain lead, arsenic and other dangerous toxins which may have affected the residential site, but HACLA has nonetheless refused to test Jordan Downs for toxins.

Last week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rejected HACLA's application for a thirty million dollar grant to aid its redevelopment plans. The LA Human Right to Housing Collective and allies, including NESRI, are urging HACLA to immediately test the area for toxins and develop adequate remediation plans for the factory site. We are further calling on the Housing Authority to ensure that a full clean-up is not used as an excuse to permanently displace residents, thus fast-tracking the space for redevelopment, but rather to secure and improve the right to health and housing of the residents.

The Health Atlas for the City of Los Angeles, released by outgoing Mayor Villaraigosa on his last day in office, confirmed that the Watts community has the lowest life expectancy of any neighborhood in California. The current residents of Watts are entitled to adequate federal funding to secure their basic human needs and their human rights to housing and health, without it being contingent on redevelopment. It’s high time all relevant authorities immediately begin this critical investment.

The LA Human Right to Housing Collective's statement on the HUD rejection of HACLA's grant application is below.