Compton - Watts, California
and The Promise of Watts
Los Angeles--Beyond the riots and social unrest that
tore a community apart, imbedding fear into the hearts of Los Angeles,
Orange County and California residents who live, work or even drive through
this region of Compton to commute, lies a garden of hope. Watts
Towers of Simon Rodia State Historic Park, 1765 E. 107th St., Los Angeles, CA
People working in small and large ways
to make a difference and enhance their environment have made Watts a place
of distinction. Forget the gates that enclose the Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. Shopping Center at the corner of 103rd Street and Grandee. Designed as a method for “lock down” should
another fire be set in an emotionally charged moment seen previously in two
riots, there’s a city on the mend.
It looks to its past, present and future
in hopes that the community will provide an inheritance for those stepping
in and shaping its destiny. With its valuable property not far from the L.A.
beaches, Port of Los Angeles, Downtown Los Angeles Civic Area and directly
on the Metro Rail Blue Line, Watts has the potential, at minimum, to become
the desirable community with increased property values to match surrounding
regions. That is how it began in the early 1900's.
Watts is experiencing a Renaissance,
thanks in part to Metro Rail and to visionaries such as Wajeha A. Bilal. She
is one of the shepherds and ambassadors to this gateway. Involving her
family and community in an important task to dedicate the 100-year old 103rd
Watts Historical Train Station, she manages the building. With a carved
shape of the Red Car on the wall inside, California Operation Lifesaver,
Inc., saved the building from destruction. Small kiosks sell souvenir
merchandise, soft drinks and snacks here as this historic structure gets in
shape for its commemorative dedication.
100 years ago, a blink in time, Southern
California had train and electric rail routes that extended from most parts
of Los Angeles to the beaches. Built to attract city residents to the
beaches and help developers sell homes in parcels of land sometimes
considered swamps, the “Red Car” (named for the train cars painted a rich
red hue) was instrumental in greater L.A.’s growth.
The Red Cars were mostly dumped into the
Pacific Ocean after the electric line was shut down in the 1930’s as people
abandon the rail for road. There are a few Red Cars privately owned and in
museums. One sits as a museum in Seal Beach.
Next to the 103rd Watts Historical Train
Station sits a sign announcing the future site of the Wattstar Theatre and
Education Center sponsored by the Watts Cinema and Education Center, Inc.
and designed by Berh Browers Architects Incorporated. Billed as an 80,000
square foot cinema and animation training facility located between Watts
Tower and Watts Historic Train Station, the Westlake Village Architectural
firm has designed similar projects in Santa Monica and Los Angeles. The
company specializes in projects in the entertainment industry.
Following in the footsteps of Belkin
Corporation, a leading manufacturer of connectivity solutions, President/CEO
Chet Pipkin decided in 1991
to headquarter the company’s corporate offices in the inner city Compton
that includes Watts. His actions initially evoked skepticism. Compton’s
lucrative location between the Los Angeles International Airport and two
harbors, Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach (which optimizes its
logistics efforts), its accompanying low rent, and its accessible work
force—where many employees are trained through public programs in
warehousing, assembly, and order fulfillment—have further supported Pipkin’s
decision. Belkin continues to grow with an in-house industrial design group,
R&D team, and offices worldwide.
Where to stay? Watts
doesn't have any hotel rooms, per se, as it is a part of L.A.
Inglewood hotels are nearby and offer
Hampton Inn, plus many more offerings fairly close to LAX.