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South L.A. Residents Continue To Demand Change Nearly 50 Years After Watts Riots

Michael Nystrom |
February 26, 2015 | 7:29 p.m. PST


Watts residents gather to push for a traffic light (Michael Nystrom / Neon Tommy)
Watts residents gather to push for a traffic light (Michael Nystrom / Neon Tommy)
Watts residents, community members and various organizations gathered on the corner of E. 92nd St. and Bandera Ave. Thursday to draw attention to the lack of resources within their neighborhood and to highlight a list of unmet promises from politicians.

Atop that list was their continued demand for a pedestrian crossing or traffic signal along E. 92nd St. between a school and senior apartment building. 

“We stand here 50 years since the Watts Uprising and we’re still being plagued by the same issues—whether that’s public services, like stoplights or equal access to quality public education,” said Channing Hawkins, Fix L.A. Coalition member. “So today we highlight an issue going on that’s impacting innocent children and other residents because there hasn’t been a stoplight.” 

The Watts community has been requesting the traffic signal for almost 15 years, but were continuously met with empty promises and postponements. 

“It has been a constant battle to get something done within Watts. Councilman Buscaino came into office and his main concern was to do something for the seniors and the children. Well here’s the seniors facility right here, and a school down the street,” said Kevin Collins, co-chairman of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, District 15. “We’ve been fighting for over 12 years just to get a traffic light here on this corner. We’re here today to get the message out to our politicians that we need to get more concerned with our community.”

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E. 92nd St. is one of the major arteries through Watts, and features long, uninterrupted lengths of road between each traffic signal. Although the speed limit was reduced to 30 mph in 2014, the open roadways and lack of signage create dangerous situations for pedestrians crossing the street.

The high traffic volume is compounded by two bus stops—one on each side of the street—that run routes consistently throughout the day.

“The cars don’t stop, they’ll run you over, and around rush hour [drivers] race up and down the street like it’s a drag strip. These people don’t want to stop, and they can hurt somebody,” said Dr. Perry Crouch, community advocate and senior resident. “We’re asking for a stoplight to protect our babies and our seniors, who paid their dues, and that’s all we can do.”

There have been several serious pedestrian accidents and near misses with passing traffic at the intersection of E. 92nd St. and Bandera Ave. over the past two decades. Buses and parked cars on the side of the road limit visibility when pedestrians check for oncoming vehicles.

“My son was hit here in the intersection, it’s affected us a lot because he’s been impacted physically by the accidents, and we’re depressed about the results of the accident,” said Maria Sahagun, ACCE member and local resident. “[The accident] happened 12 years ago but he was diagnosed with epilepsy two years ago due to injuries from the accident. I want to convince the city and the county to put up crossing lights to prevent any other accidents in this intersection.”

Despite years of oversight from politicians, Watts residents remain both optimistic and realistic that over time their actions will produce lasting results.

“I feel like there’s still going to be some push back, there’s gonna be a lack of response, but the community is getting organized,” said Timothy McDaniel, Watts Neighborhood Council outreach committee chair. “I’m confident we’ll get these important things done.” 

“I think it’s wonderful that we can all come together as a community for change, and we are all looking to have something done,” said Collins. “To ask for a simple thing like a traffic light, and for everyone to be united as a family, that’s a beautiful thing.” 

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