City approves up to $1 billion for Jordan Downs transformation

Jordan Downs is one of the oldest housing projects in Los Angeles. It was built as a temporary shelter for factory workers during World War II and became public housing for the poor in the 1950s.
(Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to officially create an “urban village” of shops, town homes and a park and gardens to replace Jordan Downs, the notorious Watts housing project.

The unanimous vote gave final approval to a series of land use and planning laws four years in the drafting. The move clears the way for an up to $1-billion transformation of one of the city’s most poverty-stricken and violent areas.

The idea is to turn the often-dangerous and derelict housing development, built in the 1940s and ‘50s, into a mixed-income community of up to 1,400 stylish new apartments, along with chain stores and new streetscapes, all designed to attract people of greater means to move into the area and live alongside the city’s poorest.


“This is a great day for Watts,” said Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the area. He called the plan “game-changing” and “life-changing” for the residents living there.

But there are still many hurdles before construction can begin, chief among them money. In order for the project to go forward, the city and the private developers it has hired are counting on $30 million from a federal grant, as well as millions of dollars from the state. Wednesday’s vote also cleared the way for those grant applications to proceed. An application for an $8-million grant was submitted to the state Wednesday morning.


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