On Wednesday, August 16, 2023 the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) celebrated the grand opening of a newly renovated playground in the heart of Nickerson Gardens, the largest public housing development west of the Mississippi. The renovated playground offers a welcoming and durable space that features state-of-the-art playground equipment, encouraging a sense of pride and ownership for the historically underserved community in Watts. The ribbon cutting was followed by surprise performances by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jay Rock, who grew up in Nickerson Gardens.
As part of a larger redevelopment of the Nickerson Gardens public housing complex with Los Angeles Land Trust, the renovated 17,656 square-foot Nickerson Gardens Playground provides the Watts community with a much-needed space for exercise and fun. The playground can accommodate over 250 people and is highly durable, sustainable, and able to be enjoyed throughout the year. The design features seven swings, multiple slides, a carousel, and an adult fitness center. It utilizes recycled play-specific sport surfaces in fade-resistant shades of yellow and orange that are easy to clean and repair, while misting poles and shade canopies provide relief from the intense Southern California climate.
As the primary benefactor of the project, Los Angeles native and celebrated musician, Flea’s (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) vision, fundraising, and active involvement in soliciting donations enabled the project to move forward. The idea for this project came about as the result of a relationship cultivated during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was there to support and participate in the weekly community food distribution, where residents received fresh produce, hot meals and face masks. As the founder of the Watts Conservatory of Music, Flea is invested in community building in the area and felt strongly the children of Nickerson Gardens would benefit from a space dedicated to play.
Design perspective and direction was provided pro bono by architecture and design firm NBBJ and its experience design studio ESI Design, while the Watts Community Group and the HACLA contributed critical design input, organized community reviews and approvals and arranged resources to maintain the playground. Kompan provided state-of-the-art playground equipment. The Nickerson Gardens Playground project is the result of collaboration between multiple organizations and companies including the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), the Watts Community Group, Kompan, KPFF Consulting Engineers, SWA/Balsley, and Terracon Consultants.
“We’re grateful to support the Watts community with the design of a playground that can bring joy, fun, and entertainment to families throughout the year,” said NBBJ Managing Partner Robert Mankin who is based in firm’s Los Angeles office. “We’re honored to be among the many organizations that came together to provide much-deserved recreational space for this historically underserved community.”
“Just this past year, the Housing Authority was recognized with the Public Housing Honor Roll because of our commitment to supporting cradle to career opportunities for our residents,” said HACLA President & CEO Doug Guthrie. “This playground is directly aligned with that commitment to continue supporting the residents we house with opportunities to help their families thrive.”
“This playground represents more than just a place to play,” said Donny Joubert, President of Watts Gang Task Force. “Our children in Watts need to know that they matter. And Flea’s investment in this community is a reminder that they haven’t been forgotten.”
The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) was established in 1938 by City of Los Angeles Resolution No. 1241. HACLA is one of the nation’s largest and leading public housing authorities, providing the largest supply of quality affordable housing to residents of the City of Los Angeles. HACLA provides affordable housing to over 83,000 households in its Public Housing and Section 8 rental assistance programs, and offers a range of permanent supportive housing programs for homeless households, including: Project-Based, HUD – Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, Homeless, Tenant Based Supportive Housing, Housing Opportunities for Persons with Aids (HOPWA), Continuum of Care and Moderate Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy program. For more information, visit www.hacla.org.
Eric R. Brown, Director Intergovernmental Relations
Courtney Gladney, Media & Marketing Specialist