Thursday, May 18, 2023

The Militant's Epic CicLAvia Tour XLV!!!

Interactive map! Click here for larger version.

The third CicLAvia of 2023, and the 45th-ever such open streets event in Los Angeles has gotten quite a bit smaller - on purpose. The first of two CicLAvia-branded "CicLAmini" bite-sized events this year is upon us this Sunday. This time, although we're in Daylight Saving Time, the CicLAmini hours are the same as the Standard Time CicLAvias (9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. as opposed to the 4:00 p.m. end time). And instead of taking the streets on your bike (which is still allowed), the focus on the CicLAmini is to emphasize walkability, as well as smaller human-propelled vehicles (e.g. skateboards, scooters, rollerblades, etc). In the spirit of the event, and because taking a bike to a 1-mile CicLAvia route is kinda overkill, The Militant will be marching all 1.08 miles of Sunday's CicLAmini Watts in his combat boots. He's walked a few CicLAvia routes before, so this won't be new territory.

Speaking of territory. the community of Watts is no stranger to CicLAvias. Having taken part in some five previous events, the most recent of which was just less than 6 months ago, in December 2022. But this time, we venture south of 103rd Street for the first time and are greeted by some brand-spankin' new bicycle infrastructure, which made its debut earlier this year.

Being only a one-mile route, there isn't much to an Epic CicLAvia Guide, is there? Well, acshully...The Militant found nine points of interest on the route! And stay tuned for some bonus sites on his Twitter account.

As usual...see you or not see you on the streets this Sunday!

Oh yeah, if you found this Epic CicLAvia Tour guide useful and visit any of these sites, please add the #EpicCicLAviaTour hashtag to any social media post that includes it. The Militant will be glad to re-tweet/re-whatevertheycallthatonMastadon!

And if you appreciate The Militant's work, kick him a little love via PayPal! He *hates* asking for money, but you know how it is these days...A Militant's gotta pay his bills! Your support is much appreciated!

Support The Militant Angeleno!

1. Mudtown Farms
2001 E. 103rd St., Watts

A project of the influential locally-based community nonprofit Watts Labor Community Action Center (you will be hearing their name a lot in this guide...) to create sustainable urban farming to combat food insecurity and provide a closer bonds to nature and associated wellness, this 2.5 acre farm, garden and community center features fruits and vegetables, flower gardens, raised beds, exercise stations and walking paths. WLCAC purchased the land in 2005 and received a $5 million grant from California state Proposition 84 funds to create Mudtown farms, named after the part of Watts where African Americans were segregated in, known for its mud-covered streets. The facility, which broke ground in 2012 and was formally dedicated in 2022, also includes a two-story training center, a greenhouse, orchard and an outdoor classroom. The next phase of Mudtown Farms will feature a cannery, general store and a roadside produce stand.

2. Watts Towers
1727 E. 107th St, Watts

You all know the story by now: Italian immigrant Sabato "Simon" Rodia collects scrap reinforced steel bars (using the adjacent Pacific Electric Santa Ana Line tracks as a fulcrum to bend them) and other found scrap material from rocks to broken glass to bottle caps, and builds 17 structures on his property over a period of 33 years. Then in 1955, he up and left for Northern California and never came back. Now that you know the story, see them up close for yourself. You don't deserve to call yourself an Angeleno if you've never visited the Watts Towers before. Signore Rodia's creation is 102 years old now, and recently fully restored for Angelenos to admire them for generations to come.

3. Pacific Electric Watts Depot
1686 E. 103rd Street, Watts

Adjacent to the Metro A Line's 103rd St/Watts Towers station is a mustard-colored building that was once the Pacific Electric's Watts depot. A popular stop along the old PE Long Beach Line, the building survived not only the PE's abandonment, but was the only wooden structure that was not set on fire during the 1965 Watts Riots. After a renovation project in the 1980s, the Watts Station has functioned since 1989 as a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customer service center.

4. Children's Institute Watts Campus
10200 S. Success Ave, Watts

This regional early childhood and youth/family resources nonprofit has locations across the greater Los Angeles area. Its 5th and newest campus right here in Watts opened in June 2022 was designed by none other than the Santa Monica-based starchitect Frank Gehry.  

5. Ted Watkins Memorial Park
Dedicated 1995
1335 E. 103rd Street, Watts

Originally built in the 1930s to memorialize Western actor Will Rogers, this 28-acre Los Angeles County park was re-named in 1995 after the late Ted Watkins (1912-1993), a local community activist and the founder of the Watts Labor Community Action Center, which he started in 1965, just months before the Watts Riots. The aftermath of the uprising heightened the purpose of his nonprofit agency, which dealt with social services, community development and empowerment for the Watts area. The park also features a youth baseball field built by the Los Angeles Dodgers, a newly-built community swimming pool and gym with basketball courts.

6. Watts Central Avenue Great Streets Project
Central Avenue between Century Blvd and Imperial Hwy

You may or may not have noticed that one of the "hidden agendas" of CicLAvia is to create or improve bicycle infrastructure on the streets of its routes. The "Heart of L.A." routes during the 2010s birthed the existing DTLA bicycle infrastructure on 7th Street, Spring Street and Broadway. The streets of Watts have hosted five previous CicLAvias and this 1.1-mile LADOT Great Streets project, spearheaded by the Watts Labor Community Action Committee to alleviate the high number of car crashes along the thoroughfare, became the end result. Completed in February 2023, it features protected bicycle lanes along Central Avenue between Century and Imperial Highway

7. WLCAC Skate Park
10950 S. Central Ave, Watts

Conceived in 2006 as a project of local nonprofit Watts Labor Community Action Center (which is headquartered on-site in the surrounding 7-acre campus) and skatepark builder Spohn Ranch, this 4,000 square foot skateboarding facility was created to give Watts youth a safe and quality space to ollie. If you brought your board to CicLAmini, you have just the place to channel your inner Tony Hawk.
8. Pacific Electric El Segundo/San Pedro Branch

The railroad track that crosses Central Avenue just south of the southern terminus of the CicLAmini route is the El Segundo/Torrance branch of the Union Pacific Railroad, which emerges from the track that parallels the Metro A Line just south of the 103rd St/Watts Towers station. But this track has quite some history. It carried Pacific Electric interurban cars from Downtown Los Angeles and on to El Segundo (1911-1930), Redondo Beach (1912-1940) and San Pedro (1912-1940). After 1940, the tracks were used for local freight trains of the Southern Pacific Railroad until it merged with the Union Pacific in 1996. The plate girder bridge to the west of Central Avenue may or may not have been a Pacific Electric relic (The Militant won't add it to his Pacific Electric Archaeology Map until he can confirm it).

9. Compton Creek
Running from Main Street & 107th St to the Los Angeles River

Just to the west of Central Avenue is Compton Creek, the southernmost tributary of the Los Angeles River. It is a remnant of a time when what is now South Los Angeles and the South Bay were dotted with wetland marshes replenished by winter rains and underwater aquifers, surrounded by forests of Willow and Cottonwood trees. In fact, the unincorporated Los Angeles County community known as Willowbrook was named after what the creek originally looked like. Originally called "Avila Creek" (after the family that owned the original Rancho La Tajauta, which became the Watts/Willowbrook area), The creek began in a onetime marsh in South Los Angeles, where its source was forced into an underground channel circa 1940s and emerges east of South Main St near 107th Street. Passing its namesake city, the creek heads southeasterly and joins the Los Angeles River just east of the 710 and south of Del Amo Blvd. Like its destination waterway and other creeks in Southern California, this 8.5-mile arroyo was channelized in the 1940s to function as flood control (although the southernmost 2.7 miles still have a natural bottom, providing an important ecosystem for avian, aquatic and reptilian wildlife).

Happy CicLAmini!


First off, The Militant really wanted a nice list here for Watts. Unfortunately, things have changed over the years. The experimental healthier fast food joint Locol, located on 103rd between the Watts Pacific Electric Station and Mudtown Farms, closed down for good in 2018. And the Instagram-famous Mexi-Fusion stand All Flavor No Grease since graduated to a food truck after vending from a residential driveway on 108th Street, but unfortunately for us, the truck plans to sell at the Fair in Pomona this weekend. The Militant has spotted a few taco trucks along Compton Avenue north of 103rd, but can't vouch for their menu or quality. So since this is a very short CicLAvia, the list will likewise be very short. So here goes:

1. Hawkins House of Burgers
11603 Slater St, Willowbrook

Rollin' down Imperial highway, big nasty burger at your side is this institution, in business since 1939. Having survived riots, uprisings and a big-ass freeway built next door, this family-run business is in the hands of Cynthia Hawkins, the third-generation family member to helm this stand that specializes in angus beef hamburgers, expertly-grilled, thick and juicy with a sesame-seed wheat bun, fresh thinly-chipped red onions, romaine lettuce and a generous slice of tomato. A burger (turkey, chicken, fish and veggie patty options are also available) with fries and a drink will cost about $15-$20 but it's totally worth it. They also sell chicken and waffles, fried catfish/salmon, tacos and burritos. The Militant considers Hawkins one of this Top 10 best burgers in Los Angeles. Yes, there's probably going to be a crazy long line on Sunday (open until 6:30 p.m.) but...YOLO.