From Crime-Ridden Motel to Community Haven: KIPP SoCal and South LA Community Reimagine a Safer South Figueroa

From Crime-Ridden Motel to Community Haven: KIPP SoCal and South LA Community Reimagine a Safer South Figueroa


Los Angeles, CA (November 16, 2022) — KIPP Empower Academy (KEA) and KIPP Academy of Opportunity (KAO) will host a community celebration to commemorate the demolition of the Palms Motel, a destination notorious for pervasive prostitution, sex trafficking, drugs and crime. We look forward to celebrating the promise of a reimagined community space.

Students, families, elected officials and community partners invested in making our South LA community safer and collectively working toward change will be attending. The reception will feature an interactive art installation from award-winning Los Angeles artist Mike Norice, along with catering services by Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen and South LA Cafe.

What: Keep Our South LA Community Safe: Celebrating the Promise of Tomorrow
When: Monday, December 5, 2022, from 2:30-4 p.m.
Where: 8480 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90003
Program Speakers: 

  • Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, City of Los Angeles
  • Tina Knowles-Lawson, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, and Fashion Designer
  • Spencer Paysinger, Writer and Producer of “All American”
  • Leonard Rivas, Volunteers of America
  • Michelle West, Deputy City Attorney, Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney
  • Joanna Belcher, KIPP SoCal Chief External Impact Officer
  • Chinedu Udeh, KIPP Empower Academy School Leader
  • John Coleman, KIPP Academy of Opportunity School Leader
  • Nyarae Francis, KIPP Academy of Opportunity Alumna
  • Claudia Murillo, KIPP Empower Academy & KIPP Academy of Opportunity Parent
  • Carolyn Johnson, KIPP Empower Academy & KIPP Academy of Opportunity Parent

Why: Since 2015, KIPP SoCal has been working tirelessly to address safety and security concerns stemming from the Palms Motel that sits on South Figueroa between two of the charter networks’ notable South Los Angeles schools, KIPP Empower Academy and KIPP Academy of Opportunity.

"One of the questions that people ask us a lot is, 'why build an elementary school and middle school on Figueroa, knowing that historically it's a place of sex trafficking, prostitution, and crime?’ And I truly believe that's the wrong question. I think the right question is 'why haven't we moved more urgently to ensure that this area is no longer known as an area of sex trafficking, prostitution, and crime,” said Chinedu Udeh, KEA School Leader. “Many of our students live in the surrounding community, and we firmly believe every child should be able to attend their neighborhood school and have it be a wonderful, safe environment."

For the past two years, KIPP SoCal team members, students, families and community partners organized, protested and brought media attention to the Keep Our South LA Community Safe initiative to bring awareness of the unsafe and unjust environment perpetuated by the motel. Because of their collective efforts, the motel owners agreed to sell the property to KIPP SoCal in August 2022. 

“We’ve taken a strong stance by putting an excellent school in our South LA community because our students deserve a quality education where their safety is a priority,” said John Coleman III, KAO School Leader. “We’ve taken a step with purchasing the motel, and it is the beginning of our family of schools investing in the community.” 

KIPP SoCal successfully purchased and demolished the property in October 2022. KIPP SoCal has now launched the Promise of Tomorrow initiative to work alongside its partners to create a long-term plan that repurposes the space into a place of peace, safety and enrichment for the children and community of South LA.


About KIPP SoCal Public Schools

KIPP SoCal Public Schools is a nonprofit organization that operates 24 tuition-free, open-enrollment charter public schools, grades TK-8, within 20 Local Education Agencies. KIPP SoCal's award-winning schools educate students with a whole-child approach to learning and support over 10,000 students and 6,800 alumni to and through college.

KIPP SoCal Public Schools have won three National Blue Ribbon School awards, nine California Distinguished School awards, nine U.S. News & World Report “Best Schools” across the country awards, and 11 Top LA County Public School awards.

Learn more about KIPP Academy of Opportunity, KIPP Empower Academy and KIPP SoCal Public Schools at, and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

KIPP SoCal Media Relations
Contact: Stephanie Salazar, 213-312-5086