South LA Community Celebrates Demolition of Motel Known for Criminal Activity

South LA Community Celebrates Demolition of Motel Known for Criminal Activity

KIPP Empower Academy parent Shamel Gravely talking with CBS reporter Joy Benedict

By Joy Benedict, CBS

On December 5, 2022, CBS reporter Joy Benedict connected with families and school officials from KIPP SoCal as they celebrated the demolition of the Palms Motel that sat between KIPP Empower Academy (grades TK-4) and KIPP Academy of Opportunity (grades 5-8).

Parents and school officials celebrated the demolition of a seedy motel that sat in between two schools.

"We've been trying to make sure our children have a safe place for years," said mother Shamel Gravely.

Every weekday Gravely and her son, who was in third grade, would have to pass by the Palms Motel which was very difficult at times. 

"It was a lot," she said. "It's a lot to see the women and discrepancies happening because what do you do? Tell your kids to close their eyes in the morning?"

The Palms Motel sat in between the elementary and middle school campuses of the KIPP Academy Charter School. Officials said it was a haven for crime.

"We have sex trafficking, drugs, gangs and that was happening while kindergarteners and fifth graders were arriving or school," said KIPP SoCal CEO Angella Martinez. 

Because of this, the school started speaking up, rallying parents and eventually marching on City Hall to demand action. 

Video clip from the KIPP SoCal Keep Our South LA Community Safe rally at City Hall shown during the CBS segment.

"Really got the support of everyone who put pressure on the motel to finally sell it to us," said Martinez. "We've actually been trying to do that for 10 years."

The charter school company purchased the motel in October for $4.5 million.

"There's no price you can put on our children's happiness and safety and joy," said Martinez. "So, it's worth every penny."

They tore down the model and paved it over, leading to the celebration on Monday afternoon.

"A place that has been a part of our tragedy and trauma becomes new territory," said Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson. 

LA City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson speaking at the celebration.

During the event, Harris-Dawson praised the progress as parents cheered on new beginnings. 

"I think it's going to create positive impact and uplift the voice of a future generation," said mother Catherine Hernandez.

Following the demolition, prostitution has dropped 80% in the area around the two campuses, according to the school. While the bulldozer fixed the immediate problem, some fear more must be done. 

"I think there has to be a larger, broader conversation of how are we supporting that type of labor," said Hernandez.

There is no timeline for when the school will decide what to put in this space. 

This story originally aired and was published on CBS Los Angeles