Community Reclaims Troubled Area

Community Reclaims Troubled Area

Two KIPPsters celebrating at The Promise of Tomorrow event

By Gordon Tokumatsu, NBC

On December 5, 2022, NBC reporter Gordon Tokumatsu connected with parents 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).

The Palms Motel on South Figueroa was once notorious for crime. Now, there's a plan to replace it with something different for everyone. 

It took two years of dogged determination and lots of hard work, but this right here is now the result. This lot, located between two facilities from the Knowledge is Power Program, or KIPP, is now owned by that school — that's what today’s celebration was all about.

So, why was it so hard to get here? An old motel called the Palms Motel used to sit in this very spot — and that was a problem. Administrators at the KIPP Academy of Opportunity said the place played host to drug deals, petty crime, and prostitution. 

Every day students had to walk past the activity on their way to classes. They even shot video of some of it and shared it with us. They say nothing can be more detrimental to a child's educational journey to college than what was happening at the Palms.

KIPP parent and South LA resident Elvia Mendez being interviewed by NBC.

Earlier this afternoon, we spoke with a mom who lives less than a mile from here, and she did indeed confirm their accounts. “It was a shame that all those ladies were with no clothes. It was really hard to see that,” said KIPP parent and South LA resident Elvia Mendez. 

“It was families who came together, community members who came together, elected officials who came together, who said let's envision something different,” said KIPP Empower Academy School Leader Chinedu Udeh. 

So, exactly what that will be remains to be seen, say KIPP administrations. Right now, it's an empty lot playing host to the celebration. 

KIPP School Leaders John Coleman (left) and Chinedu Udeh (right) speaking at the celebration.

KIPP now owns it after purchasing the blighted property last august, and they told us anything is better than what was here before. The drugs are gone. The prostitution has subsided. Kids no longer have to walk past the Palms Motel. 

KIPP operates 24 tuition-free schools, just like this one, kindergarten to 8th grade. This is college prep for low-income communities. 

This story originally aired on NBC Los Angeles

About the Author 
Gordon Tokumatsu is an Emmy award-winning general assignment reporter for NBC4. He joined the station in 1993. Prior to joining NBC4, Tokumatsu served as a general assignment reporter for KCRA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento. Before that, Tokumatsu was a general assignment reporter for KLAS-TV in Las Vegas and started his TV career at KESQ-TV in Palm Springs.