Big retail has brought new life — a Home Depot, a Jamba Juice, an IHOP — to some intersections. But in other places where businesses burned, all that flourishes are weeds and litter.
"They were supposed to build a mall here, a huge one that took up this whole corridor," says Martinez, driving south on Vermont. "But for some reason, it never came."
The project had to be abandoned by the city because of an uncooperative land owner and budget issues, said current Councilman Bernard Parks.
One major change Martinez sees is that the neighborhood is far more willing to talk to police.
"We're more transparent and they're not as afraid," Martinez says.
As he spotted a few old folks loitering on lawn chairs near a market, a whistle was all it took to get them moving. They grabbed their chairs, waved in his direction and walked off.
"Appreciate it, Pops!" Martinez hollered out his window.
On 71st Street, one block north of Florence and Normandie, Georgiana Williams never needed more than her stink eye to command attention. Everyone knew her as "Grandma" — and when Grandma gave the boys the stare, they listened.
A deeply religious woman, she had moved from Mississippi to California hoping for a better life. She worked long hours as a nurse, and back in the 1980s and '90s she fed, clothed and housed many of the young men who grew up on her block. That included her son, Damian.
Still, as hard as she tried, she could not keep the young men out of trouble.
The evening Reginald Denny was pulled from his truck as he drove through Florence and Normandie, Damian appeared on the video, taking part in the attack.
Williams vehemently defended her son. That couldn't have been him in the video.
"He doesn't look like that," she told anyone who would listen. "I say they don't know who was at Florence and Normandie."
Damian served four years for the beating. After his release, Williams moved the family to an apartment in Compton to keep her son away from the block and from police, who she believed were after Damian for his involvement in the riots.
But her son didn't stay away for long. In 2000, he was arrested on suspicion of participating in the killing of man at a drug house near 71st Street. He's serving 30 years to life.
Today, Georgiana Williams lives 60 miles east, in Fontana. She stays there with her daughter.
But at least once a month, she's back on 71st, walking stick in hand, hollering the names of the few neighbors who remain.
If she catches men huddled on the sidewalk, drinking or smoking weed, she makes them pour out the liquor and stomp out the joint, then sends them home.
"I know all their mamas, and all their mamas know me," she says.
On a recent Saturday, she moved slowly up the block, past stucco homes with neat yards guarded by tall iron fences. Her limbs ached and her long lavender dress was sticky from the heat, but she had a 20th anniversary block party to plan and still needed signatures from three neighbors.
"Dorothy! Dorothy!" she yells outside a faded mint house with a rose bush out front. "It's Georgiana. Come to the door! It's hot out here!"
A young girl appeared on the porch. "My grandma's in Vegas," she says.
"Veeh-gas!" Williams teases. "Well, tell her I'll be back on Monday."
She's organized a neighborhood gathering nearly every year to mark the anniversary of the riots, or, as she likes to call it, "The Rebellion."
It's her way of letting the neighborhood speak for itself, about the police brutality that existed back then and the way she believes her son and other young men who rioted were unfairly targeted by the media.
"Today we still need jobs, we still need books in schools, we still going to prison, we still struggling," she says.
This year's block party, with music, political speakers, anniversary T-shirts and her coveted peach cobbler and corn bread, will probably be her last.
At 72, Williams plans to move to Chicago to launch a street ministry.
She couldn't save her son, but perhaps she will save others.
"I'm gonna get myself a loudspeaker," she says. "Go to the streets and tell them all about the Bible."
There were some, like Todd Sellers, who didn't stick around for long after the riots. In 1994 he headed east, like thousands of other African Americans, to start anew in the suburbs of the Inland Empire.
The 28-year-old had gangbanged, sold drugs, done time. The day of the riots, as his mother, Hazel, prayed for the sirens to stop, Sellers dressed and walked to the corner of Florence and Normandie to take in all the action.
Days later, he was featured on a "Nightline" special with Ted Koppel.
Sellers and his gangster friends took the anchor on a stroll of the intersection, a mangled junkyard of metal and ashes. They answered his questions with the brashness of young black men who were done being oppressed.