Though its completion is still decades away, USC’s Master Plan is one step closer to becoming a reality with the release of a draft environmental report that this summer.
The university’s Master Plan aims to revitalize the surrounding community around USC and make it a more residential campus over the next 25 to 30 years. The 4,000-page Environmental Impact Report — which is required for all major development projects in California — evaluates and reports any significant impact the Master Plan will have on the environment.
Kristina Raspe, associate senior vice president of real estate at USC, said the draft report is currently being circulated for public comment. The public hearings for the report will start at the end of this calendar year or at the beginning of 2011.
“The community has been incredibly supportive,” Raspe said. “There has been pressure on the university to build more housing so students will stop taking away community housing.”
The report studies about 20 to 30 environmental categories including air quality, water quality and traffic. The Los Angles City Council will decide whether to approve the Master Plan based on the impacts outlined in the report.
“Some of the categories may have no effect on the environment and some other categories may only have a short-term effect,” Raspe said. “When the EIR goes to the City Council for a vote, they will have to decide if the negative impacts in the EIR are outweighed by the benefits of the project.”
USC’s Master Plan includes a renovation of District 3, which includes the University Village, Cardinal Gardens and Century Apartments.
According to the Los Angeles Times, USC’s plan, which includes adding upscale retail stores and about 5,000 beds for students, will cost about $900 million.
Raspe said it has taken four years to truly develop the Master Plan because the university wanted to incorporate the input of every party involved — students, faculty, elected officials and the community.
Some students expressed concern that the plan might only cater to USC students and not serve the needs of the community surrounding campus — questions that have also been raised by others after hearing USC’s plans for the area.
“If we replace the [U.V.] with trendy restaurants and shops, that would be a loss. I guess I would try to just have more of a variety of retailers and amenities,” said Michael Boisvert, a junior majoring in music performance.
Retailers have yet to be named, but Raspe said they will serve an assortment of socioeconomic backgrounds.
“We still need to work out who the retailers will be. Don’t forget that about 60 percent of our students are on some form of financial aid so the retail needs do overlap in that regard,” Raspe said.
The Master Plan will also bring a new full-service grocery store, drugstore, restaurant and cinema.
“It’s hard to balance what the community wants and what USC students would like to see in their community. I wouldn’t know how to do it,” said Albert Sung, a junior majoring in biological sciences.
For the past few decades, the university has focused on shedding the commuter campus label and trying to become more of a residential campus. Raspe said the Master Plan reflects this commitment.
“The process took four years because we realized it would be transformational,” Raspe said. “Although the construction process won’t be fun for any of us, the outcome is well worth it. We have really transformed ourselves from a commuting campus to a more residential one.”
Boisvert said the Master Plan will strengthen the university’s goal toward becoming a true residential campus.
“This isn’t the ’80s anymore — people can come and stay here and be safe,” he said. “And I think it’s good that we’re taking more steps to make sure people know that.”