Students need fuel, not new luxury Plaza

On Sept. 8, the Chevron gas station located on the corner of Figueroa Street and Exposition Boulevard closed shop to make way for construction of new luxury digs for USC students.

Alice Li | Daily Trojan

The Icon Company provides real estate self-proclaimed as “upscale mixed-use student housing … at top universities throughout California.” The Icon Company’s latest installment will be an apartment complex where the gas station once stood, finally providing the lap of luxury that ’SC students have longed for.

But wait, doesn’t USC already have two such complexes, one on either side of where Icon Plaza will be built?

Well, yes. Tuscany apartments was built a few short years ago while University Gateway opened its doors just this fall. Neither building is renting at full capacity, which is easily understandable given the one-two punch of a recession and the exorbitant price tags of the apartments.

We already have an excess of pricey apartments. What we do not have excess of are gas stations. Chevron was one of the closest to campus — tied with the ampm station on Vermont avenue and Exposition — and in its absence students will be forced to travel greater distances in search of fuel.

I considered Gateway a while back when I was still unsure of where to live the next time housing assignments rolled around. I was of course blown away by the luxe amenities and spacious rooms, but the price tag quickly brought me back to reality when we were casually told that our bill would total to roughly $12,000 for two semesters. Indulgence was simply too expensive for us (and about twice the cost of most university housing).

USC Housing certainly has its imperfections. Many of my friends were forced to turn to Tuscany or Gateway because their lottery times were such that the only options left were blocks away from campus, and they simply didn’t consider the distance feasible. Few among them actually chose these “finer” living arrangements before again trying their luck through USC Housing.

So what makes the future Icon Plaza so different — so much more splurge-worthy — than the rest? Icon has been advertised as glamorous, upscale — the high life. You can bet that the accompanying pricetag will be just as high. And if Gateway and Tuscany are already not fully occupied, how can The Icon Company be so sure that its venture will be more successful? True, the project’s plans probably didn’t take the recession into account, but shouldn’t the company consider a more reasonable set-up in lieu of its current lavish layout? If making money is its ultimate goal, then it seems in its best interest to edit its plans in accordance with the current economic climate.

The Icon Plaza website pitches the building through a 90210-esque lens, promising that students who choose the apartments will enjoy the “most coveted address” at USC. I’m still unclear on how this address — on the corner of Figueroa and Exposition — will be so much more exclusive than either Tuscany or Gateway (which are, incidentally, both located along Figueroa and less than half a mile in either direction of this “coveted” corner.)

In an obvious attempt to market the Icon Plaza as the ultimate utopia of living arrangements, the Icon Company seems to have forgotten that not too long ago — as recently as this fall, in fact — other housing corporations attempted to do the same, and that their success has been lukewarm at best. Desperately, the Gateway promotions and price cuts are routinely broadcast by sign-twirling men located on the corner of Hoover Street and Jefferson Boulevard, and on-campus bikers boasting swag upon signing and peddling the message to “Go Gateway.”

The Icon Company needs to re-evaluate its premises. True, its mission statement is to deliver the very best accommodations — but the very best by whose standards? Is the scale simply one of ascending opulence? It’s no secret that USC needs more housing closer to campus, but this won’t be a viable solution for the middle majority of its student body. The relative failure of Gateway should be proof enough that even if USC has been labeled the “University of Spoiled Children,” few people are quite so affluent or willing to pay that extra amount.

The company should reconfigure its plans and give students what they really want and, more importantly, need: modest, convenient and affordable housing.

Deepa Ramprasad is a sophomore majoring in public relations.

12 replies
  1. Charly
    Charly says:

    If you will allow me to play the devils advocate, consider the fact that there are quite a few of wealthy individuals who do crave luxury living arrangements. On the other hand, I agree with a lot of you who for obvious reasons believe that building, yet another, apartment complex does not do much for the morale of folks who do not feel comfortable driving a couple or simply a few miles away where the neighborhood might be considered hazardous to your…but in all seriousness. I think that it is important to have townhall meetings or some kind of hearing to allow all stake holders to voice their opinions on what is built around this place. With that said, if housing is too high and you need a place to live.. email me to get the scoop on a nice place thats a block away from school…and best of all, you wont have to worry about gas stations or any other outrageous living costs. call me at three two three three one three five two five seven!!

  2. Tobias
    Tobias says:

    Seriously, there are like 4 gas stations within 2 miles of the campus, and there is such a low precentage of people on campus with cars. I live in Los Angeles, and I choose not to bring my car to campus, and I only know a small handful of people who actually do have a car here. What we need is more Transit-Oriented Development, and for the Expo Line to open sooner.

    Also, while I agree that new housing should be cheaper, not in the style of Gateway or Tuscany, will you listen to yourself? “If making money is its ultimate goal, then it seems in its best interest to edit its plans in accordance with the current economic climate.” How in the wide world of sports does that make any sense? The thing about the current economic climate is that in a few years, it will be totally different. Meanwhile, the choices made about development now will be in place for probably 50 years at least.

  3. Fred
    Fred says:

    There is already a glut of affordable housing options in the USC neighborhood.

    No, it isn’t deluxe, or new. LA City Housing rules make it virtually impossible to rehab a building properly, and most of the housing stock about USC is 40-100 years old, desperately in need of rebuilding or replacement. So the only projects that pencil out are those who can navigate LA City, which means you will only get colossal “luxury” buildings.

  4. lawl
    lawl says:

    I agree that there needs to be more affordable housing, which is what most of the article seems to be about.
    The title and the whole thing about gas is ridiculously stupid though. If you need gas, then you obviously have a vehicle…why can’t you drive one block down the street to the Chevron on MLK? Oh man, it is 1 minute further away that is too much! Or, as someone else said, there’s the 76 on Vermont and Adams and another Chevron further up Vermont.

  5. Dan
    Dan says:

    “The company should reconfigure its plans and give students what they really want and, more importantly, need: modest, convenient and affordable housing.”

    Finally someone said it. Over half of USC students are on financial aid and many of them receive federal Pell Grants. The last thing we need are more luxury apartments when the only affordable options are far-too limited USC housing and buildings run by slum lords like Nupac and the old Conquest. I don’t need a building with a pool, gym and spa, or concierge service. Just give me a usable, clean, non-luxury apartment.

  6. JJJJ
    JJJJ says:

    A gas station is the worst use of space near a major university. The author seems to be extremely entitled. Not only does he assume that a majority of students drive, and thus need gas, he complains about a slightly longer drive. Where is the author driving? Surely not across campus. He’s probably driving further out, and thus could easily pick up gas on the way to and from the beach or the mall.

    And if the author thinks housing is too expensive, then the solution is to build more of it. Econ 101. As supply increases, but demand hold steady (same student base), prices fall. If the other luxury housing units aren’t full, then price drops will follow until they are at capacity.

  7. Ken
    Ken says:

    Bottom line, USC needs the housing. There simply isn’t enough housing in the area to house all the students. USC knows this and developers know this, which is why we are getting an influx of new housing, such as Icon, or the other 7 story apartment complex that is under construction at roughly 27th and Figueroa (next to Taco Bell). Most of these apartment complexes will be classified as “luxury” to gain a reputation and to try and build a demand. However, supply and demand with all these new beds will decrease prices over time. We have already seen Gateway lower prices and Tuscany did the same over summer. While this was just slight increases as time goes on and new beds are built prices will continue to decrease. It will take time, it won’t be overnight, but it is increasing, not to mention that USC is in final review of plans for 5000 beds where the University Village/Cardinal Gardens/La Sorbonne/and Century are currently built that will be put in over 2 phases.

    As for the gas station, this housing outweighs the gas station. Not to mention there is a gas station to the north on Adams/Figueroa or there is the USC gas station that is just across the freeway. There are also gas stations on 23/Hoover and Vermont/Adams, as well as the one mentioned on Vermont/Exposition. Almost every way you would go away from campus there is a gas station, and there does not need to be one across the street.

  8. Rob
    Rob says:

    You seem to say that USC students don’t deserve to be called “spoiled.” Yet you and your friends complain that a “few blocks” is too far to live from campus and you will “be forced to travel greater distances in search of fuel.” Being unwilling to spend 15 minutes riding a bike to campus or 5 minutes driving to get gas sounds pretty spoiled to me (and if you aren’t driving as far as another gas station, why are you driving in the first place?).

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