Students reacted to news that a Los Angeles city committee decided to delay a vote on approving a plan to renovate the University Village until November and schedule a hearing on Sept. 18. Dozens of public comments raised concerns over the effect that the development would have on the community and current shop owners and certain budget allocations.
The city’s Planning, Land Use and Management Committee postponed the vote on Aug. 21 to give more time for city planners to investigate concerns raised at the meeting, which ranged from a possible budget underestimate for the construction of bike lanes to inadequate measures to ensure jobs in the new center are filled by local residents.
Austin Coleman, a senior majoring in psychology and political science, said it is very important that the community is involved with the project.
“I’m glad they’re taking the community into consideration,” Coleman said. “We all agree the University Village needs to look better, but we need to work with the community to decide what should be a part of it.”
The renovations will replace the University Village, Cardinal Gardens and Century Apartments with a housing complex and shopping center, which would include a grocery store.
“When you think about it, it sounds awesome,” Coleman said. “But I think we’re forgetting about the people we share the neighborhood with. We’re in their neighborhood. We’re taking it away from them.”
Junior critical studies major Kiki Hallebo said the Village would benefit students but is unsure whether the renovations will benefit the community.
“It will bring in more jobs, but who are you actually giving jobs to?” she said.
About 70 people, fairly equally divided between supporting and opposing the plan, spoke over the course of 2 1/2 hours at the PLUM hearing. Those commenting included other councilmembers, local business owners, USC employees, nearby residents, employees, community priests, public interest groups, students and professors.
“USC wants the right to service the city,” said Councilmember José Huizar, PLUM vice chair. “This issue is that a project of a magnitude this size, people will expect more certainty in this process … we need more certainty.”
The additional time is partially the result of having fewer people to analyze the documents submitted by USC, several presenters said, after the department was downsized due to budget cuts. The Sept. 18 presentation could result in a vote, but Councilmember and PLUM Chair Ed Reyes said a November vote seems likely, and the presentation would give the project “more urgency.”
Craig Bunn, a senior majoring in English, said he hopes the committee continues to consider community input as they move forward with the vote.
“There’s no question that it’ll change the existing community, for the better of the students but not necessarily the better of the people living there,” he said. “It’s kind of unfortunate that they don’t have as much of a say.”