The Planning and Land Use Management Committee approved an amended proposal for renovating the University Village during a meeting at Los Angeles City Hall on Wednesday. The proposal will now go to a vote before the entire City Council before it can receive final approval.
More than 200 stakeholders attended the meeting, most of whom were in support of USC’s $1 billion plan to create new retail space and student housing in the University Village.
The vote followed an agreement between USC and the city that the university pay up to $20 million for affordable housing. The university originally allocated $2 million, but has increased the figure during months of negotiations, according to a report from the city’s chief legislative analyst.
The university also agreed to build 3,000 new beds and create a counseling service within the Gould School of Law for residents with tenant-landlord conflicts. The agreement also contained a 30 percent local hiring goal for permanent University Village jobs.
Committee members include Councilman Mitch Englander, Councilman Ed Reyes and Councilman Jose Huizar, who was absent Wednesday. Reyes said USC’s cooperation led to approval in a 2-0 vote.
“Thank you to the people at USC for your due diligence and responding to our concerns,” Reyes said.
David Galaviz, executive director for USC local government relations, said the decision will benefit both USC and the surrounding community.
“This is a win-win, not only for the university and the city, but, in our view, also for USC students and the community,” Galaviz said. “This is new jobs, new retail and new housing that currently does not exist.”
If the City Council approves the plan, Galaviz said crews might begin tearing down the University Village next May. Construction, which is expected to take about two years, would begin shortly after.
Kristina Raspe, USC’s vice president of real estate development and asset management, said the university will still need to work with a full-project architect and get approval from the Board of Trustees before the tear-down process begins.
“There’s still quite a bit of work to do before you’d see any movement on the site,” Raspe said. “But having a green light from the City Council would allow us to move forward with the work and complete it as soon as possible.”
Representatives from several unions expressed support for the project because the university said it plans to use contractors who hire union members.
James Irwin, a field representative for the Painters and Allied Trades International Union, applauded the plan for including benefits for its workers.
“Our members and their families are going to gain a lot because it supports their families through benefits and medical and good wages,” Irwin said.
About a dozen business owners who currently work in the University Village, however, voiced concerns over the future of their businesses.
Wendy’s franchise owner Ketan Sharma, who employs 35 people, said the current proposal fails to adequately address concerns over the future of his business, which he has owned for 22 years.
“Sixty percent of my business is drive-thru, but USC has not guaranteed I can keep it,” Sharma said. “The only guarantee is that they will talk before demolition — the first right of refusal as it is has no teeth in it. This keeps me awake at night.”
Undergraduate Student Government President Mikey Geragos said USG supports the overall plan as it stands, but has certain specific interests related to the Village. His administration plans to push for maximizing green space, increasing the square footage of the proposed gym and ensuring business owners’ concerns are addressed.
Geragos also said USG will pay attention to the type of tenants that are put in the Village.
“We’re very strongly in support of the idea of mixed markets for retail,” Geragos said. “It’s not only for community members, but because students are diverse in their ability to afford certain things.”
Galaviz expects to vote on the plan in November.
Though USC communicates with the city frequently, the university does not plan to change anything in the proposal before the vote, Galaviz said.
“We are not planning to renegotiate anything that’s already been negotiated,” Galaviz said. “Our goal is what is passed out of PLUM is passed out of the City Council.”