Policymakers try to balance Master Plan


The plans approved by the city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee to redevelop University Village have met resistance from several city councilmembers and activist groups who are concerned about the negative effects of the project on the community.

Retail · University administrators and government officials hope to negotiate a plan that will serve both students and the community. – Mindy Curtis | Daily Trojan

Though USC says the project will create 12,000 jobs, 4,000 new beds for student housing and a new retail complex, opponents maintain the construction threatens to displace established businesses and gentrify the area, leaving lower-income tenants unable to afford the new cost of living.

University officials, however, claim the plan will actually help residents of the area.

“The university sees this plan as doing the exact opposite, by enticing students to leave community housing and come to university-owned housing,” said David Galaviz, executive director of local government relations at USC, who has heard many community concerns about the Village project in the past five years of negotiations.

Galaviz also said he has mainly heard questions about what benefits the project will bring, not about the potential negative consequences of the project.

“They’re asking if [the redevelopment] can provide them with a new movie theater or a restaurant that has tablecloths and window curtains where they can take their families,” Galaviz said.

The university and supporters of the plan, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, hope the benefits of this new complex will extend beyond students to the greater community of South Los Angeles.

“This investment represents nearly $1 billion and close to 12,000 jobs, many of which will be dedicated to the local community,” said a statement from the mayor’s office. “As the city’s economy recovers, it is important that we focus our efforts on areas that have been hardest hit by the economic downturn to ensure there is a place in the recovery for all. This project provides that opportunity for the residents of South Los Angeles.”

Some city councilmembers worry that this isn’t the case, and that the new project is instead catering too much to student needs. They are concerned the area could suffer if the plan uproots small businesses in the area.

“There are dozens and dozens of businesses that have been in that area for decades,” said Councilman Bernard Parks, who participated in the negotiations and represents some of the area surrounding USC. “It appears that ’SC has decided that they will not consider giving any of those businesses the guarantee to come back to the shopping center, and in fact the university’s message is that it will not even consider them.”

Now that the plan awaits city approval, USC maintains that it will focus its negotiation efforts on tenants who face eviction when construction begins. USC has been conducting extensive surveys of local businesses to determine their needs as the plan moves forward.

“We have a range of services already prepared for them, to help them find access to capital to sustain them during the demolition and to help with business plans and job training,” said Craig Keys, the associate senior vice president of civic engagement at USC.

The city said it has also made a concerted effort to promote the success of these small businesses. Villaraigosa and his Small Business Services Team are working toward addressing the community’s needs and helping them develop feasible business plans.

Community groups are also concerned that the project’s focus on student housing will eclipse the need for affordable housing for families and non-students in the area.

“For decades, the developers have gone into the north University Park area, and they have converted most of the single-family residences into mini-dormitories,” Parks said. “Many of these reconfigurations were not done to code, and there are significant parking issues. The university should assist owners of property so they have access to low-interest loans so that non-students who want to live around the university can have access to quality housing.”

To help solve this issue, USC’s end of the agreement includes giving $20 million to bolster affordable, non-student housing in the area and creating a counseling service for local tenants within the Gould School of Law.

According to Galaviz, community support for the plan has grown as community members have become more familiar with what the project would entail.

“There’s a perception of what this project is,” Galaviz said. “But once community members find out what this project is instead of what the perception is, there’s been a lot of support for this project.”

Parks also said he believes USC, the city and the community can come together to create a compromise that is mutually beneficial. Though some opponents bring up disappointment in USC’s disregard for its community impact in the past, Parks is hopeful that this project can be salvaged if the university takes steps to consider the community.

“It’s very important to the community that it’s done right because you can’t redo it,” Parks said. “And the community certainly has a right to have a say in what happens.”

18 replies
  1. Tim
    Tim says:

    First and foremost, north university park was a wealthy area when USC established itself in the area. The creation of vehicles caused the migration of the wealthy population. So the “ghetto” evolved over time as migration patterns changed. People opted to live in the suburbs instead of urban areas. Looking 15 years back, USC was a commuter campus without the need to house students. Congested freeways, out of state student enrollment, and foreign exchange students caused students to live near campus causing a demographic shift in the community. USC could not meet the demand and private properties provided the much needed relief to students. As demands for housing continues, the price for rent is rises (economics). Gentrification is occurring many urban areas as gas prices rise and commutes become unbearable. Downtown Los Angeles has began gentrification which is a step away from the area. Keep in mind, students living away from home is a recent phenomenon and should consider to some degree the needs of the community in terms of retail space and the congestion it will undoubtedly bring to the neighborhood. In terms of low income housing, that should be left to the City of Los Angeles not an institution of learning. However, students are now becoming part of “the community” and should be accommodated.

    • North University Park
      North University Park says:

      All true. North of campus (North University Park) is now almost entirely student housing.

      However, that does not negate the fact that the USC administration has not been honest with its intentions. USC had a long range plan to aquire UV land by eminent domain by using the Hoover Project as its agent. The UV had a 25 contract with the CRA and the City. USC aquired the UV 13 years ago and let it run down while announcing upon acquisition that it would maintain and improve it. It did just the opposite.

      The organizations demanding low income housing are bogus and are not truly community based. USC administration knows this even if the student body does not. But USC is allowing itself to be extorted to the tune of $20M anyway.

      One must ask why?

    • Tex
      Tex says:

      @Tim,

      In 1880 there was quite a bit of open space around what is now the campus. Ask North University Park as she was here at that time.

      Meow!

  2. North University Park
    North University Park says:

    What I have observed is that any positive changes that have happened over time in North University Park is unduly and unfairly credited to USC. On the contrary, for years it was in the University’s interest to keep the area depressed since it could pick up land for expansion at bargain prices. And if that didn’t work there was always eminent domain.

    USC was the hidden hand behind the Hoover Redevelopment Project which took the land for the UV by eminent domain. USC also has eminent domain but has never dared use it in its own name.

    Certain bogus community groups are indeed extorting USC but the University has decided to pay them off as more expedient than lawsuits and bad publicity. Also, there are certain things that would be exposed in a lawsuit that USC would prefer to keep hushed up.

    As for Parks, he is caught in the middle. I do not believe he is connected with the extortion groups which some would like to link him to.

    None of the legitimate concerns he expressed in the interview are being discussed such as parking impacts and conversion of single family houses to mini-dorms without permits.

    • Matt Ivan
      Matt Ivan says:

      Look. Just think about what you’re saying. Where would the neighborhood be if USC had packed up and left in the 60s? How does the rest of South Central L.A. look? There’s your answer.

      “On the contrary, for years it was in the University’s interest to keep the area depressed since it could pick up land for expansion at bargain prices.” – I don’t see much logic here. Look at how much USC spends every day on security patrols. What good is buying land at bargain basement prices when you have to spend millions every year to guard it 24/7? The University slowed the descent of the area and has been trying to reverse it for quite some time. It’s true whether or not you acknowledge it.

      You also seem extremely bitter about the old Hoover Redevelopment Project. Yes, the city used eminent domain to rebuild the area. So what? The city used it to build Dodger Stadium and all of the freeways too. Do I like the eminent domain process? No, but I’m not going to blame USC for wanting someone to redevelop the area around campus. Were you personally affected by that? If so, I’m sorry, but you should move on with your life. We’re talking about something that happened over 50 years ago.

      Please, feel free to tell us some of these things that would be exposed in a lawsuit. You might even be able to sway me to your side if you start explaining your position. All I see in your comments is an irrational hate of everything that USC touches. Trust me: you aren’t convincing anyone right now.

      Parking is a definitely a legitimate concern, but how does the conversion of single family houses to mini-dorms without permits have anything to do with the topic at hand? Parks is grasping at straws there. USC is not responsable for these dorm conversions; private landlords are. In fact, this redevelopment should help alleviate that problem. Most students prefer to live in University housing, given the chance. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of those houses being returned to single family residences again.

      • North University Park
        North University Park says:

        1.)Use of the term “South Central” is very telling. There is no area in Los Angeles called “South Central”. Instead that term is code for any neighborhood that has a Black population.

        2.)The security guards are a recent phenomenom and are basically just for show and to calm the nerves of concerned parents about the area. They are unarmed. A student was killed a couple of years ago as he staggered home drunk from a party at 3 in the morning and instigated an altercation. The yellow jackets have been USC’s response to that. They don’t guard property.

        3).Hoover Redevelopment did not happen 50 years ago. It was in the late 70s and USC was indeed the hidden hand behind it. Institutions can plan for decades while all living beings have finite life spans. The agreement to maintain the UV for community use was to last 25 years. USC bought it 13 years ago and let it run down. That made it more acceptable to tear it down.

        4.)Since Parks is one of the more conservative members of the City Council (Did you not know that he was Chief of Police?) the attemps to link him to bogus poverty pimp groups is thinly disguised racism. There is no grounds for it.

        5. Single family houses that have been illegally converted to mini-dorms by adding bedrooms where living rooms and dining rooms used to be will never be attractive as single family homes again. If the students move out (not likely) the most likely use will be sober living houses and group homes. Not an attractive prospect.

        6. If we at least agree on parking as a problem then why doesn’t USC do something about it?
        Answer: It suits USC to have unrestricted free neighborhood parking North of campus and frees up funds that would otherwise have to be spent on parking structures on campus.

        • Anonymous
          Anonymous says:

          1) Who cares.

          2) Agreed—they should be armed.

          3) Let’s be real—the UV sucks. It’s dirty, dilapidated, and the stores are, for the most part, pretty bad. I just can’t understand why you wouldn’t want something new and clean. Maybe you like the ghetto atmosphere?

          4) No idea, but I’m sure the fact that I’m voting for Romney is “thinly disguised racism,” too.

          5) My solution: raze the whole area.

          6) I park in a parking lot, so I never have an issue with this. (That said, the parking lot at your favorite place, the UV, is terrible.)

          Why haven’t you moved out already? There’s nothing that great about this place. I’m certainly never coming back once I’m out of here.

    • Sarah
      Sarah says:

      I would love to know what is your connection if any to USC? Do you just live in the neighborhood or are somehow associated with USC? Are you or were you student at one time? How did you come to learn all this about the City, USC and the politics of the neighborhood?

  3. Benjamin
    Benjamin says:

    The ongoing debate discussed in this article is utter nonsense. The very premise behind the debate that USC needs to embrace the community as it moves forward with UV development plans is faulty. That neighborhood of South LA would be nothing without USC, and USC has specifically spent hundreds of thousand of dollars on various improvements throughout the adjacent area. This does not even take into consideration the volunteer hours and efforts of countless students, staff and faculty who participate in any of the many community outreach programs. There are few models for community involvment and outreach as outstanding as that present between USC and the surrounding community. It is a complete insult to the University to suggest that it does not do enough for the community, or that it should do more.

    Efforts by Bernard Park and various community groups to ensure USC sets money aside for low-income housing, or provide guarantees to merchants displaced by the UV development, is pure extortion! It’s an outrage, and again, suggests that the University does not meet or exceed any reasonable efforts to be an active and meaningful member of the community. USC did not take the land upon which the University Village sits through eminant domain, and there was never any obligation to address community concerns. That mall and the land on which it sits was purchased by USC fair and square, and can be developed by the University for any purpose it sees fit. The community can thank USC that it has established such a generous partnership with the community, and that it chooses actively to extend goodwill to the community. USC was established there in the late 1800’s, and I think it is fair to suggest that it is as much a founding member of the community as anyone else who may have moved in since.

  4. Matt Ivan
    Matt Ivan says:

    The school is going to spend a billion dollars in South Central without public subsidy. And “the community may suffer” because of it? That is utterly ridiculous.

    Parks wants to tell USC how to run its leasing operations and he wants the university to subsidize the private housing market too? Is he insane?

    USC has been more than willing to work with the community throughout the entire development process. The community is involved and they want this project. I don’t know what Parks has been smoking lately, but he needs to stop. He cannot be allowed to extort the University.

    And honestly, how could building more student housing possibly be a bad thing for community residents? Private landlords will actually have to compete with the university on price, lowering rents, and there will be fewer students looking for housing on the private market, leading to more housing for neighborhood residents. If the housing isn’t suitable for families, the landlords will either have to renovate it or lower their rent. Either is good for the community.

    USC wants to be a “good neighbor” and try to work around whatever concerns the community may have. It’s a noble goal, but Parks and friends are not living up to their end of the bargain. USC gives, and then Parks demands even more. Not acceptable.

    • Benjamin
      Benjamin says:

      Very well-said Matt. It is extortion. The community surrounding USC would be a forgotten corner of the City if it were not for USC and the positive influence it has on the community. The University IS that community. It was founded there when little else existed. If anything, the community has let the University down… not the other way around.

  5. ras
    ras says:

    USC should pick up its piles of money, find a clean location on the Westside and let this “community” around the current campus location turn into the 3rd world ghetto the politicians are dying to turn it into. Let’s face it – the area around USC might as well be in Mexico – if Mexico also had a large black gang problem as well. SO sick of the ‘hood and thug element in the neighborhood. Here the university is trying to clean up the place and make it nice for everyone and these idiot politicians and community activists are trying to keep it like a Mexican barrio

  6. North University Park
    North University Park says:

    It can not be overstated that the land for UV was acquired by eminent domain for community benefit.

    Actually, Parks is one of the more conservative council members and is not associated with the so called community activists who have displaced the real community voices.

    I think the USC administration knows this and just finds it more expedient to pay off carpet bagger organizations such as SAJE, who have hijacked the real community, than to address real community concerns.

  7. Jack
    Jack says:

    “the community” just shot up the student center. I don’t think we should give a damn what the Master Plan does for them at this point.

    • North University Park
      North University Park says:

      The word “community” is bandied about so loosely that it should be defined. My understanding is that the miscreants involved in the USC approved event came from far outside the area.

      Is “community” code for Black?

  8. Jim T
    Jim T says:

    Hey Bernard,

    USC owns the land, they can do with that land as they please. I know you are a big fan of hand-outs but my hope is USC stands up for itself and says NO!!

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