As part of a continuing effort to encourage discourse between students and the local community, two USC students were appointed to open spots on a local neighborhood council, giving them the chance to weigh in on current developments near the University Park Campus.
The Empowerment Congress North Area Neighborhood Development Council, part of a citywide system of local forums, allows members of the public to discuss and oversee the development and growth of their individual districts.
“The fate of the campus and the community is linked,” said Daniel Wu, a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies in urban studies, who was elected to the council .
Wu and Samantha Foley, a senior majoring in political science and international relations, were selected earlier this semester to fill open spots on the council, one of which was previously filled by alumnus Max Slavkin. Both said they plan to contribute to the neighborhood council by bridging the needs and concerns of students, faculty and staff with those of community members.
“I’m hoping to have a more cohesive environment between the community and students and bring the two groups together a little more, to make the community more comfortable with USC and vice versa,” said Foley, who had previously served as the director of campus affairs for the Undergraduate Student Government.
Foley said she joined to represent student interests and have a greater impact on the community.
“We’re dealing with the issues on a bigger scale than just the USC campus,” she said.
Wu served alongside Foley in USG as the assistant director of diversity last year. He also helped found the coalition of USC student organizations known as Campus and Community United last year. CCU promotes campus and community partnerships, inclusion and economic justice and works to sustain neighborhood opportunity through education, employment and affordable housing, Wu said.
“He’s got a lot of ideas on how to make the community more cohesive with the university,” Foley said.
Wu said one of his goals in joining NANDC is to transform abandoned sites in the area into community investments like a neighborhood opportunity center.
“Perhaps USC can partner with the Figueroa Corridor Land Trust to developed mix-use retail and affordable housing in that area and to really create a win-win situation,” Wu said. “There’s always more to be done.”
Wu and Foley started their work with NANDC by serving on the economic development committee to provide input and assistance for its two main projects: creating a campus and community farmer’s market and advocating select retailers for the University Gateway development.
The committee was created last year to address the needs of local residents and to gather community feedback through surveys and open-house events where community members are able to speak with developers, said Shawn Simons, president of NANDC.
The neighborhood council aims to facilitate a collaborative farmers’ market — bringing the area’s pre-existing markets together — to promote strong partnership in the community and encourage small business entrepreneurship, Wu said.
“It’s really trying to build on the infrastructure already in place,” he said.
Foley added that the unified farmer’s market plan is intended to make the market more accessible to both students and community members while providing a convenient location for vendors who wouldn’t be charged for a space in the market.
“It creates an environment where students and residents can interact with one another,” she said.
The retail component of University Gateway is another focus of NANDC, which plans to advocate for responsible stores and dining options that would function well in its location on the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Figueroa Street.
“We’re working on having community input on the retail and restaurant space for all of the new developments that are going on,” Simons said.
The committee members are also preparing a community prospectus to attract appropriate retailers to upcoming projects, including those at Gateway and the University Village, to benefit the overlapping needs of students and local residents, Simons said.
In addition to their independent efforts and work with the committee, Wu and Foley also plan to use their year to also build awareness of the council on campus.
“Daniel and I are both seniors so once our positions are up in the spring, we’ll be looking for other USC students who are interested in joining the council,” Foley said. “It’s really crucial that USC students get involved because we are a big part of the north [university] area.”
Board members are currently elected to NANDC following the conclusion of USC’s spring semester at the end of June. They are attempting to move up the election to the school year, however, so they can increase student involvement, Foley said. Although no seats are designated for USC students, they are able to run for area-specific or at-large board seats.
“If students are interested, they should definitely come … and have their voices heard,” Simons said.