Members of community and student groups gathered Friday to discuss their ideal plan for the development of Vermont Avenue.
The Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice — a group of 25 local businesses that monitors the development of land along the 40-block strip running from USC to the Staples Center — hosted its second “Visions for Vermont” event Friday, as part of preliminary planning efforts to create a land-use plan that will best serve the needs of the community surrounding USC.
The “Visions for Vermont” project is a response to the challenges local residents are facing. The series of meetings started in October, and are held monthly to allow for open communication between the community and the coalition.
“This is an alliterative process — we consistently ask and get feedback,” said Ava Bromberg, planning and action research coordinator for the Figueroa Corridor Coalition.
Two primary concerns in the development of the Vermont area are safety and housing, the coalition has found.
In a survey conducted by the coalition last week, almost half of the respondents said feeling unsafe was their number one concern. The number two concern was the ability to continue living in the neighborhood, as many residents said they are concerned about the rising cost of housing in the area.
One solution presented at Friday’s “Visions for Vermont” attempts to address the area’s affordability for community members.
Proposed by Tafarai Bayne, an organizer for the Figueroa Corridor Coalition Land Trust, the solution emphasizes USC’s duty to build more affordable housing for students so fewer students look outside the university for housing.
The coalition has also attempted to head off these problems by starting the UNIDAD campaign, which aims to prevent the displacement of people who live in the USC community.
To address safety concerns, Bayne suggested a joint community program and an effort to make more information available to residents.
In both propositions, Bayne emphasized the importance of a constant dialogue among the city, the community and the university.
Student group Campus and Community United strives to keep this dialogue open. A few members of CCU were in attendance Friday.
“Now is a pivotal moment because USC is making their Master Plan and they are working with the city,” said Jenn Yee, a member of CCU. “In order for the community to get their voice heard, they have to get their voices heard now.”
Members of CCU and others at the event got the chance to view interactive booths set up by the Figueroa Coalition and students from Cal Poly’s Community Planning Studio.
One booth displayed a panorama view of the city and had thought bubbles that displayed things that residents found both positive and negative in their community. The data displayed on the map was a result of input given at the first “Visions for Vermont” event in October that 80 people attended
“We are gathering information to reflect the needs of the community,” said Gabriela Garcia, a community organizer for the Neighborhood Land Trust. “We want the people behind the plan.”
At another booth, students from Cal Poly’s Community Planning Studio asked visitors to create their ideal community. The students had a variety of paper cutouts including trees, community centers and street signs for people to paste onto a blank map of the community.
The students from Cal Poly will also help with the next steps of the “Visions for Vermont” project, which will include putting together architectural plans that will reflect the concerns and needs of the community.
Although a timeline has yet to be established, “Visions for Vermont” plans on holding its monthly meetings until March 2010.
“Next summer is a big drafting point for the city,” Bayne said. “The budget crisis may make the timeline change.”