The Economic Development Committee of the North Area Neighborhood Development Council kicked off the first of a series of forums with a discussion Thursday night aimed at collecting opinions about the university’s Master Plan and constructing a proposal to pass along to the university and city hall.
“We’re trying to get ideas from the community and make recommendations that we’d like to see included in the [Master] Plan,” said Samantha Foley, one of the two USC student representatives on the NANDC and a senior majoring in political science and international relations.
A group of about 20 business owners, residents, USC professors, students and representatives from labor unions met in the University Village on Thursday to discuss the Master Plan, a guiding document that details the university’s plans for expansion and renovation over the next 30 years. Participants mainly discussed housing displacement, affordable housing and whether the Master Plan will address both real estate issues.
Kirk Cartozian, a representative from real estate advisory services of Cartozian Associates Real Estate and a USC alumnus mediated the question and comments between the audience members.
Cartozian spoke of developer investments and how the community can benefit from entitlements.
“You guys are hopefully going to be creating a voice for yourself, and that’s the most productive way to see how your surrounding is in the future as investment comes, development comes, how you can get the most for your local affected area,” Cartozian said.
Cartozian said the first step needed is to assess the needs of the community — what might be lacking in the community and what resources might already be out there. Getting to one voice will be hard, he said, but the members of the audience will be able to come to a reasonable solution.
The U.V., which will be bulldozed and redeveloped as part of the Master Plan, was one of the main topics of discussion.
Business owners said they are worried their businesses will lose the relationship they have with the community and face higher lease rates. Likewise, community members said they were worried the U.V. will cater to students and not the community.
Foley, who said she has been talking directly with USC representatives, said that so far the idea is that the new U.V. will be both a community and student space.
“As they get close in the development process, they want a better idea of what community members want; it’s not going to be just what students want,” she said.
David Galaviz from USC Government and Community Relations said the retailers in the U.V. need to operate year-round.
Galaviz said so far retailers such as Forever 21, a community-serving bookstore, Superior Grocers or a related supermarket, restaurants like Applebee’s, a small hotel and a community movie theater are possibilities for the new U.V.
“The goal isn’t to develop something like The Grove,” he said.
Aside from the development of the U.V., community members also spoke about housing displacement and affordable housing.
Gloria Serrano, a resident of 37 years, said she’s seen the community change drastically, and there has been much displacement.
“A lot of housing has been turned into student housing. But in no way we are speaking against the students,” she said. “Families are forced to pay a large amount to live in small apartments because of rent hikes.”
Galaviz said USC has been talking about including a financial aid stipend to encourage students to move in to new student housing that will eventually be developed as part of the Master Plan, rather than moving into community housing. The plan would create about 5,000 more beds for undergraduates.
Another community resident, Dennis Brathwaite, acknowledged housing displacement but also said there needs to be a balance between community members and students in the area.
“I think the students like the interaction with the local people … I think there’s a familiarity with the students and the people from outside.”
Christina Gotuaco, a senior majoring in public policy, management and planning agreed, saying she likes living in the urban area and interacting with the community.
“It’s just nice to have this community feeling that you wouldn’t get if USC was segregating the students from the community members,” she said.
City Council Representative Dennis Rodriguez, communications assistant for Councilmember Bernard Parks, said the Neighborhood Council should put together a reasonable proposal in writing within the next two weeks to present to the city community redevelopment agency, planning department and our council office.
Shawn Simons, president of the NANDC, said she understands that not everything on the proposal will make its way through to the Master Plan but said she hopes the city will listen.
“We want to do our diligence as a community to give a full-fleshed out proposal … You win some and you lose some, but we don’t want to hear [after we submitted the proposal], ‘Sorry, you closed the books on that,” Simons said.
The next forum will take place April 29 at 7 p.m. at the U.V. computing center.