City planning committee approves $1 billion University Village proposal

The Planning and Land Use Management committee approved Wednesday an amended proposal for renovating the University Village during a meeting at Los Angeles City Hall.

Councilman Ed Reyes, a member of the committee, said USC’s cooperation led to the approval. About 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 local representatives that USC pay $20 million in benefits to preserve affordable housing. The university originally allocated $2 million but has increased the figure during months of negotiations.

The university also agreed to providing residents priority in the hiring process and creating a counseling service within the Gould School of Law for residents with tenant-landlord conflicts.

Patricia Alarcon, executive assistant for local government relations for USC, said the decision will benefit both USC and the surrounding community.

“It’s wonderful that this is going to move forward because it has been nine years in the making,” Alarcon said. “This is a win-win for USC and the community.”

Several union representatives expressed support for the project because the university said it plans to use contractors who hire union members. 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 does not 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.”

Working with local stakeholders has been a priority for the university, Alarcon said.

“USC has from the beginning known that it was important for community members to be present at these discussions,” Alarcon said. “From day one, USC has listened to members of the community and responded to their comments.”

Rachel Bracker contributed to this report.

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