City council approves $1 billion plan to build The Village
After more than a decade of planning, USC’s $1 billion plan to turn the University Village into The Village at USC was approved Tuesday by the Los Angeles City Council.
The $1 billion project is expected to create approximately 4,000 new construction jobs and 8,000 permanent jobs, with a 30 percent local hiring promise. The Village at USC is also expected to provide more undergraduate and graduate housing.
“For many years the university was expanding but made no public plans,” Councilmember Jan Perry said. “Now that changes, as we consider the adoption of the specific plan that shows the next 20 years of development. This is an exciting movement for the city to get new jobs and also new revenue for the city’s general fund.”
The university bought the University Village in 1999, taking over leases of already-established businesses and using empty space to house several USC offices, including a physical therapy clinic and a community computer center.
Public meetings for the purpose of developing the plan began in 2008. The proposal included several items, such as re-zoning certain areas for housing or retail space and moving the fire station from its current location on Jefferson Boulevard.
Senior Vice President of University Relations Thomas Sayles emphasized how a long process of negotiations led to Tuesday’s city council vote.
“It’s a win-win-win. It’s a win for the university, it’s a win for the community and it’s a win for the city of Los Angeles,” Sayles said. “There was virtually no opposition to this today, and the collaboration process has made it possible for us to embark on this truly transformative project.”
The city’s Planning and Land Use Management committee, which comprises three councilmembers, approved the $1-billion development proposal on Nov. 10.
Councilmember Mitchell Englander, a member of the PLUM committee, said the proposal will have a significant impact on the city.
“This is a huge project. It will change the fate of Los Angeles,” Councilmember Mitchell Engalnder said. “As a city councilman, we’re here for a short time in office, so to be able to weigh in on this issue … is an honor and a privilege.”
The only opposition to the proposal came from Ketan Sharma, the owner of a Wendy’s store in the University Village. Sharma, who has concerns about the plan’s impact on the future of his business, has also attended several previous meetings to say he feels his voice was marginalized.
“Unfortunately, I’ve been trying to reach out, but I’ve got nothing,” Sharma said. “We all live in the same community that we are trying to make better … I feel that first right of refusal for this development should have a little more beef. Otherwise, I think what USC is trying to do is great.”
Union members for a variety of construction trades have voiced support for the project at the PLUM meetings. Both construction trade and hotel and service workers union members came to show support.
“This project will be built under fair labor contracts, so it will allow builders good jobs and apprentices a chance to learn the trade,” said Ron Miller, a representative for the Los Angeles and Orange Counties Building and Trades Council. “With this project, [USC] has proven that they are seriously a good neighbor … The building trades are very proud to support it, and we look forward to breaking ground and getting to work.”
Community groups that had fought for inclusion of their interests and had opposed the plan at previous city meetings, voiced their support for the proposal.
“We are really proud of the millions of dollars of housing funds and the local hiring goal,” said SAJE Executive Paulina Gonzalez. “A collaborative public process has played a key role in [getting these benefits]. SAJE and UNIDAD thank USC for their commitment to the community.”
Councilmember Ed Reyes, who chairs the PLUM committee, said the leadership of both USC and community organizations was instrumental in the mediation between both parties. Reyes said USC should be proud of its progress as a university.
“USC can stand tall with the great institutions of the East Coast, with Chicago, because $20 million in housing is a great thing,” Reyes said. “Those who came meeting after meeting, we heard you. The question was just how to keep it going and how to [incorporate] those ideas.”