News And Politics

City committee to hold public hearing on USC's $1 billion expansion

Sept. 17, 2012, 1:31 p.m.

Tomorrow will be the second public hearing held by the PLUM committee regarding the new USC development. (Rendering: Elkus Manfredi Architects)

A City Council committee will be holding a public hearing this week to discuss USC's proposed $1 billion redevelopment planned for the neighborhood surrounding the private South L.A. university. The Tuesday meeting will be held at City Hall, and will be the second time the L.A. Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) has hosted a hearing regarding the The Village -- the school's mixed-use expansion project.

USC's proposal includes building new student housing, constructing an updated retail center with a grocery store and sit-down restaurants and creating thousands of new jobs. According to the school, it will be the largest community redevelopment project in the history of South L.A. and will be funded entirely by the university; it has been in the works for about nine years.

Tom Sayles, senior vice president of university relations at USC, said he expects to see a "clear showing of support" for the project at tomorrow's meeting, adding that the university is ready to move forward as soon as possible.

"There really is tremendous support for this project," said Sayles.

But some community members and activists say there's many faults in the school's plan; it doesn't guarantee that the new jobs created will be prioritized for local residents, and the housing plans don't consider the families who have lived in the neighborhood for decades. Paulina Gonzales, Executive Director of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), said that "thousands of families" will be negatively impacted by USC's plans.

"Instead of addressing poverty its displacing poverty," Gonzales told OnCentral in July.

SAJE is a community organization involved in the redevelopment project and one of the local groups that's unsatisfied with USC’s current redevelopment plans. At the first PLUM hearing last month, they were part of the lengthy public debate that drew proposal supporters and opponents, and resulted in the project being put on hold until the city collected more information about the proposal and how it compares to similar projects at other universities.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Chairman of the committee, City Councilman Ed Reyes, asked for a report that would explore the "loops that have yet to be closed" in the expansion project.

Housing in the neighborhoods surrounding USC has been one of the major points of public debate regarding the proposed expansion -- and for years before it. Elida Siguenza, who is a janitor for the university and has lived nearby for 23 years, said many of her neighbors have been squeezed out of their homes because their landlords were looking to take advantage of the need for student housing.

But USC's executive director of local government relations David Galaviz, told OnCentral that the their redevelopment proposal includes the creation of 5,200 new student beds and incentives encouraging people to live in these university housing complexes. The school said this will help reduce competition for housing in surrounding neighborhoods and free up accommodations for area residents.

Tomorrow's meeting begins at 2:30 p.m. and Sayles said he expects to hear reports back from the planning department about some of the questions that were raised at the first hearing.

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