USC's $1 billion development for the area surrounding their South L.A. campus received a crucial stamp of approval Wednesday from a City committee -- moving the project forward to face a full City Council vote. The private school's expansion plan has been gaining steam for the past nine years and according to USC, will be the largest community redevelopment project in the history of South L.A.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee approved plans for the project with a 2-0 vote yesterday after USC agreed to certain project provisions. Among them, the L.A. Times reports, was the school's commitment to putting $20 million toward maintaining affordable housing in the area ($18 million more than it originally said) as well as following a 30 percent local hiring provision which gives job priority to residents who live within five miles of the campus.
USC's project dubbed The Village will include new student housing, an updated retail center, a grocery store, sit-down restaurants, green space and 12,000 new jobs. Although the school is funding the endeavor on its own, there has been a great deal of resistance to the plans by South L.A. residents, community activists and others who said the school isn't considering the longtime area residents in their plans.
"Instead of addressing poverty it's displacing poverty," Paulina Gonzales, Executive Director of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), told OnCentral earlier this summer.
SAJE is a community organization that has remained vocal throughout the redevelopment process. Gonzales explained that finding affordable housing in the area adjacent to USC is an ongoing struggle for longtime residents, and many are displaced because they can't afford the rents driven up by the student demographic.
Gonzales said she is pleased that the PLUM committee as well as USC have shown "leadership" by agreeing to a larger commitment to affordable housing and to hiring local residents. But, she added, the university could still do more. She hopes USC will increase their local hiring commitment from 30 to 40 percent, and cites other large-scale local projects such as Farmers Field which has agreed to hiring 50 percent local workers.
David Galaviz, executive director of local government relations at USC,told OnCentral earlier this year that USC is working to ensure local hires are made and as of July, had already been in discussion with construction trades to employ workers from the community.
USC has described the aesthetics of their new development as being "architecturally compatible" with the rest of the campus with "Italian Romanesque elements incorporated into the design." Although the campus doesn't know exactly what retailers will be setting up shop in their new complex, the school has said it will most likely include a bookstore, a nail salon, dry cleaners and other service providers.
The PLUM committee's vote on the redevelopment plan slotted for Jefferson Boulevard was delayed multiple times to allow for further research on its potential community impact. After being approved on Wednesday, it's expected to head to City Council next month.