News And Politics

USC to provide $27 million in community benefits as part of expansion plan

Dec. 12, 2012, 2:10 p.m.

USC's $1 billion development will include new student housing facilities and a renovated University Plaza. (Rendering: Elkus Manfredi Architects)

USC has agreed to contribute $27 million in community benefits -- including jobs and affordable housing -- as part of the school's massive retail and housing development plan for the area surrounding their South L.A. campus. This $5.2 billion overhaul has been in the works for years, and USC officials have been negotiating with residents and advocacy groups on specific provisions of the plan, including how many jobs will be reserved for locals and how much the school will contribute to affordable housing options.

On Tuesday, the conditions were settled upon when the L.A. City Council approved the USC Specific Plan and Community Benefits/Development agreement with a unanimous vote. This officially gives the university permission to begin building on their land to the north and east of campus, and establishes guidelines for the the school to abide by throughout the process.

Part of this agreement is that USC will donate $20 million to the City's Affordable Housing Trust Fund and create 12,000 new jobs in the area over the development's 20-year-span. Approximately 8,000 of these jobs will be permanent; 4,000 will be construction positions.

"In a community with 18 percent unemployment, the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs will have a significant positive impact in South Los Angeles," said Perry in a statement.

According to USC, at least 30 percent of these jobs will be filled locally with about 10 percent of these positions "going to members of disadvantaged groups." The school has also committed to improving elements of everyday life for students and residents -- including improving pedestrian safety on Jefferson Boulevard and creating "ample and accessible open space" that will host public festivals, concerts and farmers markets.

"As someone who remembers South Los Angeles when it was thriving economically, I am enormously proud to be part of a university that will bring thousands of good jobs, badly needed shops and restaurants, and a new center of community life to our neighborhood," said Thomas S. Sayles, senior vice president for University Relations, in a statement.

USC's development plan includes redoing the University Village retail center and updating its offerings with a new grocery store, a drug store, sit-down restaurants and other shops. The school is also building additional student housing to provide more options for their own students while also helping to relieve the competition for affordable housing in the surrounding area.

This has been one of the largest sticking points for area residents as USC solidifies its expansion plans. Longtime residents have argued that the university drives up rental rates in the area, making it difficult for people who live there to keep their homes when students (or their families) can often pay more.

"Instead of addressing poverty its displacing poverty," Paulina Gonzales, Executive Director of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, told OnCentral earlier this year.

David Galaviz, executive director of local government relations at USC, said their development plans include creating 5,200 new student beds. The university will also provide incentives to students to live in these housing complexes, furthering USC's efforts to free up living accommodations in the surrounding area.

Planning for USC's new expansion plan dubbed "The Village" began in 2009 and beginning in October 2011, a series of public hearings and meetings were held to garner input from the community. In October of this year, preliminary provisions for the project were approved by the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee and up until yesterday, the final agreement was under discussion between the university, city officials and community members.

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