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Redevelopment Of USC's University Village Raises Concerns For Local Residents

Judy L. Wang |
July 24, 2012 | 3:24 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Locals protest against USC's redevelopment plans (Judy L. Wang)
Locals protest against USC's redevelopment plans (Judy L. Wang)
When asked how many times she’s been forced to move from her home due to high rent costs, Berta Garcia couldn’t keep count.  

“Many times, I don’t even remember how many times,” she said through a translator. 

Garcia, 59, has lived just two blocks from the University of Southern California for almost 20 years, and it’s a neighborhood that’s very dear to her heart. 

“Every day the area gets more beautiful and more improved," Garcia said, "but what [I’m] really worried about is being displaced since the rents keep increasing and increasing and increasing.”

Garcia, and many residents like herself, have had to battle rent increases due to the growing number of students looking for affordable housing in her neighborhood. 

“It’s because the owners know the students will pay more in rent and that’s what’s causing all the displacement and evictions,” she said. 

Community members, alongside the United Neighbors In Defense Against Displacement (UNIDAD), came together in front of Los Angeles City Hall to share their concerns about USC’s new plan to redevelop the University Village near Jefferson Avenue, which many fear will devastate local jobs, housing and small businesses. Those who came, young and old, held red rectangular signs with the number of years they've lived in their neighborhood written in bold, black marker.   

The multi-billion dollar project seeks to demolish the outdated plaza and transform it into a family-friendly space that will include shops, bookstores, restaurants and markets. It’s the first project of its kind in South L.A. that looks to revitalize the area with the creation of 12,000 new jobs and, most importantly, add student housing which USC says will relieve the housing tension and bring students back into university owned residences. 

However, the vision of “The Village at USC,” will need more guarantees and commitment to local residents, said David Robinson, political director for the Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE).

“[It] will take significantly increasing the amount of student housing that they’re creating, and making sure that student housing is affordable to lower income students and that it’s built right near the start of the project," Robinson said. "It also will take a much more serious commitment to providing or preserving affordable housing in the neighborhood.”

Robinson also made it clear that UNIDAD is not looking to shut down the university’s plan to redevelop, but to simply ask that USC and the city prioritize and create measures that will ensure the preservation of jobs and housing for locals who have been living there for 30 plus years. 

USC representatives said that they want to be completely transparent about this entire process and they encourage locals to contact them with any concerns.

They’re working hard to reach out and reassure community members that this new redevelopment will benefit everyone from residents to all of Downtown L.A.

Twenty-three-year-old Bertrand Perdomo Ucles, who graduated from USC’s School of Public Policy, agreed. He has also lived in South L.A. all his life. 

“The organization and the community is fighting the wrong giant,” Ucles said. “I am concerned about the community in the sense that when we’re talking about displacement and pushing out, we have to be very careful. We have to ask ourselves who is causing the displacement and pushing out. The university is not knocking on someone’s door and saying, 'we’re going to kick you out and rent this out to students.'”

Ucles said he also believes that this redevelopment is well deserved for local community members.

“My mom has been living in the community for 25 years," he said. "I think she deserves better and I think that the university is going to be able to provide the specific plan [that will be an] asset to the community.”

As for Garcia, no matter what, she cannot afford to be pushed out of her home.

“I’m a single mother and my sister lives [near me]," she said. "I rely a lot on my sister. My work is really close and my children have all grown up in this neighborhood, so they don’t want to leave either.”


Reach Staff Reporter Judy L. Wang here or follow her on Twitter



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