USC's Master Plan Source Of Conflict
The University of Southern California’s (USC) University Village (UV), located just north of campus, is in desperate need of revitalization. A week ago, a friend and I were eating there when a pipe starting to leak water that then dripped on somebody’s head.
The architecture is hideous and the river rock pathways are obscure. But the food court vendors' products are pretty tasty; I bought a container of Mongolian BBQ for eight dollars that was at least the size of two of my stomachs.
Currently, there is a tug of war surrounding the development of the UV that is exhausting students, community organizations and the USC administration. Organizations such as Campus and Community United—which I used to direct—and United Neighbors in Defense Against Displacement (UNIDAD) have been in talks with the university for about four years, trying to make sure the project is something both students and community members can enjoy. Over these four years, the estimated cost of the project has increased from 400 million to 1 billion dollars. However, no construction has even occurred yet. The project is so massive that USC doesn’t know where to start.
The L.A. City Council must first approve the so-called "Master Plan." So far, it’s signed off on no documents allowing construction to commence. But, as a friend remarked to me as we biked by the UV yesterday, “I can’t wait until they tear this thing down.” Me, either. Yet, when they build something new, I don’t want to see a bunch of chain restaurants (Wahoo’s, CPK, Starbucks, etc.) in a place that has thrived on allowing local merchants to sell their food products at reasonable prices. Think: plates of tandori chicken and rice for six dollars.
As students, we like sharing a space with community members. In response to a wall post I wrote on Facebook, UNIDAD responded, “UNIDAD coalition is not opposed to the expansion plan. We are just concerned that in its current form local residents and businesses will be displaced.” But whenever there is construction, businesses will be displaced. The catch will be allowing the project to move forward while welcoming back businesses that are running out of leverage (USC owns the property while shops like the Health Nut simply rent space).
So far, other than spoken promises, administrators have made no contractual promises to bring back any of the businesses currently operating in the UV. This project, which will go before the Planning and Land Use Management Committee next Tuesday, seems to be stalled. And like a car with a dead battery, the USC Master Plan is going nowhere.
If you can handle the truth, know that ground will break on the project soon. USC trustees will attempt to circumvent the wishes of students, community members and faculty. The new UV will take a long time to build, and will be cost a lot of money. As a tuition payer, I deserve a say in what is being built. With that, I say: let’s not only build more student housing than is currently planned (in order to reduce rent in the area), let's also preserve small businesses, and create a space that benefits all.
"Admin vs. Community."
Reach Opinion Artist Hannah Luk here.