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$1-billion Village at USC approved by L.A. council panel

A rendering of the Village at USC. Credit: University of Southern California
A $1-billion project at USC that would bring thousands of new student beds, a multi-use retail complex and needed academic facilities to its south Los Angeles campus, won approval from a key city committee Wednesday.

On a 2-0 vote, Los Angeles City Councilmen Ed Reyes and Mitch Englander, sitting as the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, approved documents outlining how Village at USC would be built on 200 acres just north of the main campus. Councilman Jose Huizar, the third member of the committee, was absent.

The massive project, expected to generate 12,000 jobs, goes next to the full City Council for approval.

The vote came after the university agreed to pay $20 million in “community benefits” that will be used to maintain affordable housing in the surrounding area, officials said. USC initially earmarked $2 million for housing but agreed to the higher figure in recent weeks after intense negotiations that included the area's council representatives, Jan Perry and Bernard C. Parks, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

USC also agreed to a 30% local hiring provision, giving priority to residents living within five miles of the campus, and to create a legal clinic at its Gould School of Law to help local residents with tenant-landlord disputes.

The university had already agreed to build a new Los Angeles city fire station, at an estimated cost of $16 million, in conjunction with the redevelopment. Details of the fire station project are being worked out separately.

Wednesday’s vote represented a compromise.

Anti-poverty activists wanted USC to pay up to $30 million to offset the potential effect on affordable housing. Activists have charged that redevelopment of this scope would gentrify the area, bringing in more affluent residents and students, and pushing out the poor who are unable to pay higher rents.

USC disputed that but agreed to the $20-million payout after meeting with city officials.

“It’s a win for the community, it’s a win for the city, and it’s a win for the university," said Thomas Sayles, senior vice president of university relations. “No one is completely happy but honestly it’s time to move forward."

University Village, an aging shopping center, will be torn down to make way for the new complex. Tenants at the center voiced their worries that they would be left out in the cold if the university declined to re-up their leases.

About 5 million square feet of academic, commercial and housing space will be constructed on 200 acres  owned by the university. The parcels are bounded by 30th Street to the north, Jefferson Boulevard to the northeast, Exposition Boulevard to the south, Hoover and Flower streets to the east, and Vermont Avenue to the west.

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-- Catherine Saillant at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: A rendering of the Village at USC. Credit: USC

 
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