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USC's $1.2-billion expansion wins City Council approval

December 11, 2012 |  5:27 pm

USC
A $1.2-billion expansion of student, academic and retail space at USC has been unanimously approved by  the Los Angeles City Council, a project that will create more than 12,000 jobs and potentially ease student housing demand in the campus neighborhoods.

The 15-0 vote brought cheers and applause from a City Hall chamber filled with union workers, university staffers, anti-poverty advocates and students. Over the 20-year-life of the development agreement, direct and indirect benefits to the local community could total than $5 billion, Councilwoman Jan Perry's office said.

USC agreed to pay $20 million into a fund to maintain affordable housing in the area, one of the most poverty-stricken in the city. The university will also build a new fire station, pay for programs at local schools and parks, make upgrades to Vermont Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard and operate a legal aid clinic for local residents.

"This will result in more housing that is accessible for area residents, and brings quality retail options to an area that still lacks movie theaters and sit-down restaurants,'' Perry said.

The broad support seen Tuesday resulted from four years of meeting with city and community leaders to hammer out an acceptable deal, said Thomas Sayles, USC's vice president of community relations. He called it a "great day" for the university, for its South Los Angeles neighbors and for the city, which is expected to reap higher tax receipts.

"It's a process,'' Sayles said after the vote. "But at the end of the day, this is what we wanted."

Construction is slated to begin in about a year, he said.

The project -- 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 --  includes 5 million square feet of academic, commercial and housing space.

University Village shopping center, owned by the campus, would be torn down to make way for a redeveloped complex. The university agreed to a 30% local hiring provision, giving priority to residents living within 5 miles of the university.

Anti-poverty activists worried that the revamp would gentrify the area, pushing out the poor who are unable to pay higher rents.  But USC disputed that the project would displace anyone because it is adding to its student housing inventory.

Nevertheless, after meeting with city officials, including Perry and Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who represent the area, the university agreed to pay $20 million into a housing trust fund.

The final $5 million would be forgiven if USC builds an additional 1,038 students beds within 20 years.

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-- Catherine Saillant

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

 

 

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