Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gentrification, USC, and U.N.I.D.A.D. (Part 1)

Tonight I went to the public hearing during which community members were allowed to speak on their feelings about the USC Specific Plan to develop University Park. I was there from 6-7:35 and counted 16 speakers who spoke in favor of the development as it is written, and 12 people who spoke against the development as it is written.

One thing that I noticed is that there is a false sense of opposition between those from USC's community programs like KidWatch and Neighborhood Academic Initiative and those from the U.N.I.D.A.D. coalition. U.N.I.D.A.D. is in no way against further development of student housing or amenities; what I gather the campaign wants is for USC to include community organizations that have been creating and building in the community for years in the development of the plan.

There seem to be two perspectives at odds: on one side, people are happy and thankful that new development will happen in the neighborhood (nicer buildings, increased access to shops and dining, more things to do with their families) and on the other side, people are concerned that the development will create a less affordable neighborhood and continue to displace people.

Gentrification is a huge issue, not only in Los Angeles, but all over the country and likely all over the world. For some reason it seems to be taken for granted that community improvement necessitates that lower-income people will have to move, and that is just how it is. For me, the rhetoric that USC uses about bringing jobs to the community covers up an important fact: they are offering an opportunity for the locals to become employees, not self-sufficient business owners, and this is the main issue.

It is the difference between a kid around the corner growing up and opening a little store in his old neighborhood, and the kid growing up working in a chain grocery store serving wealthy people who've just moved into to the neighborhood, while he's dreaming about moving away.

More information:

1. USC expansion plan ignites neighbors
2. KCRW's Which Way, LA?: Can USC Grow without Devouring the Neighborhood?


  1. Amen dude, I hate it when people were like "Oh USC is good to us,they give ESL classes, they have DPS patrol our neighborhoods, they give us so and so benefits and let us breathe the air while walking near the campus". People sounded so desperate and need to contextualize the issue and see the long term effects of this plan that grossly leaves out any provisions for affordable housing/guaranteed living wage jobs. Hopefully people see the big picture.

  2. Yes-- "Job creation" is meaningless unless they're living-wage jobs that people can actually sustain themselves with! Of course, it's good to have jobs that are accessible to students or youth who need extra cash or experience but don't need to support families, but when those jobs are all that are created, it's a huge problem.

    Thanks for reading!