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USC building project faces criticism

March 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Emotions are running high near the University of Southern California campus. The public got a chance Wednesday night to sound off about the university's expansion project, one that may solve student housing problems but could drive lots of families out of the neighborhood. The project has been debated for years.

Both sides of the debate agree: The project would dramatically transform the look and feel of this community for decades.

Just across the street from the state-of-the-art USC campus is the University Village Shopping Complex, owned by the university. Most who shop there agree that it's showing its age.

USC wants to tear it down and replace it with a multi-billion-dollar project that would include a parking structure, book store, retail stores, a food court, movie theater, and a hotel and conference center. Above the stores would be 2 million new square feet of student housing. USC estimates the project would add 12,000 jobs.

"What's not to like about this project?" said USC Senior Vice President for University Relations Thomas Sayles. "Jobs, community-serving retail, housing opportunities -- it's a good project."

But several community organizations are protesting the project.

"We definitely welcome jobs," said Benjamin Torres, United Neighbors in Defense Against Displacement (UNIDAD). "There's nothing in their plan that guarantees that any of those jobs will go to local folks, that will be union jobs."

Many think USC is making the area unaffordable for residents to live here.

"Where are we going to go when they push us out?" said local resident Jesus Lopez. "They are going to push us out of this neighborhood."

USC says all that extra housing will bring housing prices down for everyone.

"We think basic supply and demand: When we create more housing in the neighborhood and on campus, it will bring down the price," said Sayles.

After planning meetings, the issue has to go before the Los Angeles City Council. USC hopes to get approval there by this summer and start the two-year construction project sometime next year.


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