South LA Coalition Celebrates the Community Struggle Around the University Village Development at USC; Continues to Fight Displacement in the Neighborhood
As the University of Southern California opens its new University Village, residents lift up past victories and warn of new challenges around displacement in USC-adjacent areas.
For nearly a decade, the United Neighbors In Defense Against Displacement (UNIDAD) battled to lift up the perspective of the residents, workers and small businesses most impacted by USC’s development practices. The community long recognized that the University’s real estate activities and lack of on-campus student housing were central drivers of gentrification and displacement of low-income Black and Latino families in the neighborhood. After years of struggle, the coalition won a significant number of benefits that resulted from a public campaign around the USC Specific Plan. Memorialized in a settlement agreement signed in December of 2012, UNIDAD agreed to withdraw objections from the project and support the Development Agreement, which codified the significant community benefits won.
“It is crucial that we do not forget that these investments from USC are a result of a community campaign that won considerable benefits for local residents,” said Cynthia Strathmann, Executive Director of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, a member of the UNIDAD coalition.
The benefits secured by the community include:
- $15-20 million in affordable housing funds in the neighborhoods surrounding the University Park Campus;
- A tenant rights legal clinic within the USC Gould School of Law that provides assistance to tenants currently living in surrounding neighborhoods;
- Construction of a 4,038 net new student beds on campus. Intended to help alleviate the process whereby students are required to find their housing off campus, in competition with local families;
- Local (30%) and disadvantaged (10%) hiring for the thousands of permanent and construction jobs created by the project, most of which are union or meet or exceed the City’s Living Wage Ordinance;
- Funding ($300,000) for job training and job placement services for local residents;
- Business assistance for up to 40 local small businesses;
- Relocation assistance for qualifying businesses located in the previous University Village;
- Mechanisms for bringing businesses in the previous University Village into the new University Village;
- Local procurement goal of 15%;
- The establishment of the Economic Development Coordinating Council, a collaborative effort between UNIDAD and USC to create a job training and job placement pipeline for South Los Angeles residents; and
- Funding ($350,000) for parks and green space.
As the homelessness and housing affordability crises continue, and as new investment advances through South LA – also accelerated by the announcement of the 2028 Olympics – the push out of local families out of their homes and into homeless remains at crisis levels.
“As the University Village opens this year, it’s important that students, alumni, staff and the administration at USC do all they can to stop the displacement of families from the community. This includes upholding the commitments to community benefits, supporting anti-displacement policies, and creating a campus culture that makes local residents feel welcome,” said Nancy Halpern Ibrahim, Executive Director of Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, a member of the UNIDAD coalition.
The UNIDAD coalition and many partners have continued the work to stop displacement and change development practices and policies by supporting the passing of Measure JJJ and, now, advancing The People’s Plan, a set of community-based policy proposals for equitable development to be included in the updates to the Community Plans of South LA and Southeast LA. More information can be found at https://unidad-la.org/peoplesplan .
UNIDAD is a coalition of residents and their organizations in South Central LA dedicated to keeping families in their homes and improving the health and economic well-being of low-income communities of color through responsible development. We recognize that structural racism linked to housing, policing, land use and employment policies have caused great harm to Black, Latino, Native, Asian, immigrant and low-income communities. UNIDAD works to reverse these harms by promoting healthy and equitable neighborhoods through planning and land use that is rooted in community. More can be found at https://www.unidad-la.org/resources/
Contact: Joe Donlin, email@example.com