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Residents near USC Medical Center want say in future growth

LOS ANGELES — The county Board of Supervisors took steps March 14 to ensure that Boyle Heights residents have a voice in shaping development around USC-L.A. County Medical Center.

Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended hiring a consultant to facilitate a partnership between the county, USC and local residents, hoping to generate a shared vision for the campus and community.

“It is important we make sure everyone gets a seat at the table,” Solis said.

Residents and community advocates told the board that they’ve been excluded from conversations about development of the campus for too long.

“Development is great, but not when the community is stepped on,” resident Jesus Ruiz said, adding that many of his friends had been forced out of Los Angeles by rising costs.

Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer at the medical center, told the board that he and other leaders were “thinking about how we can best serve the community where we reside.”

Residents expressed concern about being displaced in a gentrifying neighborhood.

“History paints an unfortunate story of what happens to communities when powerful institutions like USC come and develop. Many times it’s a cycle of displacement, criminalization and ultimately, erasure,” said Esthefanie Solano, a youth organizer for InnerCity Struggle, who grew up in Boyle Heights.

“We expect USC to invest in, support and see every young person and resident as their next medical student, doctor, surgeon or biotech engineer.”

The discussion came as the county considers adding services for the homeless and improving juvenile justice facilities on or near the campus, where it owns 124 acres and the medical center.

Solis said the development options were wide-ranging, including a clinic, housing and a biomedical center.

For its part, USC is planning a 200-room hotel, more student housing and a cancer treatment center as part of its 80-acre Health Sciences Campus.

However, as the university builds out its campus, the lack of resources in the surrounding neighborhoods becomes even more stark, community advocates said.

“It’s not about being anti-USC, it’s about let’s work together,” said Lou Calanche, executive director of Legacy LA Youth Development Corporation and a USC grad.

Community leaders said growth on the campus should be aimed at creating more jobs and affordable housing for those who live nearby.

The motion — co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl — was added as part of a supplement to the board’s agenda. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas urged his colleagues to postpone a vote, arguing that more review was warranted as the impact of the work would reach “well beyond USC.”

The board’s vote was 3-0 in favor, with Ridley-Thomas abstaining.

The board directed the county’s chief executive officer to report back on goals and a work plan for the Health Innovation Community Partnership.

 

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