Healthy Food Walk Around USC Neighborhood Unearths Tensions Between the University and the Community

Tafarai Bayne of TRUST South L.A. and RideSouthLA explains the goals of the day. (c) sahra

If you were one of the participants in the South L.A. Healthy Food Ride/Walk this past weekend, you could be forgiven if you walked away a little confused about the purpose of the walk.

It started out simple enough.

The group – largely comprised of super-motivated teens from South L.A. vying for a spot on the Youth Action Coalition run by Building Healthy Communities South L.A. — met at Mercado La Paloma, the new home of Community Services Unlimited’s (CSU) Village Market Place.

Tafarai Bayne, of TRUST South L.A. and RideSouthLA (a partnership between the Mobile Urban Mapping project at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and TRUST South L.A.), laid out the plan for the day.

Participants were being tasked with helping the RideSouthLA team collect data and map the neighborhood. Specifically, they were asked to “take pictures of things that are healthy and unhealthy” (with regard to food choices) and “things that are safe or unsafe” (with regard to walking or biking conditions). The cellphone photos were to be sent in to the event site, to help compile a visual record of the walk.

Organizers then handed out maps of the streets we would be walking, so the participants could take notes elaborating on what they observed as they went.

Tafarai asked that, as they made their observations, they also think about why something was “safe” or “unsafe.” What might remedy an unsafe situation so that people would be more likely to ride or walk through their communities?

USC Professor Francois Bar explains how the students can send their cellphone photos to the RideSouthLA site. (c) sahra

The mission was clear-cut and the students seemed ready. So, with that, we were off.

Able to do a longer route on bikes, Tafarai and Dyane Pascall of CSU led a handful of riders toward the Normandie School, where CSU has a mini farm. The rest of the group, led by Neelam Sharma, director of CSU, turned north on Grand Ave. and walked towards Jefferson. I joined that group, thinking it would be nice to take an easy stroll for a change.

Although it was beastly hot and there was nowhere to hide from the sun, the teens were undaunted and cheerful as they walked. They chatted me up about their aspirations and what they hoped to accomplish as part of the youth coalition. Student Jaren, for example, mentioned he enjoyed serving the community and was proud to be able to change the minds of people at his high school in Sherman Oaks about Compton, where he lives.

“They always ask me, ‘How do you not get shot and stuff?’ and all those other kinds of dumb, stereotypical things,” he said. “So, I tell them about the positive things that go on [there] And, now, every single person [I’ve talked to] has a different view of what it is like to live there.”

Just then, we arrived at the intersection of Jefferson and Flower Sts., where the students had to cross the Expo Line.

“Unsafe crossing!” a girl shouted as she snapped a photo of the gates that provided a physical barrier between pedestrians and the track.

Curious, I asked why she thought it was unsafe. It appeared far safer than most to me. Just a few blocks north, at 23rd and Flower Sts., there is no physical barrier between pedestrians and the tracks, despite it being a site where pre-teens regularly cross on their way to the middle school on Figueroa.

She thought about it for a moment, and then answered that the gates should lock when a train was coming through or when pedestrians should not be crossing. Or, maybe one of those big arms with flashing lights should come down across the intersection, mused another girl.

The walk sign came on, so they filed through the pedestrian gates, making their way across the street and snapping pictures as they went.

Taking a break at Figueroa and Jefferson to talk about what we had seen so far. (c) sahra

We stopped at Figueroa and Jefferson, grateful for the shade offered by the new residence hall on the corner. It was an opportunity to regroup, talk about what students had seen so far, and examine the food choices available at the shops built into the first floor of the building.

Now sweating and hot, the students loudly lamented the lack of greenery and shade to protect pedestrians from the elements.

“Did you guys notice anything about the buildings?” Neelam asked. “[There are] a lot of USC signs on the buildings. Did anybody notice that?”

They realized they had, once she mentioned it, but they quickly turned the conversation back to the broken sidewalks and the plethora of concrete.

She pressed on, “What do you notice about this area? It is known as USC Village.”

The students seemed impressed by the services – there was a pharmacy, a bank, a grocery store, restaurants, a coffee shop, and a nice place to sit outside. These were not available a few blocks east.

“It’s a little bit different,” she said, urging students to keep that in mind as they walked.

The push to highlight the divide between the surrounding community and USC became more overt as we moved on.

At the corner of Hoover and Jefferson, the site of the Tuesday Farmer’s Market, Jason, a CSU volunteer and former USC student in Social Work, noted that the market was set up specifically to “cater to USC students” and their needs. Once inside the campus, near the Tommy Trojan statue, he asked students to think about why it might be that USC’s campus environment was so green and inviting.

The students seemed to struggle to come up with answers that fit what he was looking for. Many simply enjoyed being in the campus area and missed what he was getting at altogether.

One suggested the campus was made beautiful so that people would be “wowed” by it and want to attend the university. Another suggested that because USC had a lot of resources, they did their best to provide a pretty environment for people. Another thought all the greenery made for a healthy environment for people to live, study, and relax.

Clearly having something else in mind but unsure of how to get the students to that conclusion, Jason haltingly summarized, “It is interesting, you know, that this place, you know, that is for students who come from all over, you know, that aren’t necessarily from this community…Where you are saying that it is so green and so pretty…that it is definitely something to think about.”

All that talk of healthy food apparently only made everyone hungry for ice cream. (c) sahra

It wasn’t until we reached their urban farm (located on the south side of Exposition Park) for a debriefing that it finally became clear what the walk was about for CSU.

As students fanned themselves with their maps under a canopy, Neelam again returned to the question of the abundance of USC banners along the streets and signs on the buildings.

“What does it tell us?” she wanted to know.

No answer.

She asked again, “What does that tell us?”

No answer.

“That the University of California [sic] is running or owning or something a lot of those buildings. Right? That’s what that tells us, right?”

She wanted to the kids to think about how different the campus-related areas were versus the rest of the neighborhood. The grocery stores and shops were located within the extended campus, not beyond it. And, they seemed much more geared to the needs and habits of students, not the community.

Jason reiterated his feeling that the services were there to cater to the needs of the USC students. Moreover, he continued, when you arrived at the boundaries of USC, there was “this feeling like it is sort of a different world [there]. When you cross into there…it almost feels like an alternate, pretty universe that was created for these students.”

“Anybody know what the word is for when an entity — a specific company or corporation or even an individual — starts buying lots of land?” Neelam asked. “What’s that called? Anybody?”

Now, the kids seemed a little confused. This didn’t fit with the answers they had at the ready regarding what they had seen that was safe or unsafe. Nor did it fit with the conversations they had been having amongst themselves about how pretty they thought the campus was and how much they would have liked to see parks and trees like that in their neighborhoods.

“Entrepreneur?” asked one.

“Monopoly?” asked another.

“Monopolizing the land control…?” suggested Neelam. “There’s a specific term for it…?”

“Eminent domain?” asked another.

Neelam finally answered her own question.

“We’re…a lot of people are calling it land-grabbing,” she corrected herself. “The people who have lived in that area or worked in that area…for years and for generations are being pushed out because the land values are going up. Anyone notice that happening? Anybody? Any stories anyone wants to tell about that? Anything anyone wants to share?”

There were some nods and some shifting in the seats among the students, but no one said anything.

So, Neelam offered her own story. She explained she was a resident and homeowner and that every few years she and her neighbors in the area were getting phone calls about selling their homes from buyers looking to build student housing.

“There’s a process been going on,” she said, gesturing toward the area south of King Blvd. “That is not to say that we’re hating on USC, but it is just to point out certain disparities that exist and what is happening with the land situation and the amenities that exist.”

Neelam Sharma debriefs the group at CSU's urban farm in Exposition Park. (c) sahra

The statement did not go uncontested.

Many of the people that had come to help shepherd the walk were not only part of the USC community, but also very active in finding innovative ways to use USC’s resources to benefit the surrounding neighbors. They did not all agree that just because the extended campus facilities might be more geared toward students, they were also therefore necessarily closed to others in the neighborhood.

Neelam countered that not everyone was welcome in those shops and that when neighbors tried to go there, other barriers would pop up. Namely, the police.

Dyane spoke about how he and Neelam’s son — both young men of color in their twenties – would be routinely stopped by police once they got north of the African American Museum (located in Exposition Park). They had gotten so tired of being harassed that they had stopped going to certain places because it wasn’t worth the trouble or the emotional cost of constantly being questioned.

Otto Khera, on staff at USC and part of the RideSouthLA team, protested that he would also get stopped, depending on how he was dressed. He didn’t know what it was that would trigger a police stop, he said, but he felt it wasn’t just about keeping neighbors out.

“Well, it’s called ‘profiling,’” said Neelam, sharply.

Tafarai runs the hose to help everyone cool off at CSU's urban farm. (c) sahra

Although silent, the students were now listening attentively, simultaneously interested and confused.

They were confused because we hadn’t seen any evidence of this on the walk. The streets had been relatively empty — devoid even of students — and there was no visible police presence. Similarly absent from our route were the yellow-shirted monitors that stand on just about every corner in the areas surrounding USC where students live, ensuring student safety.

That doesn’t mean CSU’s concerns weren’t merited.

I have heard stories from local youth about how their families are pressured to sell their homes and about how they are treated with suspicion when in close proximity to campus. I myself also remember being stopped by police when I lived around campus. Except, they were usually stopping me to tell me to stay away from certain areas. A nice girl like me didn’t belong south of campus, they said, and it would probably only bring me trouble. Didn’t I know that that was where the drug dealers hung out? People got shot there, they said. You don’t want to be there.

Although the university has given back to the area in many ways, the divide between the USC community and the neighborhood it resides within is still very deep. And the more the university grows, the less room there seems to be for those original residents.

But those deeper undercurrents would have been impossible for students to have discerned on a quiet Sunday morning food walk.

Tafarai tried to help the students understand the issues at stake by offering a more historical perspective.

Talking about how he had grown up in the area, he said he had noticed that when the city-owned buildings around USC were bought up by the university and developers, things changed a lot. Shops and arcades that had drawn youth from the neighborhood were replaced with more upscale and student-friendly fare. The old 32nd St. Market (a grocery store) had been replaced and the free shuttles to the store, used by low-income and disabled residents from around South L.A., had been discontinued. That had been a particularly controversial step in the area’s make-over and a blow to many residents, given the long-standing shortage of grocery stories in the area.

With the USC specific plan including a new grocery store and new shops at the University Village, neighbors are pessimistic about the extent to which their needs will be taken into account. The limited selection of a Trader Joe’s or the higher prices of an upscale market like Whole Foods, for example, will only serve to further alienate residents.

Deftly bringing the discussion back to the students’ mapping activity, Tafarai told them that by cataloging the kinds of services and foods available in the streets they had walked, they were providing researchers with a snapshot of the kind of neighborhood that was being created and of the kinds of needs being served.

Jaren (in the green shirt) and friends enjoy ice cream and shade outside the Natural History Museum. (c) sahra

The activity had clearly shifted from a focus on the more innocent questions of what kind of foods or street conditions we had seen to deeper questions about who had access and why.

As we walked back to our start point, I pondered the prickly nature of the discussion.

It can be extremely hard to have civil discussions about gentrification, even among activists such as ourselves who have the same interest in social justice. The new arrivals — however well-intended — can never fully address the needs of the original residents. Their very presence means something in the neighborhood has changed, often to what the original residents feel is their detriment. By the time the remaining original residents are able to organize to have their voices represented at the table, that change is hard to undo.

Still, many seek to at least slow down that process of change, if not also see their needs incorporated into future plans.

Groups such as CSU, TRUST South L.A., SAJE, and Esperanza have been active in challenging USC to think more about creating an integrated community so that long-term residents can stay and feel welcome. Recently, they were effective in delaying a vote by the Planning & Land Use Management Committee on USC’s $1 billion, 20-year expansion plan. They won’t learn how effective, however, until the hearing next Tuesday, Sept. 18.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be looking at some of these deeper questions of how the expansion affects the neighborhood using the case of the Rolland Curtis building as an entry point.

The building’s billionaire owner was hoping to turn the site, located on the corner of Vermont and Exposition, into housing for USC students. To do so, he neglected the upkeep of the buildings and sent unlawful eviction notices, scaring many of the low-income and immigrant tenants into leaving. Only after a year of legal wrangling with TRUST and Abode Communities, did he finally sell the building to the non-profits, making it possible for the remaining residents to stay on for now.

The purchase of the building by the non-profits is by no means a perfect solution, and the emotional toll the fight took on residents — some of whom had resided there for decades — was very high. Still, it does represent an innovative approach to keeping neighborhoods diverse and protecting residents’ rights while illustrating how easily low-income residents can be pushed out when there is no organization to advocate on their behalf. Stay tuned.

 

  • Haley

    Could this article be any more biased against USC? Los Angeles should be lucky that a major institution (and USC is a non-profit institution BTW) is investing money and non-financial resources into the blighted urban core of our city. A community changes and people should accept that. Sh*t happens. The area around USC was initially built as a wealthy ‘suburb’ for downtown businessmen in the late 19th century. And today, colleges across the nation have healthy, vibrant student villages around campus that are there because of student demand. It’s a natural thing, why criticize it? I’m glad that the area around USC is improving. Students living around campus deserve any amenity that the rest of the city has. Let’s just let development happen. And it’s going to happen around USC. 

  • MarkB

    Sometimes neighborhoods go downhill. Occasionally they go uphill. Sometimes they gain or lose color. The only constant is change. No one, rich or poor, has a right to live in any particular location.

    I recently had to move out of DTLA because my rent kept going up while my income didn’t. I miss living there, but such is life. Look at DTLA circa 1995 and compare it to today. Is there anyone who would say the 1995 version is healthier, more vibrate, more attractive, more productive and more contributing to the life (and treasury) of the city than today’s version? It’s the same with the USC neighborhood, and I agree with Haley that we should be thankful that someone (ANYONE!) wants to invest serious bux in that part of town. It’s hard to image any other city fretting that, gee, maybe L.A. will become just TOO DARN NICE a place if people keep putting money into it.Another thing I challenge is the assumption that what is there today is what always must be, and that WHO is there today is who always must be; that today is some sort of optimum that must be preserved. That thinking is absurd and it’s patronizing, in a way, to the people who live there.

    An unfortunate fact of LA is that there are far too many poor neighborhoods filled with poor people who are being underserved by the city and business. If this were the last poor neighborhood in LA (we should be so lucky!) I’d have more sympathy, but the fact is there are abundant alternatives for anyone who would be displaced (we can talk about relocation assistance and other mitigations). As neighborhoods go uphill, it creates more revenue for the city, which can then do a better job of serving those who need it. You don’t create wealth by stopping economic activity.

  • Mig

     I think the point is that the existing residents deserve any amenity just as much as incoming residents such as students.  They are and have been the community and they just don’t get wiped away because someone can now make money in this area or develop.  While students and yourself might consider themselves as “lucky” for this, looking at it from current residents’ perspectives, it is not hard to see why they would disagree with your characterization as “lucky.”

    It is the same thing with AEG.  This is not about being inherently pro/anti-development.  This is about the fact that these investments/developments/projects have many impacts and benefits.  The impacts are disproportionately born by residents (traffic, air quality, displacement of residences and existing businisses) while benefits are largely accrued to students in the case of USC or sports patrons in the case of AEG.  There is something wrong with this equation and discussing the results of these inequities is an important and worthwhile discussion as the existing community is entitled to at least that much.

  • sahra

    The discussion isn’t so much about it being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ that someone invests in a community, but more about why we don’t plan for more integrated communities and value having a diversity of residents in a neighborhood. Meaning, why can’t we have lower-income and higher-income people living in the same neighborhood. Why must lower-income folks always relocate to other “poor neighborhoods”? Are there ways that USC can find ways to grow without displacing residents? Those are the questions that people are asking.

  • Funny, when I first read this story I was worried the people criticizing USC came off looking a little foolish, constantly pushing the students to say something they didn’t really think/believe/understand. Guess it’s a matter of perspective.

  • Haley

    Well Mig, that doesn’t mean the area around USC should be kept a SLUM because the residents who live in the area don’t want any change. 

  • Haley

    The picture showing the people standing under University Gateway out of the sunlight displays a false scenario. There are trees planted along the sidewalk, but because Gateway is new, the trees are still small, obviously..so there won’t be any shade yet on the sidewalk. If the residents of this “community” want more trees, then they should plant trees in their own backyard and frontyard independently. It’s not USC’s responsibility to plant trees in other people’s private property off campus. 

  • sahra

    “False scenario”? Really? I can see you are not a fan of critiques of USC’s approach to development but, as any good urban development student knows (or should know), development never occurs in a vacuum. Although you are dismissive of the existing “community” as a “slum,” there is are a number of communities that have been in that neighborhood for decades. And “slum” is most certainly not a judgment the residents would label themselves with. They might call some of their landlords ‘slumlords,’ true, but just because it isn’t your idea of a community, it doesn’t make it less of a community in the eyes of the people there. Being able to see the situation from both sides is an important part of the planning process. Labeling the neighbors pejoratively and refusing to hear their concerns is not.

  • Anonymous

    Only in LA would people find reason to hate on universities.  An organization that educates, creates jobs, constantly improves the neighborhood, and is the primary economic engine for the area?  Lets cast them as the bad guys because neighborhoods should never change! 

    Pure ignorance.

  • Anonymous

    @c368dc8a672d639b439a4da8ff208603:disqus Who’s going to pay for it? A lot of the so called ‘amenities’ are private business that locate around USC because students have money to spend. How are you going to force business to open in areas where they can’t make money?

  • Haley

    Sahra: “False scenario”…yes, false scenario! First off, you definitely don’t go to USC, so you wouldn’t know what the University Gateway has provided for USC students. The ground floor retail development has been exceptional so far because students are walking to the stores, eating outside, socializing, etc etc. This is the first time USC students have a reason and incentive to walk or bike to the bank, lunch food, dinner food, grocery store, yogurt, optometrist, and classroom space in Gateway. Gateway is so far turning out to be a great real estate development because it is high density, walkable developments with an array of businesses, restaurants, grocery stores. Not every development has to be made for everyone. In this case, Gateway is targeted for USC students and that’s not a BAD thing. It’s a great thing. It would be great if more of these developments are built next to USC. And yes, it’s a false scenario because the writer of this story said people wanted more shade and the picture shows people standing under Gateway in the shade. Well, give it a few years and the trees planted on the sidewalk will grow. Duh. 

    If you read the rest of the comments here, most people are agreeing that this article is ignorant of the fact that USC definitely plays a positive role in the area. This area of town would be stagnant and declining like the rest of South LA. And yes, South Central is the slum of LA. It may not be like the slums in Rio de Janeiro, but in general, it is a poor slum area with little economic development and improvements. That’s that. If you want to blame anyone, you should be blaming the city of LA for not investing in the sidewalks, planting trees, street repairs, and pedestrian infrastructure. If the article would even acknowledge that USC is good for the area, then I would give the author some credit…but for now, no credit given.

    And yes, I still remember that you put a Red Line photo on an article about the Expo Line. Hello? Just cause you’re an advocate of the poor doesn’t mean every development that’s not for them is horrible and malicious. 

  • Haley

    Also, the article fails to mention that advocate groups like TRUST South LA and SAJE are the primary people speaking against the USC Village development at the planning commission and city council meetings. The people running these two groups are not reflective of the community because they don’t even live next to USC, and they are white and educated. If you really look at the situation, most people around campus support the new Village development. 

  • sahra

     Actually, I was a PhD student at USC until last year. So, I know it quite well, actually, and lived next to campus my first year there. As with many of your other judgments (like the ridiculous extrapolation from the photo–that’s your interpretation. It is definitely not the one that I offered, but kudos for creativity), you were too hasty. I taught many students like yourself for years as a grad student. And, one of the problems I often encountered with students was that they often had difficulty with reading comprehension. That seems to be the case here. What I presented were the arguments made by CSU and others regarding the changes they, as neighbors faced (and yes, they are neighbors, and yes, I am quite familiar with the organizations, who they represent, and who works for them, thank you. More familiar than you, it seems, but thanks for asking…), things I observed and experienced while living in the area, and a discussion of how difficult it is to have a civil conversation about things like gentrification, as your comments and unkind labeling of the people of the surrounding community help illustrate.  So, thank you for that.

    As I mentioned to someone below, the questions raised are not about whether or not development should happen. The development is happening. The question is whether or not it can also be inclusive… that’s what the neighbors would like. The campus and its new facilities are wonderful for students, I agree. The campus is much more cohesive and less of a commuter-campus than it was when I first began my studies there in 2001. What neighbors are concerned about is the cost to them and their community of these developments and whether or not the development plans can be revisited to be made more inclusive of everyone, not just students. It is interesting to me that that idea–that development be inclusive–is the cause of such stress for you and others.

  • Haley

    Even Damien said that the article seemed to constantly push the students to say something they didn’t really think/believe/understand. There’s already a Ralph’s a couple blocks away, the community can just shop there. Let’s put in an actual good grocery store for students to shop at. Superior is crap and we can all admit that. 

  • Haley

    The reason many people fight back against you Sahra is because your demands can be ridiculous. It’s like the Farmdale station on the Expo Line. The fighting and delays weren’t necessary and today its even more of an embarrassment with slow zones around the station and really limited ridership at Farmdale. Not necessary. 

  • sahra

    Again, you are misreading it. CSU had the agenda, not me. And that is what Damien said. CSU was pushing students to see what they called “land-grabbing.” I presented it so that that was clear and I also noted that that approach was confusing to the students because that hadn’t been what they were originally told to think about and those historical undercurrents were hard to see on a short walk through campus and the surrounding area. I’m sorry that is so hard for you to discern.

  • sahra

    It’s just you in the comments, pretty. And, I don’t know what you’re referring to with regard to Farmdale. I haven’t written about that. So, now you’re just grasping at straws… but thanks for being so invested at being angry with me. I’m glad you have so much free brain space and time.

  • sahra

    oops:  *pretty much

  • Anonymous

    “unearths” or “desperately tries to get stakeholders to agree with them”? Sheesh.

  • PC

    Haley, stop.

    Breathe.

    Read.

    Process.

    Then type.

    I promise you: this discussion, and any other online discussions you participate in, will be so much more fruitful if you do those things, in that order. Do them often enough, and you won’t even need the “stop” or the “breathe.”

    (Note to self: follow own advice)

  • MarkB

    No, Sahra, it’s not just Haley. If it were, Haley would be drowned out in a sea of people seconding your view. That’s not happening.

    So much of this article feels like a PC tempest in a teapot. So property owners are feeling “pressured” to sell. Pressured? Like, “We’ll break your legs if you don’t sell”? Or pressured like, “We’re going to make you a great offer!” Usually if values are going up and several entities want to buy, the correct answer for the current property owner is “Woo hoo!” Something similar happened in Anaheim many years ago when Disney was buying up property to expand. If I remember correctly, one of the properties in question was a strawberry farm that had been in a Japanese family’s possession for generations. The owner didn’t want to sell. Disney kept upping the offer and the owner kept saying “no,” as was his right. I believe Disney finally made an offer high enough because the deal went through. One the one hand, it was sad to see one of the last farm tracts of central OC disappear, but all the parties dusted themselves off and went on with life.

    I want to understand you better. Please give several concrete examples of things that USC-area property owners could do for “inclusive” development that would make you happy. Please: concrete examples, not principles or platitudes. I would seriously like to know what your thought process is.

  • MarkB

    [“Reply” seems to work to one one or two levels, so this now has to stand on its own.]

    Sahra, you said development is not a matter of good or bad. But when you write…

    “The new arrivals — however well-intended — can never fully address the needs of the original residents. Their very presence means something in the neighborhood has changed, often to what the original residents feel is their detriment”

    …the only takeaway is that you want poor neighborhoods preserved in amber so there are never “new arrivals” whose “very presence” means “something…has changed”. Perhaps you chose your words poorly or for dramatic effect; if not—if that’s what you believe— I find it very condesending toward those who are less fortunate.

  • calwatch

    Exactly. In a free society, landlords have the right to raise rents and charge what they want to sell their properties. I’m never sympathetic to calls against “gentrification” because really, what you want is somebody picking winners and losers. Why should any newcomer try to address the needs of existing residents? Did anyone shed a year when the west San Gabriel Valley went Asian, leaving not a single Anglo supermarket on Valley Boulevard and Garvey Avenue? Or as whites fled San Marino High School (see that Atlantic article from a while ago) and Asians started to dominate, thus raising academic achievement in the process? Maybe I’m not raised in this odd ball liberalism/socialism of being offended when other people are actually interested in improving your community, but the CSU crowd is frustrated that young people don’t want their agenda, and want to keep low property values and reduce community pride.

  • calwatch

    This kind of development, by definition, is hard to be inclusive. I’m sorry but that neighborhood does not need more check cashing spots and fried chicken joints. Would a dollar store maximize the best use of the Gateway area? No, of course not. There is only a finite space there and the property owner has to maximize his profit within the bounds of the law. And “grocery store” is a broad category that includes WalMart Neigjborhood Market (which would lower prices and increase quality, but for which I’m sure CSU would scream at for other reasons), Latino markets like El Super and Superior which have cheap but second tier produce and meats, and upscale joints like Whole Foods where skinny women can get their week’s aragula. Short of paying – not with government funds- a subsidy to a “preferred” grocer the difference between Whole Foods and, say, Von’s, I don’t know what you want to do.

  • calwatch

    Indeed, U$C has invested millions into South LA. They didn’t fold like Pepperdine did. In 1965 there was talk about transitioning to other locations. The area around USC would become just like the area around the old Pepperdine campus.

  • Zemeljulie

    It is important tovalue student voices. This may have been a much more fruitful excercise if the leaders were not trying to tell students what to think under the guise of an exploratory lesson. teach students and give them the time needed to come to their own conclusions. they were finding information from the walk but also need to studynthe history and inteview residents this needs to be more of a fleshed out project, and let the students discover what needs to be changed.

    i saw a hint of an idea when a studentnsaid they wanted the same green spaces in their own neighborhood. Ask questions instead of giving answers . I.se.why isn’t there enough green spaces in your neighborhood. Why arsome sidewalks broken and others fixed?

  • Haley

    ***waiting for Sadra’s phD response***

  • I thought the article did a good job of going over the interactions of the event, and it makes pretty clear that Neelam of CSU seemed to be pushing an agenda (or, at the very least, asking some very leading questions with the expectations that she’d get the answer she wanted). 

    It’s not Sahra or Streetsblog’s job to be a cheerleader for USC, and this article did not seem to be attacking them, from this uninterested party’s observation. 

  • I thought so too. I’ve been surprised by the reaction to this piece. Heck, I thought and still think, this is one of her best articles. It’s hard to write for a non-profit, community outlet such as our “South L.A. Bureau” and even harder to criticize a local non-profit. I thought, and still think, this piece is an excellent example of the kind of journalism we hoped for from Sahra and Kris.

  • sahra

    You are misreading me. I’m describing how each side sees it. You actually quote me, “what the original residents feel…” it isn’t “what I/Sahra feels…” So, please, do not tell me what your takeaway of my bias is. There is a paragraph where I do speak in the first person, but again, it is observations of what I have seen and heard over 12 years, first as a resident and then as a volunteer in the highschools in the areas surrounding USC.

    I am very confused by how challenging some are finding it to read the piece. I would urge you to read it again. The event was so interesting to me because the collaborators were long-time residents and new ones from USC, both of whom have a very sincere dedication to social justice. They are all even working together on a project at the Normandie School–that’s why they put this event on together. Yet, the conversation between them was very charged at times. It is a difficult subject, and one that raises everyone’s hackles, as the comments clearly show.

    You are welcome to criticize me, but it is kind of a waste of your time and mine if you didn’t do a good job of reading the piece the first time around.

  • sahra

     I’m not sure what you are waiting for a response on? The articles i didn’t write about Farmdale? Since you have time while you are waiting , I would urge you to re-read the piece. Maybe it will make more sense to you this time around, now that i’ve explained it step by step. Your rather incomprehensible misinterpretations of who is putting forth what argument and how makes it difficult to engage you. I don’t mind a healthy debate, but don’t see the point in spending so much time engaging someone who didn’t do me the courtesy of properly reading the piece.

  • sahra

    I think this is a really good point, and one that crossed my mind as the event went on…the student voices were somewhat lost. Also, it might have been a better strategy to ask students to think about who would be likely to access those services or the campus ahead of time, and put it in context by saying we would be walking through a neighborhood undergoing changes. That would have at least put them in a frame of mind of more critical thinking about what they observed and allowed them to come to their own conclusions. Maybe they wouldn’t have seen themselves as excluded from those places. You don’t know until you ask them…

  • True Freedom

    @ddc5730787ea872e997aa19979de2c79:disqus :  I understand your article was trying to describe the event from an observer’s point of view.
    However, in one of the comments below, you ask: “why can’t we have lower-income and higher-income people living in the same neighborhood.”

    It is not necessary to go into much detail about why this doesn’t happen, because it’s really pretty simple.  Lower income neighborhoods (not all but most) have increased litter, unkempt properties, increased violent crime and drug use, unemployment, loitering, etc.  Most higher income people are willing to pay extra to remove themselves from that type of environment.  It’s really that simple.

    I’ve lived on both sides of the fence.  I know there are good and bad people in all socioeconomic strata; however, now that I have the means to live in virtually any neighborhood here in Pasadena, I’ll pay the premium to remove myself from the issues I noted above. 

  • True Freedom

     the free market confirms that folks with higher incomes prefer not to live in lower income neighborhoods.  They have the means to purchase in these neighborhoods, but don’t.  So, if we *force* income integration, the wealthy will simply move elsewhere.