Fighting Gentrification at USC

Coalition Against Gentrification—USC

5 min read

A Coalition of USC Students, Faculty and Staff say—Not In Our Name

We are an alliance of USC students, workers, and professors who stand in active solidarity with the tenants fighting their eviction from their homes on 1100-1132 Exposition Blvd, near the USC campus.

The residents are predominantly working-class, black, and Latino. Many have lived in the buildings for years. Some depend on Section 8 to afford their rent, while others had only recently been homeless until offered housing through the Second Dwelling Unit Pilot Program, a County transitional housing program. Among their number are severely disabled and terminally ill tenants.

On 29 September 2017, the seven buildings—one block west of Vermont and but a stone's throw from the USC campus— were purchased by Chung Suk Kim (김정석) and Hae Jung Kim (김해정) for $8.5 million. Two weeks after the purchase, the 80 or so tenants living in the buildings received 60- and 90-day eviction notices. Given the buildings are not under the city's Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO), which would have offered a modicum of protections, the landlords were under no obligation to inform the tenants of the reason for their eviction. They were provided one anyway: their eviction notices stated that the apartments would be remodeled and rented exclusively to USC students.

These vulnerable residents are about to be cast out into a rental housing market hostile to the poor in a city suffering an unprecedented housing crisis, and just a short walk from one of the country's wealthiest institutions of higher learning.

As students, staff, and faculty, we reject USC's claim that the university's presence creates sustainable benefits for South Central LA residents. Instead, it is clear that USC is complicit in the displacement of the local community. The situation facing Exposition tenants is but one example of a consistent pattern of gentrification that forces long-time residents out of their homes. Though the University media relations department claims that in 2017 USC "increased its student housing inventory by 35 percent to help reduce pressure on the local market," this alleged "reduction in pressure" didn't stop landlords Chung Suk Kim (김정석) and Hae Jung Kim (김해정) from trying to evict their tenants during the 2017 holiday season.

As Capital & Main noted last December, after the Exposition tenants' first direct action:

It's not hard to see the attraction of eviction to a landlord: One-bedroom units across the street, marketed to USC students, go for $1,500; a two-bedroom goes for $2,500. Those are prices that current residents — primarily working-class black and Latino families — cannot afford.

As students, workers, and professors at USC, we abhor this gentrification. We will not be bystanders to the forced removal of black and brown, working class, and immigrant tenants from South Central. We stand in solidarity with the voices of tenants like Christine who explains, "I have had two strokes, so it's very difficult for me to find a [new] place [...] This has to stop." We hear you, Christine, and we promise to fight alongside you to stop your forced eviction.

Not in our name will the Kims profit off of the displacement of black and brown families , some of whom might be forced to live on the streets, by charging rents unaffordable to many residents in our neighborhood—all in order to make room for USC students.

Not in our name will USC make further empty promises , such by establishing a "Civic Engagement Housing Law Clinic" whose listed contacts are unhelpful and unresponsive not only to tenants themselves, but even to the school's own press.

Not in our name will USC accelerate the process of gentrification by sinking $700 million into a USC Village that does nothing to improve the lives of longtime members of the South Central community—quite the opposite. It is not only that these new spaces are unwelcoming and offer few goods or services of local value. With the neighborhood suddenly saturated with thousands of new student-residents, they bring expensive tastes and purchasing power that cannot be reconciled with local community needs. Developers, speculators, and businesses clearly prefer the frivolous spending habits of USC undergraduates and care little for anyone that gets in the way of access to their considerably thicker wallets.

We call upon the USC administration to uphold its responsibility to the local community. We call upon USC to fulfill its Good Neighbors commitment by condemning the evictions of the Exposition tenants. We call upon USC to leverage its financial resources to ensure that local residents have access to safe and truly affordable housing.

There is power in numbers. As members of the USC community, we intend on building power with the people most affected by USC-driven gentrification: working-class black, Latino, immigrant, disabled, and long-term tenants. They will guide us in this fight. We encourage all USC students, staff, and faculty to not be complacent toward their struggle.

JOIN US

In Solidarity,

The Coalition Against Gentrification
Asian Pacific American Student Assembly (APASA)
Muslim Student Union
Queer & Ally Student Assembly (QuASA)
Student Assembly for Gender Empowerment (SAGE)
Student Coalition for Asian Pacific Empowerment (SCAPE)
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)
USC Faculty Resistance
USC Forward
Young Democratic Socialists of America at USC (YDSA)


FURTHER READING

The following links are to the donation site for the tenants’ legal defense fund, articles that provide more context about the evictions, and more information about gentrification.

Tenants Legal Fund

Please consider donating to the tenants' GoFundMe, which goes towards defraying the costs of their legal services: Click Here to Donate

Background and News Coverage

Berzack, Warren. "Proposed Student Housing Community: 1-1/2 Blocks from USC * Non Rent-Controlled." Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate, Date Unknown. http://www.lee-re.com/property/1100_1132exposition/downloads/brochure.pdf

Davis, Charles. "USC Neighbors Face Eviction as Landlords Make Way for 'Rich Kids.'" Capital & Main (blog), December 12, 2017. https://capitalandmain.com/usc-neighbors-face-eviction-as-landlords-make-way-for-rich-kids-1212.

George. "USC Neighbors Face Eviction From New Owners." Canyon News (blog), December 31, 2017. http://www.canyon-news.com/usc-neighbors-face-eviction-new-owners/75254.

White, Beverly. "South LA Residents Face Eviction in Favor of USC Housing." NBC Southern California. Accessed April 18, 2018. http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/South-Los-Angeles-Residents-Face-Evictions-Amid-the-Holidays-By-New-Complex-Owners-USC-Housing-Units-462986683.html.

USC and Gentrification

Cohrs, Rachel. "USC Promised Millions in Community Benefits with the Village. Did It Deliver?" Arc Publishing, January 24, 2018. http://www.uscannenbergmedia.com/2018/02/22/special-report-usc-promised-millions-in-community-benefits-with-the-village-did-it-deliver/.

Herstik, Lauren. "U.S.C. Expands in a 'Neglected' Neighborhood, Promising Jobs and More." The New York Times, August 15, 2017, sec. Commercial Real Estate. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/realestate/commercial/usc-village-los-angeles-campus.html.

Khouri, By Andrew. "Soaring Home Prices Spur a Resurgence near USC." latimes.com. Accessed April 18, 2018. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-property-report-20140501-story.html.

What Is Gentrification?

Defend Boyle Heights. "FAQ: On Defend Boyle Heights." FAQ: On Defend Boyle Heights (blog). Accessed April 18, 2018. http://defendboyleheights.blogspot.com/p/frequently-asked-questions.html.

School of Echoes. "School of Echoes Anti-Gentrification Syllabus." School of Echoes Anti-Gentrification Syllabus, 2017. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0By2RlMxWIdp0d0toWm5qLU9FU3M/view?usp=sharing&usp=embed_facebook.