This article was originally posted in La Opinión.
Faced with strong opposition from some neighbors, the University of Southern California (USC) announced last week that it withdrew its plan to acquire a segment of Hazard Park in Boyle Heights to build a road connecting Norfolk and Soto streets.
“We decided to make the street on our property (adjacent to Hazard Park) and not take the park’s terrain,” said Martha Escutia, vice president of government relations at USC, who explained that the next step will be to present this new proposal to residents and area leaders.
A month ago, La Opinión reported the dissatisfaction of Boyle Heights residents with USC’s ambitious plans for the Health Sciences campus, which plans to build a hotel, a store and student houses, over a period of 25 years.
“We’ll see if they are happy. I think so,” said Escutia, referring to the neighbors who oppose giving up a part of Hazard Park for a street, attributing the lack of green areas in the eastside of Los Angeles and security problems by the increase of car traffic.
Sonia Lopez, who lives opposite the park, is cautious about USC’s commitment. “I hope it’s true and that they do not do say this and continue their project under the table. We have not seen anything on paper, ” she said.
To improve the entrance to its three hospitals, USC had proposed connecting Norfolk and Soto streets through a park area where handball courts stand, in exchange for investing $35 million in playgrounds, tennis, gym remodeling , sidewalks and walkways.
Escutia, who was a state legislator from 1992-2006, said adding improvements to the park is still being considered, but stressed that they will hear the ideas of residents, activists and local leaders. “We are seeing the suggestions to be presented in a package of proposals for the benefit of the community,” said Escutia. “This is the first step to beautifying the area,” she added .
Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes the park, said in August that the USC plan will not get the green light until there is sufficient participation and dialogue between the community, the institution and its office. At the end, he stressed, the full council will approve or reject the project.
Lopez now calls for forward measures to prevent accidents on the road proposed by USC, warning that Soto is a difficult road. “We will remain vigilant,” she said