The rebirth of South L.A., including U.S.C.

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — “Disneyland meets Hogwarts at $700-million USC Village,” reads the Los Angeles Times headline describing one of the biggest developments in the history of South Los Angeles.

“Along with residential suites for more than 2,500 students — a nearly 25% expansion of campus housing for undergraduates — its six, five-story buildings hold a fitness center, classrooms, a dining hall and ground-floor retail spaces, open to the public, that include a Target and Trader Joe’s,” as the Times observes.

We toured USC Village and the campus this weekend with our son, and I found the new project covering 1.25-million square feet on a 15-acre site impressive, filling a needed gap. A USC report examining the coalitions that are “leading social, economic and political improvements in the area” is here.

1932 Olympic Games at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum (Credit: KCET.org)

I am familiar with this area, having visited it since childhood. It is undergoing a rebirth — preparing for the 2028 Olympic Games, the third time the city has hosted the event. USC has grown in stature too, with its well-regarded film, journalism, law and engineering schools, among others, and its new “village.”

“The Summer Games of the Tenth Olympiad were held in Los Angeles from July 30 through Aug. 14, 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression,” as KCET.org observes. “In 1932, as it did in the 1984, Los Angeles relied mostly on pre-existing facilities to house the various sporting events.”

When I was growing up in L.A. in the ’60s, we were regulars at the adjacent Memorial Coliseum for UCLA football games. We often would grab dinner at an Italian restaurant called Little Joe’s in downtown L.A. before heading out to the game. It was a favorite hangout of Hollywood stars.

When I worked at the L.A. bureau of Time magazine in ’81, in between graduating from Cal and going to graduate school at Northwestern, I visited USC to interview the famous USC song girls for a lifestyle article on college cheerleading in America. Their coach was Lindley Bothwell ’23, a founding USC Yell Leader. I thanked the bureau chief, Bill Rademaekers, for that assignment!

Santa Barbara Ave., circa 1910 (Credit: USC)

My mom’s grandfather lived in a bungalow on Santa Barbara Avenue (now Martin Luther King Blvd.) west of campus before he relocated to Balboa. Multiple streetcar and bus lines ran by the Coliseum, including Los Angeles Railway electric streetcar lines on Vermont and Santa Barbara.

Mom watched the ceremonies of the 1932 Olympic Games from the front porch of the home on Santa Barbara near the L.A. Coliseum.

The 2028 Olympic Games are ten years away, but Los Angeles is already gearing up to serve as host city for the third time since 1932. USC’s baseball stadium will be transformed into a temporary swimming and diving facility for the games. The arena that houses USC’s basketball and volleyball teams will be used for badminton competition. The USC Village is where members of the media will stay during the games.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

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