Activists say USC beautification plan will leave an ugly impact on Boyle Heights park

View Norfolk St & Playground St in a larger map

USC wants to improve access and raise the profile of its Health Science Campus, a  complex of hospitals, medical facilities, classrooms and research labs that spreads across a hillside immediately north of  the L.A. County-USC Medical Center in Boyle Heights.  Part of a $3.5 million USC Health Campus Beautification plan would to widen and extend Norfolk Street on the eastern edge of the campus to Soto Street, where a “primary gateway” with monument signs would be built to increase the public presence of the nearly 80-acre campus. But extending Norfolk Street means disturbing portions of Hazard Park, which does not sit well with some residents,  according to the Mayor Sam blog.

While the university plans to plant street trees and add decorative brick pavement and other features, some residents say the plan will mean the loss of mature trees and ball courts. Ray Rios of the Hillside Village Property Owners Association said in a Facebook post:

This would entail that they cut through a portion of Hazard Park, crossing the natural “Wetlands,” knocking down the handball courts, and bring their traffic through the park. Why? To make it more convenient for their employees and patients to access their medical facilities. If you do not agree with USC’s plans, please attend and voice your opposition.

The project is scheduled to be discussed tonight, Wednesday, Dec. 5,  at 6:30  p.m. at a community meeting at the Hazard Park Recreation Center.


  1. USC should do this upgrade and beautification. That area immediately around the health science campus is pretty run down, dirty, and depressing. Any improvement is welcome.

    • Wrong. Just because a place may be run down in your opinion doesn’t mean it isn’t loved and appreciated by others. Also, a roadway is not a “park use”, which is not allowed by the Los Angeles City Charter. The park may be “run down” now but that doesn’t mean it will be in the future.

      No to sacrificing parkland to roadways.

  2. Boyle Heights rez

    @MHR, you remind of the colonize- I mean “advocates” of the Village in South L.A. that won’t even pony up more affordable housing units. Do you live in Boyle Heights? Please do not call another person’s home and community “dirty” or “depressing” such comments demonstrate your ignorance towards the current use of the park and show your pretentious attitude towards low income families’ access to wide green/recreational spaces.

    The community deserves a HUGE say in this project and people need to REMEMBER: Boyle Heights and South L.A. were there before USC and will continue to be there even if USC left.

    • OK, I’ll chose some other fitting words for that area: downtrodden, depleted, sad, grimy, gritty. USC’s interest in improving the area is a godsend considering no one else is stepping up to offer up one penny. People should look to this opportunity and be thankful and appreciative.

      • Your way of looking at this issue is so myopic and uninformed. Just because USC is undertaking a project doesn’t mean it will automatically “better” the community.

        Communities on the Eastside of L.A. have constantly been used and abused by way of the CRA, Cal Trans, and government development agencies in general (e.g. more freeways running through the eastside than anywhere else in the country, equaling malignant pollution).

        Gain some historical context before you assume you know what’s better for my community–otherwise, you end up sounding largely naive and in need of education on this issue.

        Community input is a must.

    • Actually, USC has been in South LA as long as South LA has existed. So you might want to check your facts. Too many people think USC “invaded” South LA and always lambast the school for “not leaving the ghetto.” The truth is, USC has been in it’s location since 1880 — so who invaded what, actually?

      Also, I would hope that residents would welcome this. A developed, opened walkway would be a strong deterrent for gang activity and crime; can’t say the same about a park.

  3. Just knock down the hazard projects, this will help get rid of some of the gang problem.

  4. see, i live in boyle heights and little by little gentrification is taking over, a park will always be a park were students, little kids, older folks and every other person in the community uses. i love that park my sister plays in that park, i exercise at the park , my grandmother walks the dog at the park, my brother palys football in that park, my mom and have picnics in that park. So by someone saying that the park is downgrading to the USC facility, they should also see that this park is to service the community and sadly many emplyees at the USC facilty do not live in that community so they are not beneficial of that park, yet the people of the community are. So , this raises an alarming question for who is this project meant, for the community or for the rich? wow, shockers that although many of you know the answer you choose not to see the answer just a simple put payvement over trees instead of fixing the park and making it a better place. Jose orea age 22 ELAC student

  5. Boyle Height Resident & USC student

    From an insider point of view on both ends of the spectrum, I agree that USC should make the push for developments as such. I believe that USC’s values are reflected upon their plans of expanding their space to provide for the community. Their expansion will not only benefit their (our) education but it will also trickle back into our local hospital which many of our underserved families receive medical treatment.

    • It could potentially be a win-win situation, but it comes down to the immediate community having its say with regards to this matter. Whether you are a Boyle Heights resident or not, unless you live within a few blocks of Hazard Park, it may not directly affect you like it will affect people who live within the immediate area. That is why it comes down to community input for people who live immediately by and people who frequent said park.

      The other issue is the loss of green space in an area which is already lacking much green space relative to other parts of the city.

  6. Boyle Height Resident & USC student

    As a Boyle Heights resident and USC student i strongly support this development. I believe that the changes that will be made to the park are slim to none. I don’t understand how anyone would think that this would affect the “Rich” if the developments for USC’s space specifically trickle back to boyle heights residents. FYI most of our residents receive treatment from the General hospital which USC medical students intern/do their residency at little to no pay. USC’s development would not only improve their facilities for research and further the well-being of our community. I am proud to be a trojan and a boyle heights resident and I would love to see how they can contribute to the community. Public funding won’t support public health care so private institutions like USC have to take on the task. USC has always been about giving back to the community and reaching out to underserved communities so I can’t argue with that. -Montse 🙂

  7. why make a street how will that help the community …. having more pavement instead of trees will not help the community it will only make it easier for usc to make more room for buildings is that what we want instead of a park that can be beautified in many ways? in my opinion this is just a way to expand usc and since there is no more room in its surroundings was best idea was to build on a park ? more buildings less trees wow

    • Boyle Height Resident & USC student

      The map says it all. No trees will be chopped down, because there are no trees in that area. Per the map above, it will not affect the park in its entirety. it will affect an area that is occupied by concrete and weeds. Its not like they want to make the street down the middle of the park. If people take the time to look closely the area where they want to extend the street is not accessible to park-goers anyway. The land is not being used .

  8. the hand ball couts would ahve to be torn down and many trees as well and yes it is accessible to people and if read carefully portion of the park were very old trees are will have to be torn down to make a wide street with sidewalks and so called monuments …

  9. East LA born Trojan

    This is called an OPPORTUNITY. Instead of condemning it too quickly or praising it without review, look at the opportunity here. Make a deal where everyone wins:
    -Give USC its improved access and beautified street and public walkways to campus.
    -Give Hazard Park / Community improvements to the rest of the park in exchange for a very small piece of fairly unkempt area at the fringe next to a garage / parking area. These improvements could include redoing some of the other facilities such as the baseball field, benches, etc. In addition to the trees and other elements USC is already proposing.

    Could we take a step back from the hyperbole of “USC is stealing our park” and see the opportunity to make a win-win here?

    • I have a better Idea, give that trashy building and the rest of the block to Hazard Park , then we can talk Community improvements.

  10. I’m going to give USC the benifit of the doubt and say that I think if they plan to improve/change the park we should welcome it. The city doesn’t have funds to improve the park so having sc pay the bill helps the city’s budget. Plus It’s my impression that when USC does invole themselfs in community changes they do a good job. In s.la there are a bunch of historic homes that sc restored, they did a beautiful job and everyone benifited from their efforts. I can’t see them ruining the area only improving it because they’re a part of our community and they know that. This isn’t like some outside organization coming in and changing things, this is a organization with old ties to the community. I’m confident they will be responsible and any changes will be well thought out and will be a benifit to the area.

  11. I have been a resident of Boyle Heights for over fifty years. I was born and raised right across the street from Hazard Park. I still remember the when city politicians made a deal to trade off Hazard Park to the build a Veteran’ Hospital for some land in Westwood. The community rose up unbelievably strong and began to fight for their park. The movement became know as “Save Hazard Park” movement. The community rose up and fought until then Mayor Sam Yorty and the city council repealed the deal. USC has always been the monster that the community watched out for and now this hungry lion is on the prowl again, devouring the weak. Yes they are interested in helping the community. It’s just not ours. The only reason they want to develop and extend this street which is on the city’s development plan, is because it is a very convenient entrance way to their medical facilities. It is not because the want to help the community. The community and the park just happens to be in the path where their esteemed patients will be passing through. I attended last night’s community meeting. Within the first five minutes the USC representative made it perfectly clear how much respect they had for the community by informing that they are trying to be good neighbors and are paying for all costs of this extension voluntarily. We asked them what are they offering the community in return? Her answer was, ‘Trees” along the street. Oh, and the relocation of the handball courts. She made it very clear, that they (USC) were doing the community a favor. I thought wow, wait, let me think about this: A portion for our park for trees and traffic? Hmm…I’ll just keep the park. I would love to give USC the benefit of the doubt, and by the way I was also raised Trojan, but their track record with community relations is just about zero. They have never attempted to assist in beautifying the community or park prior to this. They offer no employment opportunities to the community, no medical treatment by their private hospitals, and have taken all community parking all around them, including Lincoln and Hazard Park. This plan has been in the works from the city’s side for over five months and even with this generous gesture of helping our community, the neglected to involve us. We haven’t even had the opportunity to make a trade off so they can have their street. I guess we weren’t important enough to notify.

    • “The only reason they want to develop and extend this street which is on the city’s development plan, is because it is a very convenient entrance way to their medical facilities. It is not because the want to help the community. ”

      And ask yourself, who will be using the medical facilities? Answer: the local community.

      “A portion for our park for trees and traffic? ”

      If you look on the proposed area they are going to work on, it’s just concrete and weeds. There aren’t any trees in the proposed area and are you really going to complain about traffic while living in a major city? This is a rather small facility so I highly doubt there will be major traffic issues and the fact that it’s adjacent to a park will encourage people to walk to the facility.

      ” They have never attempted to assist in beautifying the community or park prior to this.”

      Are you joking me?

      “They offer no employment opportunities to the community, no medical treatment by their private hospitals”

      Oh, it is a joke. I mean, you have to be extremely biased to ignore the work they do to the community.

      ” even with this generous gesture of helping our community, the neglected to involve us.”

      Then what was the public Dec 5th meeting at Hazard Park for? To discuss the most recent Laker game?

      • Make no mistake Wally West, this proposed street is primarily for those who are affiliated with USC and of course it will also benefit the community but the issue still remains that they are taking public space from a community for their benefit and telling the community that they are doing it for them. The meeting on December 5th was only to discuss where the community would like the handball courts relocated to after they put their street through the park, not to discuss how the community felt about having a street run through their park. That was already decided with little, if any, community input. In regards to medical services provided to the community by USC , it is the County USC Hospital that serves the community not USC. County serves the community because they accept anyone even the uninsured. Try to get someone with no medical insurance some treatment at the USC medical facilities. Guess where they’ll point you? The point is that USC cannot just take, especially parkland from any community without input and I fully understand that that portion is on the city’s master plan for future development but the community has also recognized that section as parkland since it’s creation in 1911. That’s close 100 years, doesn’t that warrant some community consideration? If I’m a bit bias, it’s because I was raised in this area and over the years have seen USC take everything in it’s path/our community and now they taking what is dear and precious to the hearts of residents, our scarce park land. It’s not right and we’ll continue to fight it.

  12. SAVE HAZARD PARK. There is already too much traffic on Soto St. USC already owns property which includes parking lots with many spaces in and around LA COUNTY/USC medical center and pubic transit and USC private shuttle buses. Do your part for the COMMUNITY and the PARK ENVIRONMENT and get out of your cars and use those services and familiarize yourself with the COMMUNITY you serve and benefit from. Keep your wealthy hands off the PUBLICS PARK and go improve your other properties that sit vacant and an eye sore to our COMMUNITY. I smell a RAT or is that ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT. I just had a great idea! How about getting rid of that trashy building and give the rest of the block to HAZARD PARK. I’m a genius and I didn’t even go to USC

  13. The funny thing is, USC has a lot of learning to do.

    They can’t just roll over a community and get what the heck they want. The community and surroundings may be poor but that is mainly because of bad planning policy.

    The zoning of the area allows for very little retail amenities and puts a residential neighborhood smack between ugly beat-down warehouses and the ugly backs of medical buildings. I can go on and on about pollution, noise from freeways and trains, trucks, delivery vans, other street traffic and helicopters this community must endure.

    If USC would take the time to plan carefully, the buildings they put up would look good from all directions, decreasing blight. They would address issues like traffic and parking. It is hard for locals to find parking or EVEN ACCESS Hazard Park let alone enjoy it.

    If USC wants to help the community while helping themselves they must truly go beyond throwing a few trees at us.

    This poor planning and lack of respect for the community should be addressed in the vast catalog of very expensive courses USC has to offer.

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