L.A. diary


July 1997



[the past]






South Central is loosely defined, but the campus of the University of Southern California is somewhere in that area.

The L.A. Times wrote the day after my arrival that "USC has an ambivalent relationships with its poor neighborhoods, especially since the riots in 1993". The article was about the building of an entrance to the university for a couple of million dollars - also as a symbol of opening the campus to the neighbourhood. "The gate, however, will be guarded and closed at night."

The campus is fortified by a steel fence. The seven gates are guarded, at night nearly all of them are closed. Security is tight, even the parking lots are protected with metal pikes that cause "severe tire damage" to any vehicle that may enter the wrong way.

Since I can't live on campus, I intended to look for an apartment close to campus. The estimates for this are mixed:

  • Ed Hovy of the Information Science Institute described the area as "nasty" and pointed out the empty spaces: "Four years ago, there were gas stations. During the riots, some crazy people drove by and threw petrol bombs."

  • A mother, after hearing that her daughter will only find a place in university housing north of campus: "That's bad news.". The staff member in the housing office, a strong black man, smiled, pointed at the map: "Yeah, but that's where I lived, when I started to study here."

  • Seymour Ginsburg of the Computer Science Department told me that I should not look more south: "your skin has the wrong color".
The area north of campus is called "North University Park": a shopping mall with movie theater, a huge mosque, town houses and small apartment buildings. Some of the USC operated housing facilities are there, among other privately rented buildings.

I will take a closer look the next days.