Students Visit Urban Village in City Heights, San Diego

By Cecilia Ngo

City Heights Farmers Market Students engage with local vendors at the Farmers’ Market.
Photo by Sokline Hing

The Asian Pacific Islander Caucus (APIC) – a student association at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy – organized a community development tour of City Heights, a diverse community in San Diego whose revitalization was a result of Sol Price’s efforts.

The tour, which took place March 3, was a collaboration with UCLA’s Southeast Asian Campus Learning Education and Retention (SEA CLEAR) project, a program that uses socio-political tours to help build undergraduate students’ understanding of community empowerment.

Students had the opportunity to visit two main sites — Wat Sovannkiri, a Theravada Buddhist temple, and the Urban Village, the central location of City Height’s redevelopment plan.

Antonio Figueroa UCLA student and local resident, Antonio Figueroa (center), shares his grandmother’s experience organizing for the Farmers’ Market.
Photo by Sokline Hing

During the Wat Sovannkiri visit, students discussed the importance of understanding the history of the people within the community in order to effectively plan community spaces.

The Urban Village visit included stops at the local Farmers’ Market, the recreation complex, and a walk around the housing and administrative developments which housed numerous nonprofit organizations, including Price Charities. Students learned about the city’s history and participated in discussions with local farmers in order to understand the role they played in maintaining a strong local economy.

Students also engaged in an exercise in which they separated into two groups — one side played the roles of community members, while the other represented planners. This exercise led to conversations about the unintended effects of gentrification and displacement through redevelopment.

The day-long tour not only provided the opportunity to visualize effective, real-world models for planning, but also as served as a valuable community building experience for the USC and UCLA students who collaborated with one another.