A proposed research facility at USC’s Health Science Campus in Boyle Heights has some residents concerned that the facility is just another instance of a decades-long wave of gentrification.

Approximately 50 protestors demonstrated against the proposed seven-story, 202,000-square-foot Discovery and Translation Hub, a research and laboratory space that would include a lecture hall, a café, a vending area, a biorepository, a medical chemistry core lab, and a variety of collaborative spaces.

Protestors are concerned that the university’s rapid expansion and the infusion of more affluent researchers will eventually displace residents of the Boyle Heights, Ramona Gardens, and El Sereno neighborhoods.

Cinthia Gonzales, a community organizer with the anti-gentrification group Eastside Leads, stated, “For more than 100 years, USC has come into our communities of South Central and Boyle Heights expanding their campuses without any accountability to our laborers, workers or community needs. We say no more.”

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Another protestor and former resident, Vetelio Frances, 73, who recently had to move to Lancaster because of rising prices, said, “They want to build their facility here, which will bring in more people, and houses and rentals are already out of reach for the community that has lived here for years.” He added, “At this age, it isn’t possible to move [to another city] and start over.”

The Los Angeles City Planning Commission met on Thursday and discussed the proposed facility.

Dr. Thomas Buchanan, vice dean for research at the USC Keck School of Medicine, argued that the facility is part of the university’s commitment to serving local communities, noting that he has spent the last 30 years studying Type 2 diabetes in young Latina women.

Dr. Buchanan explained that the intention of the facility is “to expand our ability to improve the health [and] address health disparities of our communities through research.”

Many voices were raised during the public meeting, including community members, construction unions, including Laborers’ Local 300, USC medical staff, the Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce, and the Lincoln Heights Chamber of Commerce.

A cancer survivor, Luce Lopez, expressed her gratitude for the treatment she received at Keck Hospital. Having lost her son to diabetes, she believes her “grandchildren deserve a hospital like Keck Hospital.”

“They will grow up in a world that will have more medical options, and I know the research at this building will save many lives,” Lopez said.

Samantha Millman, the president of the planning commission, called for a deeper look into the problem of gentrification.

“I see that USC is making their commitments that I am sure will be followed through on because it’s the reputation of USC at stake when you don’t, but it doesn’t end with USC to solve these huge systemic issues of gentrification that we are seeing in our communities.”

The planning commission pushed the discussion of USC’s conditional use permit back to its December 7 meeting because more research needed to be done on the facility’s effect on housing costs and the environment.