Gilda Haas

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Member, USC Master Plan Advisory Committee
Executive Director, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE)

Gilda Haas has been working to create a more equitable Los Angeles for the past 30 years. As the founding director of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), Haas has had to fill a number of diverse roles. She is an organizer, an educator, an urban planner and a proponent of economic development for low-income communities. This dexterity is one of the reasons why Haas was asked to be a member of the USC Master Plan Advisory Committee.

Founded in 1996, SAJE is an economic justice organization that represents working-class community members and is “dedicated to the principle that everyone has a right to benefit from the economy and the good things their cities have to offer.” Thus, Haas said that her responsibility on the advisory committee is to determine how the surrounding neighborhood will benefit from future USC development.

Haas said that there is nothing unusual about tension between working-class communities and large universities that expand into surrounding neighborhoods. “USC is hardly alone in that respect,” she added. “There are similar situations unfolding around the country. The fact that no one has really licked this problem should not be cause for discouragement, but rather a challenge we all embrace and solve together.”

What Haas hopes the advisory committee will accomplish is to help USC set a higher standard for campus development by producing a plan that views the surrounding community as an equal partner and a rich resource with a lot to offer. “If USC treats the community in this fashion, the benefits from USC’s next stage of development will provide a model for universities and cities around the country,” Haas said.