July 18, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Meet The Westside: Q-and-A With West Los Angeles-Sawtelle Neighborhood Council

10271494_804519219610865_8247557554230568912_nThe West Los Angeles-Sawtelle neighborhood is a popular, fast-changing quarter on the Westside, with varying establishments that reflect the encyclopedic cultures present. From the restaurants, markets, and karaoke bars on Sawtelle Blvd. to the historic landmarks and traditions, it’s easy to immerse yourself in the rich history and trendy draw of the area.

So, who are the people who keep Japantown in shape?

It’s the West Los Angeles-Sawtelle Neighborhood Council (WLASNC), certified on October 3, 2003 to serve every person having a stake within its borders.

With a district that covers from Wilshire Boulevard to the 10 Freeway, and from the 405 Freeway to the City of Santa Monica border, 15 boardmembers work to provide representation and advocacy for the diverse interests of all stakeholders within the boundaries.

More specifically, the objectives of the WLASNC are: To offer a forum for the discussion and review of issues and projects of interest to the “West Los Angeles Neighborhood;” to offer a forum to engage all West Los Angeles stakeholders to collaborate and deliberate on matters affecting this community; to assist and serve as an advisory body to government agencies on issues relating to the West Los Angeles Neighborhood; and to monitor the delivery of city services and to make recommendations to the Los Angeles City Council regarding budgetary issues.

Representative Greg Eriksen of the WLASNC spoke to Westside Today about the West LA-Sawtelle Neighborhood and all that it accomplishes within the community.

What makes your neighborhood unique?

The West LA-Sawtelle Neighborhood is a diverse and eclectic neighborhood with a rich history representing many cultures like Japanese, Persian, and Oaxacan. Older Japanese inspired houses with bonsai trees are now juxtaposed by modern apartments and new businesses. Regardless of the changes, our community embraces diversity and celebrates our history and cultures with amazing festivals like the Obon festival, Asian Cultural Bazaar, or Oaxacan Festival of Tejate.

Councilmember Mike Bonin (right) at the Sawtelle Japantown celebration in March. Photos via Facebook.com/WestLASawtelleNC.
Councilmember Mike Bonin (right) at the Sawtelle Japantown celebration in March. Photos via Facebook.com/WestLASawtelleNC.

In addition to our rich culture, West LA represents is home to many historic locations: the West LA Courthouse an iconic skateboarding location which was re-opened to skateboarders with the help of Nike in 2012; the Nuart Theatre built in 1929 popular for the midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show; and home to Village Studios which has recorded alums for legends like Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, B. B. King and Bob Dylan to current artists like Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Taylor Swift and John Mayer. West LA may seem like just another neighborhood as people drive through to go to Santa Monica, but we are becoming a trendy destination as people come to our historic destinations and places like Sawtelle Blvd. to enjoy amazing food at one of the many restaurants in the area.

Describe the different committees or board members that encompass WLASNC.

The neighborhood council has various committees dealing with public safety, planning and development issues, traffic, homelessness, mobility, and city budget. Committee meetings are the heart of our neighborhood council where ideas to improve our communities are first developed and then presented to the Board of Directors. All meetings are opportunities for you to voice your concerns and find solutions to issues that impact our community.

What is the biggest issue facing the area or stakeholders today?

Homelessness and development are two of the most constant issues that the area and stakeholders are facing. The WLASNC has struggled with the issue of homelessness, but we are determined to bring together leaders, residents, and stakeholders to raise awareness and create new opportunities for engagement.

In regard to development, with the increasing popularity of Sawtelle Blvd. and the redevelopment of Santa Monica Blvd. the neighborhood is seeing drastic changes along with a considerable increase in development. While the neighborhood benefits from new, small businesses opening and world class restaurants, we also see an increase in traffic.

What policies is the council advocating for in West L.A. today?

We continue to advocate for our homeless veterans and those in poverty. In March 2015, the neighborhood council formed a Homelessness Committee and also submitted a grant request to hire a part-time outreach staff member to help homeless individuals get into housing. We are working with Council District 11 to get much-needed supplies for the Westside Winter Shelter Program, which offers hundreds of homeless people on the Westside a warm bed. We have been working with L.A. Veterans Affairs to provide feedback on the West L.A. VA Campus master plan and ensure that veterans have access to the care they need.

Finally, we will be participating in the Los Angeles Homeless Count January 2016 to count the homeless to get them the help and housing they need. These are some of the ways our neighborhood council is getting involved to address this very critical issue, not only in West L.A., but all of Los Angeles.

What is the council’s position on the minimum wage increase?

No position.

If you had one wish that you would want the City to fix, what would it be?

We would want the City to fix the issues around access to affordable housing and accountability of developers. Current laws do not achieve affordable housing objectives; first, we would want the City to work to reform affordable housing system and laws. Second, we would want the City to create better systems to hold developers accountable to promises they make to and ensure that requirements on a completed project are enforced.

What was the biggest news story to come out of your area in the past few years?

The neighborhood council had two recent big stories the past two years. In June 2014, the neighborhood council in partnership with the City and Nike reopened the West L.A. Courthouse to skateboarders. A desolate area of the neighborhood was transformed into a safe, fun area for kids and adults to come skateboard.

And in March 2015, the area around Sawtelle Blvd. was officially name Sawtelle Japantown by City Council as a historical commemoration of the Japanese people who settled near Sawtelle over 100 years ago.

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