North Westwood Neighborhood Council Holds First Meeting
By Sam Catanzaro
Westwood Village, part “college town” part bustling commercial center, is one of the more unique districts on the Westside, where people from all walks of life interact on a daily basis. On a given night, a group of UCLA students heading to In-N-Out could walk by George Clooney attending a premiere at the Fox Theater while tourists from around the world snap photos.
With this confluence of people and interests comes a unique set of issues for Westwood Village. Whether parking shortages, housing costs or development guidelines, at times local lawmakers may not be able to address these issues adequately. A new neighborhood council, however, seeks to serve all of Westwood Village’s diverse stakeholders.
Until November 7, Westwood Village, along with the rest of Westwood including UCLA, was under the jurisdiction of the Westwood Neighborhood Council (WWNC). Many UCLA students, faculty, staff and Westwood Village stakeholders felt the WWNC was not meeting their concerns and interests and earlier this year voted to create a new neighborhood council, the North Westwood Neighborhood Council (NWWNC).
“We the stakeholders of North Westwood deserve a council that represents us and works to address the needs of our community,” said newly elected NWWNC President Michael Skiles in a September interview with Century City Westwood News. “We need a council that’s focused on building housing catered to students walking to campus.”
The NWWNC Board is composed of one homeowner, one renter, two general residents, one member of the business community, one UCLA undergraduate student, one UCLA graduate student, one UCLA staff or administrative member, one UCLA faculty member, one worker, two active members of the community and three at-large seats open to any eligible stakeholder.
This new council’s boundaries go from Hilgard Avenue to Veteran Avenue east to west and Sunset Boulevard to Wilshire Boulevard north to south. The NWWNC and the WWNC share jurisdiction over the Los Angeles Fire Department Station 37, UCLA Outpatient Rehabilitation Services and the Westwood Branch Library.
On November 7, the NWWNC held its first official meeting, initiated by Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz swearing in the 19 board members. Koretz represents Westwood Village for Los Aneles City Council. Neighborhood councils receive advance notice of issues and projects going before Los Angeles City Council and his office told Century City Westwood News that the formation of the NWWNC will increase the community’s voice at the legislative level. There is also a monetary advantage that comes along as well.
“A new Neighborhood Council means more funding for the Westwood Village area. It also means more perspectives and more public input and that is always a good thing,” said Alison Simard, the Director of Communications for Councilmember Koretz.
According to Gibson Nyambura, NWWNC’s repseretnive from the Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, the neighborhood council is granted $42,000 annually to invest in the community through initiatives and events.
Andrew Thomas, Executive Director for the Westwood Village Improvement Association (WVIA), hopes to work together with the new neighborhood council in ways to benefit both businesses and students.
“We are hopeful that the WVIA and the NWWNC can raise their combined voices to improve the business climate in Westwood. We believe that meeting this goal will benefit not only our businesses and commercial property owners, but all of our stakeholders including visitors, UCLA students, renters, and homeowners,” Thomas said.
Skiles a Philosophy Ph.D. Candidate at UCLA told Century City Westwood News that he could not legally speak to what NWWNC hopes to accomplish, but did say that working to advocate for both Westwood Village businesses and UCLA students is a goal of his.
“I hope and expect that the council will work with Koretz and [the Los Angeles Department of] City Planning to pursue changes to make it easier for businesses and housing developments to come into Westwood,” Skiles said.
Now that NWWNC is officially operating, Thomas said he would like to see the council to use its influence and advocate for issues pertaining to food uses and parking requirements in Westwood Village. The Westwood Village Specific Plan (WVSP) governs much of business and development in Westwood Village, and Thomas believes that much about this plan does not reflect the needs of stakeholders.
“We would like them to take supportive positions on issues the WVIA has already raised including amending the Westwood Village Specific Plan (WVSP) definitions for food uses and also the WVSP parking requirements that do nothing to add to our parking inventory but do serve to prevent tenant use changes and development in our district,” Thomas said. “We plan to talk more about mobility, access, zoning and also a complete rewrite of the WVSP.”