The roads in the City of Angels are paved with gold. Or so they say.
Anyone who’s taken even a passing glance at the condition of Westwood’s streets would guffaw at the suggestion that our roads are anywhere close to legendary. The only thing remotely glamorous about the roads in Westwood are the unlucky cars that use them.
Just this past August, two bicyclists were injured at the same spot on the intersection of Westwood and Wilshire boulevards.
Recently, a lecturer crashed into a Ford Escalade at 15 mph because of a pothole on Tiverton Avenue. And I’ve witnessed countless minor accidents involving tripping or twisting an ankle on rocky roads and sidewalks.
One of the main reasons North Village streets ““ the worst in Westwood ““ are in such ill repair is probably because most undergraduates live in off-campus housing for a maximum of three years. The long-term resident, at first glance, has much more at stake than a college student who sees “home” as any place but Westwood.
However, transitory college students have just as much at stake as their permanent counterparts. Despite the fact that Village maintenance is not UCLA’s responsibility, the Village is an undeniable extension of UCLA itself. It’s home to thousands of UCLA students, faculty and employees. It’s where prospective students and their families wander through when considering UCLA.
It’s what rival schools see when they compete here. We don’t need it to look like a dump.
And just because we’re here for a short time doesn’t mean we should have to compromise our quality of life. We actually pay more to live here than homeowners, since as renters, the only investment we’re making is our education.
Getting the roads paved and sidewalks fixed in Westwood is difficult, and the lack of student pressure is part of the problem. But how can students be expected to put pressure on the local government when there is no good forum for them to voice their concerns? In fact, there’s hardly a decent forum for any Westwood resident.
The Westwood Neighborhood Council was elected this past June by a handful of residents, and is supposed to advise the Los Angeles City Council on Westwood’s needs. Sixteen of the 19 recently elected members are members of the “Team Westwood” slate, which pledged myriad general improvements in the neighborhood. Yet after perusing the slate’s website, I was shocked to see that not one of them had put the glaring issue of road repavement on their agenda.
If some council members don’t think paving the streets is a pressing matter, students ought to remind them that it very much is. The council should take the initiative to create a discussion board-based forum particularly for students, and campus organizations such as the Undergraduate Student Association Council should follow by publicizing the site. In the past, USAC has pushed for crosswalks and stoplights. Why not road repavement, too?
Such a forum would provide an easy way for students to speak up, as well as a convenient, cost-efficient way for the Westwood Neighborhood Council to cite residents’ needs to the L.A. City Council. And since sidewalk repair is usually the responsibility of the adjacent homeowner, the forum would also provide a way for students living in the same buildings to collectively ask their management for repairs.
The only way for students to currently make their opinions heard is by attending one of the council’s monthly meetings at the Blair House in the Wilshire Corridor, or by calling 311 to submit maintenance requests to the Bureau of Street Services. Brent Gaisford, a member of the council and a third-year economics student, said if students actually showed up to meetings, the chance of getting the roads repaired would increase.
This type of forum, however, seems ideal for older residents and homeowners who have more time and greater mobility. The Blair House is located in a place of privilege; the Wilshire Corridor is wealthier than and far from the North Village. Because many students do not have cars and must work around class schedules, an online forum would be greatly beneficial to them as well as other residents with busy schedules.
Our pockmarked streets and sidewalks are hazardous and belie the reputation of Westwood and UCLA as a vibrant hotbed of culture and world-class facilities. Bruins deserve better, and with enough organization and a little enabling, we can certainly make it happen.