Monday, September 24

City council to replace Westwood board members exceeding term limits

A Los Angeles City Council member plans to replace three members of the Westwood Community Design Review Board, including its chair, who have served for longer than their term limits allow, city officials said earlier this month.

Chair Terri Tippit has served on the review board for 22 years, despite a written limit of two four-year terms, said Paul Neuman, spokesperson for council member Paul Koretz, in an email statement. He added Koretz, who represents Westwood, and his staff members are currently reviewing applications for a replacement.

The review board advises the director of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission and consults on the exterior aesthetics of Westwood buildings, said Sheila Gershon, a review board planning deputy and planning assistant at the Los Angeles Department of City Planning. The board consists of five to seven members, two of whom are licensed architects.

Architect Michael Webb, a 37-year Westwood resident, said Tippit fails to satisfy a requirement that states all members must reside, work or operate a business within the review board’s controlling area.

Webb submitted a complaint to the city attorney’s office one year ago protesting the illegality of Tippit’s position. He said he also fought to preserve the historical significance and exterior of a building on Landfair Avenue when developers wanted to renovate the exterior.

Tippit refused to resign when Christopher Koontz, former LA planning deputy, first addressed the issue in March 2010, said Steve Sann, chair of the Westwood Community Council.

Tippit declined to comment.

Gershon added she thinks it is difficult to find enough replacements for review board members because so many of them are out-termed, leaving many spots to be filled. Also, out-termed members are not immediately removed because enough members must be present to make quorum or the board loses jurisdiction.

Webb said he thinks Westwood will fail to maintain its historical value if the board does not replace its outdated members soon.

“It’s as if a president decided he liked his job too much to resign,” Webb said. “When people stay too long, the entire operation grows stale and harmful because developers aren’t pushed to create imaginative buildings.”

The review board is tasked with reviewing building designs presented by developers, Gershon said. After public comment, the review board questions the applicant and either recommends the project move forward or returns the plans for further changes.

“We want to see designs that are tailored to the area and bring out the community’s best features,” Gershon said. “Westwood Village is unique because it has beautiful cultural resources and is influenced by Mediterranean and Spanish colonialism and revival architecture.”

Webb said he thinks the review board doesn’t make an effort to disapprove unqualified buildings.

“Review board members allow for anything to be built,” Webb said. “Developers think students don’t deserve anything more than a prison cell strictly to sleep in. As a result, most of the housing units look like dumb boxes.”

Shahab Ghods, an architect from Plus Architects who proposed plans for a new building on Kelton Avenue at a review board meeting, said he thinks many developers and architects have bad experiences with the review board because board members fail to consider historical context and usage guidelines dictated by the Westwood Specific Plan.

The 27-year-old specific plan divides Westwood into four areas and aims to maintain a diverse environment that serves students, retailers, office employees and residents.

Andrew Thomas, executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, also known as the BID, said the review board has a reputation as one of the strongest boards in the city. He added he thinks the time commitment can deter people from serving on the review board.

“It can be difficult to find dedicated volunteers who are willing to give their time to such long meetings,” Thomas said.

Contributing reports by Kristen Hardy, Bruin staff.

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Janae Yip is currently a news contributor covering Westwood, transportation and Los Angeles.

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