Jerry Brown said he will remember lengthy council meetings, heated controversies and major victories as he prepares to end his final term as president of the Westwood Neighborhood Council this month.
Brown, who has been president of the council since 2010, has been involved in controversial issues such as the implementation of a bus-only and bike lane in the Village. He will retire when the neighborhood council chooses a new president this month.
“It has certainly been an interesting six years,” Brown said. “Things have been achieved both with ease and with difficulty, but I have enjoyed getting to see more personally how the city works.”
The WWNC, established in 2010, advises the Los Angeles City Council and represents stakeholders and community members. The council meets monthly to discuss issues relative to Westwood Village and the surrounding neighborhood.
Brown said he thinks one of the council’s greatest accomplishments was preventing a public parking garage on Broxton Avenue from being sold or leased.
“The Broxton garage is an important part of the fabric of the Village, and I’m proud that we were able to save it,” he said.
Brown added he would have liked to see the implementation of a bike lane on Gayley Avenue through to its conclusion.
Other stakeholders initially suggested the bike lane be on Westwood Boulevard, but Brown advocated against it because he said traffic would make it unsafe. He said the council successfully opposed the bike lane at city hall last month, but the proposal has gone back to city council.
Brown said he was sometimes frustrated with the lack of influence or attention the city of Los Angeles gives the neighborhood council.
“The WWNC advises (councilman Paul Koretz), but if we do not have a solid working relationship with the councilman, then our input is sometimes disregarded or not received,” he said.
He also added he was disappointed the city planning department sometimes neglected to inform the WWNC of critical issues or votes.
Brown said he thinks the legislation process at the city level could be improved. The WWNC sometimes worked on an issue for months, but the council was only given a short time to present it when it came to voting in downtown, he said.
“Committees with more of a stake in a particular issue should have more time to present or share their opinion at the city level,” he said. “The one-minute allocation of time is an absurdity.”
Lisa Chapman, vice president of the WWNC, said she admires Brown for challenging the neighborhood council system.
“Jerry has been a thorn in the side of EmpowerLA and Councilman Koretz,” Chapman said. “The council can’t perform its advisory function if we’re not informed, and that’s a topic that needs to be hit home.”
EmpowerLA is a division of the Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment that oversees the neighborhood council system.
Brown said he thinks there should be a better dialogue between UCLA and the neighborhood.
“Most people believe UCLA is not as friendly or helpful as it could be toward its surroundings,” he said. “It does what it wants because it’s a massive state institution that doesn’t have to answer to the city.”
Brown said he thinks the next president of the WWNC must be flexible, patient, versatile and calm.
“There is always the potential for unruly council meetings, typically over land-use issues, but it’s important to keep a cool head,” he said. “The meetings tend to drag on because people want to express their viewpoints, but you have to listen to everyone.”
Although there has been backlash regarding his position against issues such as the bike and bus-only lanes in Westwood, Brown said politics is always controversial and he thinks he has done his best to improve Westwood.
Chapman said she thinks Brown’s experience has allowed him to respond maturely to council issues.
“I’ve learned a lot from Jerry,” she said. “He puts a great deal of study into things and then renders an opinion, which is good for younger members on our council to see.”
Andrew Thomas, executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, also known as Westwood’s Business Improvement District, said Brown should be proud of his service because leading a voluntary organization can be challenging.
“I always found Jerry to be fair,” he said. “He did an excellent job of managing the varying interests at the meetings.”
Though his time with the neighborhood council is over, Brown said he will continue to be involved in the homeowners’ association. He added he hopes to spend more time with his three children and nine grandchildren.
Brown added he has no regrets about his time as president of the council.
“I think we did as good a job as could have been done,” he said. “I don’t think my individual impact has been huge, but I hope people would say that I have made a difference.”