Tuesday, July 23

Jonathan Friedland: City councils should allow Westwood to achieve potential as college town

(Gwen Hollingsworth/Daily Bruin)

(Gwen Hollingsworth/Daily Bruin)

Think of a typical college town: bars and dispensaries galore, miles of bike lanes and stores that appeal to students. Now think of Westwood: two bars, virtually no bike lanes and full of niche stores like Sur La Table and Paper Source with almost no use for students.

The blame falls on the Westwood Neighborhood Council, which has favored high-end retailers instead of ones serving student interests. The council has a distinct lack of student representation, a problem made worse by the fact that it extended its member term length from two to four years.

Supply and demand principles should govern Westwood stores instead of the outlandish desire to see expensive, Beverly Hills-type retailers in a part of Los Angeles dominated by university students.

Related: LA City Council votes to move bike lane from Westwood Boulevard to Gayley

And the problem isn’t just with business. Last year, the neighborhood council opposed creating a bike lane on Westwood Boulevard. A bike lane would benefit students commuting from south of Wilshire Boulevard as well as people traveling to Westwood. Instead, the council somehow devised the logic that a bike lane would actually make the road more dangerous for cyclists. This is like saying, “Let’s not build lanes for cars; it’ll make the road more dangerous for them.” When pressed for explanation, Councilwoman Lisa Chapman did not respond for comment. Contact Chapman or Councilman Paul Koretz if you agree with this logic and give them a hearty congratulations for concocting something so bizarre.

Despite the recent statewide legalization of recreational marijuana, Westwood Neighborhood Council Vice President Sandy Brown opposes the opening of marijuana dispensaries in Westwood. She fears they would harm its retail scene. When pressed on the issue, Brown became defensive and said, “(Students) can’t own the town. The town needs to represent the people who pay the taxes.”

Except students are far from owning the town. If Brown doesn’t want to address students’ desires, she would be more fit to preside over the neighboring Century City where the median age is 46, not the vibrant, young Westwood with a median age of 27. Brown, along with the rest of the neighborhood council, needs to acknowledge Westwood’s plurality of students, better represent them and in turn, attract more students and their money to Westwood.

The neighborhood council should support a recreational marijuana dispensary in Westwood and stop foolishly dismissing an opportunity to raise money for the city, the county and the state, especially considering most marijuana users fall within Westwood’s college-dominated age range. Yet Brown believes she knows best for Westwood, all while disregarding the thousands of students who indirectly pay property taxes through apartment rent, sales tax on purchases and income tax on revenues.

The neighborhood council isn’t the only association trying to keep Westwood from becoming the college town it’s meant to be. Steve Sann, chairman of the Westwood Community Council constantly reminds the community of the two organizations’ differences, but neither of the two councils seem to have students’ interests at heart.

[Editorial: New Westwood Neighborhood Council terms inhibit student involvement]

Sann thinks that retail environments thrive with complementary uses to each other and thus, that a marijuana dispensary would offset expensive stores like Sur La Table. He consistently mentions The Grove while providing examples of how Westwood’s retail scene should operate. Once again, a council member neglects Westwood’s college-age demographics and their needs in contrast to those of high-class shoppers.

Westwood has the potential to be a unique place in the west side of LA. In a region full of expensive boutique shops and irritated drivers displeased with bikers and pedestrians, Westwood could have expansive bike lanes and stores and bars that attract students. Westwood could be an alluring college town nestled in a hectic city, but only with the support of the Westwood Neighborhood and Community Councils.

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  • Lisa Chapman

    There are so many inaccuracies in this article, it is astounding. To begin with, the Westwood Neighborhood Council makes no decisions about which businesses come to Westwood Village, that is not under our control, nor is it a function of our council. It is not the function of any of the close to 100 Neighborhood Councils in Los Angeles. You may certainly speak with the Westwood BID, and the many varied landlords and property owners in Westwood. That is their job to recruit businesses to the Village. Secondly, the Westwood Neighborhood Council is NOT against bike lanes, we are fully in support of bike lanes, just not on Westwood Blvd. On Westwood Blvd it is not safe. There is more bus, car, and pedestrian traffic on that stretch of road than anywhere else in Los Angeles. The bus traffic along makes it unsafe to insert a bike lane there. We suggested alternate sites, like Gayley, from the very beginning. Do not paint us as anti-bike-lane, it is completely false. You have not done your research, Jonathan, and I frankly take issue with that when you write an opinion piece. It might be beneficial of you, instead of attacking the neighborhood Council, that you actually show up at some meetings and events to see what we are all about. If you tried to reach me, I apologize, I do not show any record of you contacting me. Since I speak with reporters from the Daily Bruin all the time, I find it interesting that you choose to call me out. My suggestion to you is to get all your facts straight before spewing out an incendiary piece such as this.

  • Michael Cahn

    Driving senior homeowners running the @WW_NC still dominate renting cycling youth @Westwoodvillage http://dailybruin.com/2016/11/30/jonathan-friedland-city-councils-should-allow-westwood-to-achieve-potential-as-college-town/ … @LAGreatStreets …but Vintage Westwood Senior Living strongly support healthy & safe bike lanes on Westwood Blvd. http://bicycleacademy.blogspot.com/2015/02/westwood-boulevard-ucla-claims-its.html#business-support

  • Shawn Blass Feuerstein

    As a parent of a UCLA student, I would agree that the Westwood neighborhood could be more accommodating to the needs of the college population. If what Ms. Chapman states in her comment is accurate, it seems the people responsible for recruiting new tenants are the owners of the property. (although I would assume the council must approve incoming retailers for local licenses) Why not form a student committee to contact the property owners for businesses the students believe will thrive in the many empty retail spots along Westwood Blvd.? Time to lobby for what you want. Advocate to the people that can fill in that unsightly vacant space with vibrant businesses that will profit from the college community. Good luck!