Wednesday, June 26

Westwood, year in review: Momentum for change needs to continue


One step at a time, Westwood Village is on the path to becoming great again.

From the 1930s to the 1980s, Westwood was one of Los Angeles’ most popular shopping districts. After a shooting and the rise of other shopping centers in the city, businesses left Westwood and it was neglected for some time, leaving the hollowed-out husk of a village that it is today.

Since 2010, however, momentum to revitalize the area has begun once more, with more proactive landlords and community organizations. However, lack of popular businesses and a large homeless population are some of the problems Westwood still faces today.

It’s been nearly a year since I wrote the last blog post of my Westwood series, where I said Westwood Village has seen positive improvements and has a lot in store in the long run. A year later, some progress has been made.

Businesses moved out, businesses moved in. More than a handful of restaurants closed since December 2015: Yamato, Noodle World, The Glendon Bar and Kitchen and Five Guys, to name a few. Additionally, Pinches Tacos, Tender Greens, KazuNori, Northern Cafe and a couple of fast-casual restaurants opened on Broxton Avenue this fall. Rocco’s Tavern is gearing up to replace O’Hara’s, which closed last January.

The closures can be considered a good thing. Landlords can now focus on bringing restaurants that can bring something unique, new and useful to Westwood Village, not just cheap food. Northern Cafe and Pinches Tacos, for example, have received praise for offering authentic Chinese and Mexican food, respectively.

Not a lot has moved in Westwood’s retail scene. Westwood gained Sur La Table on Westwood Boulevard, but lost Bel Air Camera, which had been in the Village for more than 50 years. An ULTA store is scheduled to move into the property. UCLA students at the moment have the inconvenience of having to leave Westwood to go shopping, but that can change if Westwood acquires a better retail scene.

In terms of maintenance, Westwood Village has a new tree lighting vendor, which has been able to put more lights around trees along Westwood Boulevard and Broxton and Gayley avenues. Sidewalk renovations were made through the Great Streets initiative, and more are scheduled for early March.

Most updates since last December aren’t concrete, merely announcements of things to come. For example, Andrew Thomas, executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, said at the association’s monthly meeting in November that Westwood Village will become a parking benefit district, pending LA City Council approval.

This means that a percentage of street parking revenue collected in Westwood Village will be returned to Westwood Village instead of it all going to a general fund. In turn, this money can be used to improve sidewalks and make the Village look a lot nicer.

Another example is Measure M, a half-cent sales tax increase voters approved Nov. 8. Because it was approved, LA County Metro has enough funds to build the Purple Line Extension to Westwood by 2024. This means that we will be seeing more community meetings hosted by the Metro in the coming year, as they make the final adjustments to their plan. We should also expect construction to begin in a couple of years.

People throughout the region will now be able to take a 20-minute train ride to the heart of Westwood. New transit can also mean more businesses would be willing to move to Westwood, just as in Culver City.

UCLA will install two bike share hubs in Westwood Village next year, and the WVIA’s parking, access and transportation committee is planning to replicate the Janss Investment Company building’s historic “Bank of America” spire.

Westwood is in a weird transitional period where things are slowly happening. And this is unfortunate for students and visitors, who will continue waiting for results to show.

The WVIA, landlords and community members need to ensure in 2017 that this momentum isn’t lost. Discussions for huge things are definitely happening, but in order for Westwood Village to move forward, discussions need to lead to action.

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News senior staff

Roberto Luna Jr. is currently a senior staffer covering Westwood, crime and transportation. He was previously an assistant News editor from 2015-2016 and a News contributor from 2014-2015.

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