Tuesday, July 16

Students increase presence in Westwood Neighborhood Council meetings

The Westwood Neighborhood Council created the Student Advisory Committee in July. The committee, which placed three items on the council's agenda last week, advocates for student issues, like affordable housing and more transportation options. (Daily Bruin file photo)

The Westwood Neighborhood Council created the Student Advisory Committee in July. The committee, which placed three items on the council's agenda last week, advocates for student issues, like affordable housing and more transportation options. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Students have had more of a say in Westwood politics since the Westwood Neighborhood Council created a committee to address student issues in July.

The Student Advisory Committee moved three action items to the council’s agenda at Wednesday’s meeting. The council approved two of the items, which called on the city of Los Angeles to make sidewalks in North Village compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and bring more affordable transportation options to Westwood.

The committee serves as a channel for students to discuss matters they think the council should address, said Angus Beverly, chair of the ad hoc committee. Students and other community members cannot currently serve as permanent members on the committee, but they can provide feedback during committee meetings.

The council submitted paperwork in August to adjust its bylaws and allow the council to create its own standing committees. However, it is waiting for city approval.

Beverly said he thinks a standing committee with permanent student members would create more rules that limit the free movement of ideas within it.

“In my opinion, I don’t actually think it needs to be a standing committee,” he said. “I kind of like how it’s a dialogue right now.”

Beverly added the committee is also trying to work out how to hold a neighborhood council meeting on campus because committee members think the council’s usual meeting location at the Westwood Presbyterian Church on Wilshire Boulevard is too far away from campus to be accessible for students.

Beverly said he thinks parking would be an issue if the council decided to host a meeting on campus, since the church offers free parking to council meeting attendees. He added he thinks the council could meet at the James West Alumni Center.

Beverly said the committee met sporadically over the summer, but will now meet the fourth Wednesday of every month.

Some student leaders have attended Student Advisory Committee meetings to suggest proposals supporting student interests the committee could present before the council.

Michael Skiles, Graduate Student Association president, who attends committee meetings, said proposals presented at last week’s council meeting were created at one committee meeting where students added their input. Skiles said the committee met again before the council meeting to approve the specific language of the proposal.

“The opportunity it presents is the opportunity to set the agenda – to compel the council to actually consider resolutions where before they weren’t,” Skiles said.

Chloe Pan, undergraduate student government external vice president, said committee meetings are a casual place for students to talk through student issues in Westwood, including student housing and transportation.

Pan said while she is optimistic about what the committee can accomplish for students, she still thinks students lack an active voice on the neighborhood council because the council has few student members.

Parshan Khosravi, vice president of external affairs for GSA, said the committee has the ability to push the council to consider any student-related issues. However, he said the council usually waters down their proposals or rejects them because they are too specific.

The council shelved a proposal item at last week’s meeting that would have called on the city of Los Angeles to bring more housing options to Westwood. Several council members at the meeting said they were hesitant to pass the proposal because they believed the council would be obligated to support building projects without first seeing their building proposals.

Laura Winikow, council treasurer and educational community director, said she thinks the council needs to review building proposals on a case-by-case basis to consider the needs of various stakeholders in the Village’s boundaries, such as homeowners and business leaders.

“Westwood is a desirable area because it has a specific kind of character,” she said. “If you destroyed the character of something that’s actually charming, you are making it harder for Westwood to survive.”

However, Winikow said she thinks students should keep advocating for their issues and added she thinks council members support affordable housing for students and all residents.

“The students have every right to be heard, 100 percent. And I do hope they get more involved,” Winikow said. “But it’s a big area.”

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit
Editor in chief

Preal is the editor in chief of The Bruin. He was previously the assistant news editor for the city and crime beat and a news reporter for the city and crime beat.

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.