Los Angeles experts and city officials said students should continue advocating for Westwood issues at a panel Thursday evening.
The undergraduate student government office of the external vice president, the Graduate Students Association and Abundant Housing LA, a group that advocates for more housing, held “How Westwood got trapped in time (and what to do about it)” at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
The event had a panel featuring Wendy Greuel, a former Los Angeles controller and city council member, Andrew Thomas, executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, and Donald Shoup, a distinguished research professor of urban planning at UCLA. Gabe Rose, membership director at Abundant Housing LA, moderated the event.
Thomas said his first experience in Westwood was disappointing because he expected there to be more things to do in a college town. He added Westwood Village has the potential to become a thriving community, especially with upcoming businesses opening.
“I tell people we are at the corner,” he said. “If we really work hard and focus on things, … we can actually turn that corner.”
Shoup said he thinks because Westwood is a neighborhood within Los Angeles, it has issues that stem from ineffective policies at the city level. He added Los Angeles could benefit from implementing policies of some of its neighbors.
For example, he said business owners in Pasadena support metered parking because some of the revenue generated from it funds infrastructure improvements in the city. Shoup said revenue generated from parking meters in Los Angeles often goes back to the city and does not directly help improve the individual neighborhoods the meters are located in.
Shoup also said Los Angeles has strict parking space requirements for new restaurants opening in the Village. He said he thinks the city should ease up on such requirements and follow the lead of other cities like Santa Monica, which does not have a parking requirement for individual businesses on Third Street Promenade.
“If LA adopted the best policies that it sees in its neighbor cities, … I think we would be in a much better state,” Shoup said. “Our competition is Burbank and Glendale and Santa Monica and they are winning, because they have better policies.”
Greuel, who graduated from UCLA in 1983, said she thinks Westwood should appeal to a millennial audience, which is looking for a higher quality of life than what Westwood currently provides. Greuel said she thinks neighborhoods like Studio City that encourage residents to walk the streets rather than drive are a major draw for young people.
Thomas said he thinks new developments coming to the Village over the next decade, like the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, in which UCLA will serve as the Olympic Village, and the Metro Purple Line Extension, will make Westwood more appealing for residents.
He said he thinks the Olympics forces Westwood to develop into a promising neighborhood because it is a high-profile event.
Several panelists also said they think the Village still needs to develop more housing for students and residents in order for it to remain successful.
Greuel said she thinks developers should build more housing in Westwood, but added that implementing more housing units would probably only stabilize the market and not reduce costs. She said she thinks the Village needs to entice residents and developers with unique amenities and entertainment options.
Shoup said he thinks Los Angeles should allow residents to convert their garages into renting space – a practice that is currently illegal in the city, but happens frequently in homes that are concealed because they face away from the street. He said the conversions could create affordable housing options for residents.
Panelists also said they encourage students to continue being active in local government.
Greuel said she thinks students comprise a large percentage of the voting base in Westwood and can use this to influence their community.
“I got elected with only 11,000 votes,” she said. “When you have that many people who are in that location, you have power.”
Greuel added she thinks students should continue to lobby political officials because she thinks they can easily leverage their large numbers and appeal to individuals who hold public office.
“Don’t belittle what power you actually have or lessen it, because you have a lot,” she said.