Sunday, September 23

Editorial: Westwood residents’ lawsuit an affront to student housing needs


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In a city riddled with homelessness and congested roadways, Westwood residents have taken it upon themselves to fight the big fight: suing the University of California for trying to build more affordable student housing.

The Westwood History and Architecture Association and Steve Sann, chair of the Westwood Community Council, are suing UCLA for trying to construct a 17-story apartment complex on Le Conte Avenue. The plaintiffs claim the university did not adequately follow California Environmental Quality Act guidelines, arguing attractions such as the Regency Village Theatre and the Santa Monica Mountains would be obscured by the structure.

This is only the latest in a series of attempts by residents to curtail a project meant to address the lack of affordable housing in Westwood. Members of the Westwood Neighborhood Council urged the university in September to downsize the Le Conte building to better match the height of surrounding buildings. Residents then tried their luck at voicing nonsensical demands at a public hearing for the project in October.

And now, community members have called upon the Westwood History and Architecture Association, an organization that has had little to no activity until it came out of slumber last week, to sue the university over the view of a movie theater and a couple of mountains.

Residents have made it abundantly clear Bruins aren’t welcome in Westwood. UCLA already made compromises to its future housing projects because of height concerns, and suing it for not adhering to early-20th-century aesthetics isn’t just the height of ridiculousness; it’s indicative of how little residents care for affordable housing in the Village.

Community members have been particular about style over sense. UCLA originally proposed constructing a 20-story apartment on Le Conte Avenue as part of several housing projects meant to meet increased student enrollment as mandated by the state government, and maintain – if not increase – housing guarantees for future Bruins. But after blowback from residents, the university lopped off three floors from the plan, kicking out 200 beds in the process.

By the plaintiffs’ logic, the university would need to shave off seven more stories from the proposed apartment to adhere to Westwood’s low-height aesthetic. What these residents would have the university do with the displaced beds, however, is unclear – save for the mistaken notion that UCLA could magically add hundreds of rooms to its other proposed housing sites without breaking construction codes or bearing significant costs.

Westwood is no doubt iconic, but the Village cannot afford to remain frozen in a bygone era in which inefficient land use and low-density architecture were the convention – especially when students are being priced out of the neighborhood because of its exorbitant rent.

Residents can say all they want about supporting student housing, but those words are meaningless when those same community members are obstructing efforts to bring more housing to the Village because of a single-show movie theater built in the 1930s.

If residents want to gaze at the Santa Monica Mountains so badly, they should drop their lawsuit and let UCLA build its 17-story complex. They can then pool together the funds needed to help UCLA build a public observatory on the roof of the building, and enjoy the view of the Village and the mountains. Students wouldn’t mind – and neither would Westwood’s nonexistent mountaineers.

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  • PC487

    Interesting that all of the housing built on the Hill in recent years, dating back to the 90s and Sunset Village, has been low rise and low density, all aesthetically pleasing. Now we should believe that a building double the height of anything else in the North Village is necessary? Conveniently it’s on the edge of campus, so as not to infringe on the aesthetics of UCLA’s beautiful, low rise campus. What happened to the social justice ethos that those who create the issue should suffer the burden? Hypocrites.

    • Eyesocket Kabarbabar

      because a tall building is such a heavy burden to bear….

      • PC487

        because expecting students to invest in themselves by getting jobs and taking out loans to live near and get a degree from a world renowned university, like every generation of Bruins before them, is such a heavy burden . . . I get it though, the person not burdened always underestimates the burden on others.

        • Eyesocket Kabarbabar

          do you not realize how much the price of attending college has gone up compared to previous generations?

          • PC487

            you’re proving my point, and that point wasn’t that students aren’t burdened by the high cost of education. Reread the last sentence of my comment then apply it to your assertion. Thanks.

    • Jay Lubow

      That isn’t true. Rieber Vista, Rieber Terrace, and Hedrick Summit are all 7 stories tall.

      • PC487

        And how tall is this proposed housing in relation?

        • Jay Lubow

          The housing crisis is worse now. Also I’m the first to agree they should have built the other towers taller. Dykstra is 10 stories and from the tenth you can see the ocean on a clear day. Reiber and Hedrick are higher on the hill. The views from their tenth stories would have been amazing.

          • PC487

            This proposed building is 70% taller than even the largest residence hall. Is there even a building on campus that’s close to 17 stories? I don’t recall one. Aside from the Napa Valley Grille building on the far edge of the Village, the tallest building in the North Village is the Chick-fil-a building and that’s something like 9 or 10 floors, I believe. Building something so out of proportion to the Village and the campus is just ridiculous. I’d love to see the outcry if UCLA wanted to put a 17 floor eyesore where the Luskin Center was built or where Fowler is, to tower over Royce and Powell. Aesthetics and fit within the community matter, maybe not if you’re here for 4 or 5 years, but definitely if you spend 30, 40 or 50 years of your life here.

          • Jay Lubow

            The tallest building on campus is Factor, which is 15 stories and located at the northeast corner of the old hospital/CHS complex. CHS and the new hospital are probably 60-70% as tall as Factor, but I don’t know the number of their tallest story. After that comes Dykstra at 10 and then Franz Tower and Unex, both 8 stories.

            Yes, the La Conte building would become the tallest university owned building, but its relatively close to Unex and the hospitals, and there are similarly tall non-university buildings nearby. The W hotel on Hilgard is at least 15 stories. The pink residential building south of the Ralph’s parking lot is 12 stories (counting by windows, I’ve never been inside). The chick-fil-a building like you mentioned is something around 9 or 10. With the completion of the purple line in 2023/2024 more tall buildings are going in. The university shouldn’t handicap itself now by refusing to break the skyline that is already broken and going to break further.

            Also, I very strongly disagree with your assertion that I don’t care about the neighborhood because I was a student. Sure, that was one 4 year period of my life, but LA has been my family’s home for 100 years. Four relatives and myself have attended UCLA. Hopefully more of us will. I don’t live there right now, but I’ll always want Westwood to be the best place it can be.

          • PC487

            You have the perspective of a student who spent 4 years here. I wonder how you’d feel about a tower over twice the size of any of the nearby buildings lurking over the community you choose to call home permanently. Or, to my other point, how would you feel about a 17 story building where the Luskin Center was built or next to Royce and Powell towering over those buildings? Heck, if housing is so important, put a 17 floor tower in the middle of Dickson Plaza. There’s plenty of room there and it’d be an easier walk to classes. Of course that’s all ridiculous, because a 17 floor tower there would be totally out of place amongst 2-3 floor buildings.

          • Hooraj

            Ignoring members of the community that are only here for 4 years is exactly why those same members are going to grab control of the community while many of those who have been here for decades cheer them on.

            Westwood has grown every decade and will hopefully continue to grow. It is the older voices in the community’s job to make sure that that which is valuable to us remains valuable to the generations we pass it on to, not to force them to accept our aesthetics or else. If you’ve been here for as long as you say, you’d know the arguments over building highrises on Wilshire and that they weren’t the end of the world, in fact those offices are probably what keeps the Village from financial ruin during times like these.

            Good news for those like PC487, though. All these students, including those who crafted this editorial, will most likely do nothing of substance to help this building. The forces against it at least take action.

          • PC487

            You’re missing the point. I am simply pointing out the hypocrisy of forcing a hugely out of place building on the community while UCLA works very hard to ensure the consistency and aesthetics of its campus center. I have yet to hear any argument from anyone that this 17 floor building, surrounded for at least 4 blocks by buildings a fraction the height, will fit into the community. Or even a tenable excuse why UCLA and UCLA housing in particular has failed to build the high density housing in the middle of campus or on the Hill and accept the burden if this disproportionately tall building.

          • Jay Lubow

            You start with the assumption that having taller buildings next to shorter buildings is inherently bad. Why? Tall buildings don’t bother me.

            Two comments ago you said the tallest building you could think of in the village (not counting Wilshire blvd I assume) was the Chick-fil-A building at 9 or 10 stories. I pointed out that Factor and the W are both 15 stories. The pink residential building that’s one block away from the chick-fil-a site is 12 stories. Those buildings have all been there for at least 20 years and you forgot about them. I bet when you look over the city most days you don’t even notice them. In a few years when the new tower is done I bet you’ll hardly notice that one either.

          • PC487

            Why? It’s ridiculous to proffer a thesis that a disproportionately tall building, amongst a North Village of smaller buildings is anything but out of place. Have you traveled at all, even around LA? Do you think Paris would allow a hulking tower to overshadow the Eiffle Tower? How about putting a 17 story tower in the middle of Venice Beach? All of the buildings you’ve cited are at least 3 blocks away and
            entirely on the other side of the Village. Apples to oranges. It would
            be much more appropriate to build 17 floors housing at lot 32, as it
            would fit Wilshire. There is nothing even close to 17 floors west of
            Westwood and North of Wilshire, within 4 blocks of this proposed
            location. Again, and you continue to refuse to address this for obvious reasons, how would you feel about a 17 floor tower hanging over Royce and Powell? There are other large buildings several blocks away, afterall, like Bunche. Do you think that UCLA will ever build a building like that amongst the original 4 buildings? I understand: you think housing is more important than the burden UCLA is imposing on others. That’s blinded you to the fact that others have a legitimate objection. If you believe that the people who create a burden should bear the brunt of it, you’re a hypocrite if you believe this location, on the far edge of campus, bordering the Village, is an appropriate location for this eyesore, especially in light of the fact that all of the housing (and other buildings on campus) built on the Hill and on campus in the last 30 years has fit the surrounding on campus buildings and atmosphere of the surrounding residence halls and on campus housing.

          • Jay Lubow

            I’m not a hypocrite. I think UCLA should build denser on the hill, on campus, in the village, everywhere. I don’t know how to more clearly state that I don’t share your fear of tall buildings, or your hatred of having them next to short buildings. I was once kicked out of a rental house to make way for denser development. That’s fine. I didn’t enjoy the process, but I accepted it without complaint. UCLA needs to build. LA needs to build. California needs to build. Let them build.

          • PC487

            The distaste for out of place buildings starts with UCLA, based on all of the buildings and campus areas I’ve cited, and that you obviously cannot refute. Build the out of place housing in the center of campus in lieu of the aesthetically consistent buildings like the Luskin Center, Fowler or Andersen. To impose an out of place building on others is sheer hypocrisy.

  • Lisa Chapman

    You are verging on slander, Daily Bruin. The Westwood Neighborhood Council has NOTHING to do with this lawsuit. Not ONE member is a part of this. Nor do most of us agree that it should have been filed. You may bash whomever you like if it has to do with this lawsuit, but to bring us into this article is just inflammatory, and without any merit. The WWNC has agreed with every single bed UCLA has asked to have, we only thought it best to have density shared across campus, which UCLA can easily do if they wish. Stop creating drama in regards to our council, especially when it isn’t warranted, it makes you all look like little crybabies.

    • MansNotHot

      You should re-read the piece. At no point did the Daily Bruin Editorial Board make anything verging on the claim that WWNC is involved with this lawsuit. It’s very clearly stated that the case is being brought by the Westwood History and Architecture Association and the chair of the Westwood Community Council. WWNC only even comes up in connection to a council meeting (link to coverage provided in the piece) where the WWNC Land Use and Planning Committee “opposed the [Le Conte development] because they felt the building was too tall and was surrounded by smaller, iconic buildings.”

      Are you sure that calling a college newspaper editorial board “little crybabies” is the kind of discourse this topic deserves?

      • Lisa Chapman

        Oh, it is implied by mentioning us at ALL in this piece, don’t be ridiculous. If you are going to mention us in respect to our stand on the UNEX building, then at least report what our ACTUAL full stance was on the subject! This is NOT responsible journalism. IN ANY WAY.

  • Philip Gabriel

    It is about time that ASUCLA takes responsibility for lack of affordable housing. Had ASUCLA addd a small yearly fee of for arguments sake say $50 to student fees starting in the 70′s that would have enabled ASUCLA purchase apartment buildings in the North Village every couple of years. The rent charged would have covered the mortgage. By now ASUCLA would own several thousand beds slots in the north Village and pretty much dictate rents. Instead ASUCLA, students and UCLA now want to blame Westwood Residents and apartment building owners for the lack of affordable housing. ASUCLA and UCLA buried their heads in the sand and did nothing to help solve the problem years ago. Don’t ram bad projects down our throats because of lack of planning by the University, students and student government in years past. The UCLA campus has many locations to put student housing including a least a dozen locations in the North campus region. Let’s not forget that UCLA has purchased at least three high rises in the Village in the past ten years and not one student bed was created after buying these properties. UCLA has the money to renovate buildings in the north campus region for student housing, they just don’t want to. Simple as that.

    Philip Gabriel
    Long time homeowner in Westwood.

    • Eyesocket Kabarbabar

      Rammed down your throat? You’re ramming homelessness and overcrowded and unaffordable living conditions down students throats. Why should I feel bad for you? A dorm tower blocking the view of some mountains won’t affect you in any way that’s even remotely comparable?

      • Philip Gabriel

        I do not own any apartment buildings. You are barking up the wrong tree. Again ASUCLA has had 40 years to do something about high rents in Westwood. They chose to stay on the sidelines. Your issue is with them.

        • Eyesocket Kabarbabar

          My comment had nothing to do with you owning apartment buildings or not. Sure maybe ASUCLA could’ve done something 40 years ago, but now they are doing something and you’re saying, no you can’t do that thing because I don’t like it.

    • B N

      Are you trolling here or what? ASUCLA is a student government, not a housing organization. Where are these housing buildings that you propose ASUCLA purchase? Can you name one? Do you even understand how economics works?

      • Philip Gabriel

        BN grow up, ASUCLA could have made buying apartment buildings in the north Village a priority for student housing years ago and would at this point own a a good chunk of real estate worth Millions. Dozens of buildings have been bought and sold in the past 40 years. A small yearly fee from every student could have funded this project and rents would have covered expenses. Do you know how economics work? who ever you may be

        • Hooraj

          You could’ve picked up pennies off the ground and saved up to buy the land that this building is going to go on and prevent it from ever happening. Or you could travel back in time and prevent whoever founded UCLA from ever being born like in some kind of NIMBY Terminator.

        • B N

          If ASUCLA bought apartment buildings, that would not lower prices at all, because prices are determined by supply and demand. The supply of apartment buildings would be the same regardless of who owned them. If ASUCLA had built additional apartment buildings, or torn down buildings and put up larger ones, that would increase supply and lower costs. ASUCLA could potentially charge lower rent since they are a nonprofit, but that would essentially be charging all students a fee to subsidize a few students’ rent, which would not be fair.

          But let’s assume for a minute that ASUCLA could defy the laws of economics. How would this work? UCLA has about 30,000 undergraduate students. If they had started in the 70s with a $50 yearly fee for each student, they would have collected $1.5 million a year. At that rate, it would take 5-10 years to buy an apartment building, which would be able to hold let’s say 200 students. This would barely make a dent in the problem.

          Next time, do some basic math before you make absurd proposals.

    • anonymous

      Just to be clear, your argument has nothing to do with you being a property owner in westwood or being against lower rents that may arise as a result of more UCLA-owned student housing. As a note, I’m more curious, I haven’t formed a solid opinion yet. Also, I’m curious as to what your thoughts are on how an increased student population has the potential to lead to increased opportunities for business in Westwood.

      • Philip Gabriel

        Dear Anonymous, I will not wast my time to responding to post from Anonymous any more. What are you afraid of?

        • Hershey890

          Its not so much that I’m afraid of anything as it is that this is my first time using disqus and I hadn’t fully set up my account. Additionally, I don’t see what is wrong with preserving some semblance of one’s privacy. I, however, don’t quite recognize how anonymity discredits one’s points or questions. I must note that when we post online, we must take care to remember that the tone of our posts may reveal far more about us and our arguments then we may otherwise be aware of.

          • Philip Gabriel

            Yes you are a coward!!

  • NIMBY CLUB

    Why can’t they just move UCLA to the Mohave desert where housing is cheap and leave us alone???

    • ICE Cold GUTEorade

      Life must be really hard for you huh?

      • NIMBY CLUB

        Yes it is. We won’t be able to see the Santa Monica mountains with those damn buildings in the way and I already have trouble finding parking at Whole Foods.

        LA is FULL. Young people have no business being here unless they can come up with a giant truckload of cash to buy a decrepit old house of a baby boomer.

        • ICE Cold GUTEorade

          You know, the sad part is, there are so many Los Angeles people that are actually this spoiled, narcissistic, and selfish that I am honestly not sure if you are one of those people or a UCLA student playing a role lol

  • Philip Gabriel

    What kind of Coward leaves a post without a name? Come on students if you want to be treated like adults then act like an adult.

    • Hooraj

      What kind of coward doesn’t mention that he’s a member of the WWNC (http://www.wwnc.org/philip-gabriel/)? Come on WWNC, if you want to be treated like representatives of everyone in the area then act like representatives of EVERYONE in the area.

      Personally, I don’t want large buildings changing what little beauty remains in the area, but with the purple line coming, the Westwood that I like is over. It is time to grow to meet the demands that have been placed on us. The students, area workers, and Los Angeles deserve a better future at the expense of some of our local charm.

      Students, if you want change, show up to support Westwood Forward tomorrow at their meeting and in the future (info on westwoodforward.com). Know that if you all aren’t willing to fight for this change, the status quo will be all too happy to continue making low growth decisions for Westwood.

      • Philip Gabriel

        Jeremy, if you bothered to read my comment I was referring to comments left by people only using a first name, a symbol, anonymous and initials. Never a word about the editorial staff. Come on people what are you afraid of. Use your real full names

        • http://pop-pr.blogspot.com Jeremy Pepper

          Actually, I read your post and it reads as if you’re complaining about the OpEd itself. And that’s their right to post comments with their nicknames, etc.

          I mean, if we’re talking obfuscation there are tons of questions out there.

      • Philip Gabriel

        Again with just the first name. It is well known that I am a WWNC member. Never even tried to hide it, but I can’t make a comment as a member of the WWNC. That would imply that I was speaking for the WWNC. I am forbidden to make a statement that even remotely looks like it is is coming from the WWNC. You should at least know the basics of a neighborhood Council.

        • Hooraj

          I had no clue and was surprised that you were a WWNC member, mostly because I wouldn’t think a WWNC member would be so foolish as to go off ranting about these issues. Great job you’ve done with people now trusting a bunch of college kids to run things. At least those kids know how to listen to their community.

    • http://pop-pr.blogspot.com Jeremy Pepper

      It’s an editorial board editorial. Just like in the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, it’s the collective point-of-view of the editorial board, and is likely written by the editor-in-chief. It’s a standard practice – done by adults in journalism – for, well, likely centuries.

      Now name calling? That’s acting like a child.

  • CathodeGlow

    Overcrowding and overpopulation are an affront to all of our needs. It’s time for UCLA to cut back on admissions it can’t house. Send rejects to UC Merced.