Westwood officials approved a plan Thursday to transform a portion of Broxton Avenue into a pedestrian-friendly plaza for community events.
The Westwood Village Improvement Association Board of Directors approved a proposal to apply for the People St program, which allows the city to transform a road into a pedestrian space for community events.
Andrew Thomas, executive director of the association, said the board initially considered a proposal to transform the southern end of Broxton Avenue into a pedestrian space in 2012. The proposal was later modified to transform the northern end of the street in 2015, but it was ultimately shelved after losing traction among the Westwood community.
Thomas said the proposal became bogged down by the board’s desire to renovate and create more pedestrian spaces throughout the Village. However, because of the People St program’s May 30 deadline, Thomas said the board decided to act on the Broxton Avenue location and put together an application.
“The feeling of our board is that the location already has a great pedestrian feel to it with trees and wide sidewalks,” he said. “Half of that street is already pretty dead (for cars).”
Applicants must show the location can support heavy pedestrian activity and demonstrate support from the community with a petition of business owner signatures, Thomas said. He added the application process is highly selective and only a handful of streets are converted into pedestrian plazas each year.
Graduate Students Association President Michael Skiles, who has advocated for the plaza through the Westwood Forward coalition, said he thinks it would be easy for the city to transform Broxton Avenue into a plaza area because its south side already only has one-way traffic.
Skiles said he supported a pedestrian space on Broxton Avenue because he hopes a successful space will encourage the Village to convert the rest of the street into a plaza. He added he would like the Village to eventually build an outdoor seating area for residents to eat Diddy Riese ice cream and at other Westwood businesses.
In September, the association partnered with UCLA to close down Broxton Avenue and host the UCLA Westwood Village Block Party. In its inaugural year, the party featured a roller rink, a petting zoo and other venues. Thomas said he thinks permanently designating part of Broxton Avenue as a pedestrian plaza will open up the opportunity for more street venues in the future.
Lisa Chapman, president of the Westwood Neighborhood Council, said the proposal reminds her of when she first moved to Westwood, when the streets would occasionally be shut down for pedestrians to walk around the Village.
“It felt like being on a movie set,” she said.
Chapman said she thinks many members of the community would support the project because the increased pedestrian space would invite more public events like live music and comedy shows. She added the open space would complement the Village’s aesthetic as a college town and allow pedestrians to admire more of its historical buildings.
However, Chapman said she was skeptical about whether the entirety of Broxton Avenue could be converted into a pedestrian space because of the public parking garage near the street’s intersection with Weyburn Avenue. Thomas said drivers would only be able to turn right out of the garage if the city approves the association’s proposal for the conversion of the south side of Broxton Avenue.
The parking garage would need to relocate its entrance to support a full-street conversion, Chapman said.
Still, Thomas said he thinks Broxton Avenue would be a viable location for pedestrians in the meantime because that portion of the street already closes every Thursday for the Westwood Village farmers market.
“We would be closing off (a) full-time street that is the exit point for our structure,” he said. “There will be an impact, … but it already happens once a week and people seem to be surviving.”