The Board of Neighborhood Commissioners approved the borders and bylaws for the North Westwood Neighborhood Council at a Monday hearing, thereby certifying it as the 98th neighborhood council in Los Angeles.
The NWWNC’s borders will include the UCLA campus, the North Village and Westwood Village. The new council will oversee local policies and neighborhood planning and report to the Los Angeles City Council.
Westwood Forward, a coalition of students, homeowners, and local stakeholders, formed the NWWNC following a May vote to subdivide the jurisdiction of Westwood. The group ran on a platform of addressing issues such as housing and a lack of nightlife entertainment in the area.
BONC approved a boundary adjustment along Hilgard Avenue that will allow the current Westwood Neighborhood Council to retain the area east of Hilgard Avenue and north of Strathmore Drive in order to prevent splitting Hilgard residents between two councils.
BONC found Fire Station 37, UCLA Rehabilitation Services and Westwood Branch Library shareable because they are public facilities. The board authorized these spaces as shared facilities in both councils’ bylaws. All other proposals for shared boundaries made by the WWNC were turned down, including Westwood Village.
Only areas with a public use on the edge of two or more neighborhood council boundaries can be considered shareable, according to a report by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, the city’s legislative body for neighborhood councils.
WWNC wanted to share Westwood Village with the new council, but the department said in its report that the WWNC could not share the region because the WWNC would have to cross its boundaries in order to share that region with the NWWNC. This would be in violation of the rule stating that neighborhood council boundaries have to be compact and contiguous, according to the DONE report.
Members of the WWNC claimed that Westwood Village was eligible for sharing because it contains historical structures, which qualify as having a public use. DONE recognized this point in its report but argued the entire Village is not eligible for sharing because only parts of the Village contain historical structures.
Eli Lipmen, vice president of BONC, said the board needed to be careful of setting a dangerous precedent of letting neighborhood councils ignore boundaries.
During the hearing, WWNC President Lisa Chapman said she was going to use the time allotted to her as a representative speaker from the WWNC to call out corruption within the neighborhood council system instead of explaining why the WWNC proposals were legitimate.
“We’ve been through hell and back this past year,” Chapman said. “DONE and Westwood Forward can speak all they want to ‘the will of the people,’ but everyone here knows what a sham that is.”
Chapman added WWNC will make sure businesses go through their council in order to offer their services in Westwood, regardless of the outcome of the hearing.
Michael Skiles, president of the Graduate Students Association and member of Westwood Forward, said the coalition wanted to create the new council because proposed businesses were pushed out of the area due to limitations imposed on them by the old council. Skiles added he thinks that voters approved the subdivision because the WWNC did not properly represent them.
“We were told we should have no say in what happens in Westwood until we become homeowners,” Skiles said.
BONC President Joy Atkinson said she thinks Westwood Forward ran a stronger campaign and the results of the election were legitimate.
“The (WWNC) lost a step when they weren’t inclusive in the first place, or when they made people feel that they were not inclusive,” she said.