The battle for Westwood Village is finally over.
Someone better tell that to the members of the Westwood Neighborhood Council.
The North Westwood Neighborhood Council – a council championed by Westwood Forward, a coalition of students, faculty, administrators, business owners and residents – was certified last week in a Los Angeles Board of Neighborhood Commissioners hearing.
The May election of the NWWNC, which installed the new council as the manager of Westwood Village, made it clear community stakeholders had grown tired of the WWNC’s policies. But what should have been a graceful transfer of power has instead turned into a bureaucratic showdown.
Community members such as Lisa Chapman, president of the WWNC, and Sandy Brown, vice president of the council, have argued the boundary lines of the NWWNC were unfairly skewed toward the demands of the Westwood Forward and petitioned the BONC to allow shared governance of the Village.
Now that those have failed, WWNC members have promised a new tactic: coercing businesses to still follow WWNC policies despite the NWWNC’s establishment.
The farce has to stop. A peaceful transition between administrations is the hallmark of a successful democracy. WWNC members aren’t just being obstructive by refusing to acknowledge the Village’s new council; they’re acting dictatorially.
These same members like to tout how Westwood cannot rebuild itself under new leadership. And that’s true: The revitalization of Westwood requires not just the earnest efforts of new community leaders, interest from business owners and participation from UCLA, but also the knowledge and cooperation of long-standing community leaders.
That’s certainly a hard fact to swallow, since Westwood politics have long been marked by a conflict between students, who want more nightlife in Westwood and more housing, and homeowners, who see the neighborhood as a place for families that shouldn’t just cater to students. The feud has left businesses caught in the whirlwind of the WWNC’s unrealistic policies and desires, which made it hard for them to settle in and attract community members of both camps.
For the first time, students have significant power to effect change in Westwood. No longer are they just a voiceless minority on a council that believes their transience in Westwood makes them less relevant.
Community members such as Chapman and Brown, however, have skewed the image of the NWWNC enabling a more equitable distribution of power. Instead, they’ve framed the installment of the new council as a fundamental question of whether Westwood is for students or homeowners.
But the Village’s revitalization isn’t a zero-sum game. A thriving, entertaining, housing-friendly, welcoming village is what community members sought when they ratified the NWWNC. And it’s what community members – Chapman and Brown included – have said they longed for.
And while the WWNC and Westwood Forward’s members have a track record of disagreement, there is great potential for cooperation. Homelessness, for example, continues to be one of the most prevalent problems in the Village, and the WWNC has done considerable work in its sponsorship and support of the annual homeless count.
The fact of the matter is the WWNC lost control of Westwood Village. Stakeholders can partake in the democratic experiment and celebrate a new beginning for the Village.
Or they can continue to cement their roles as saboteurs of Westwood.