Locals in some parts of Westwood will have to wait at least a month to receive representation on a neighborhood council.
Michael Skiles, president of the Graduate Students Association and member of the Formation Committee in charge of establishing the North Westwood Neighborhood Council, said the neighborhood council’s first election is scheduled for mid-October. Skiles added there will not be an interim council until that time.
NWWNC is the new council that has jurisdiction over the UCLA campus, Westwood Village and the North Village. This jurisdiction was transferred over from the Westwood Neighborhood Council after locals voted to subdivide Westwood in May.
Westwood Forward, a coalition of students, businesses, and local residents, began the subdivision process because it felt that the old council did not properly represent them. It also felt that the old council placed too many roadblocks on new proposals, such as student housing and nightlife entertainment in the area.
The Board of Neighborhood Commissioners, the oversight committee for neighborhood councils, approved the new council’s bylaws in August, thereby establishing the council’s board structure and jurisdiction. Before the new council can fully operate and carry out its function, its 19 board seats need to be filled by means of an election.
Until then, locals under the NWWNC jurisdiction will not be able to voice their opinions to their designated neighborhood council.
Semee Park, director of neighborhood council operations for the LA City Council, said the election scheduled to happen in October will elect a council serving a limited term so that the new council can hold elections in 2019 along with the other neighborhood councils in Los Angeles.
Park said although residents will not have a council until October, they can still voice their opinions about projects happening in the area to the Department of City Planning, LA City Council or other decision-making bodies depending on the type of project.
“If individual (community) members wanted to give input, they still can, and even currently, (WWNC) can still give input on projects that are happening now in the North Westwood area,” Park said.
Park said any individual or entity can submit their input for a project application at any time. Nevertheless, Park said local decision-making bodies put a lot of weight on input from affected neighborhood councils because the councils represent the community consensus.
Park added proposed businesses regularly seek approval by a neighborhood council because the opinion of a neighborhood council can affect the business plan’s approval by the City Council or other designated entities.
However, Park said proposed businesses will not be affected by the lack of neighborhood council representation because businesses are not mandated to get neighborhood council approval in order to operate in Los Angeles.
Skiles said some businesses specifically delayed their proposals to go through the new council because they felt the new council would be more receptive to their proposals than the old council.
Ernesto Arciniega, a doctoral student in Hispanic languages and literature, and director of diversity, inclusion, community and engagement for GSA, said he is open to engaging with the new council in whatever way he can and thinks GSA will be a conduit for connecting UCLA’s community to the new council.
“I think the GSA forum, the GSA cabinet will be an integral key to inform and invite not only the graduate students but also the whole UCLA community – the faculty, UCLA administration, the undergraduate and graduate students of colors, all the residents living in Westwood – to engage in the new dynamics of this new project,” Arciniega said.
Gennifer Birkenfeld-Malpass, a second-year biochemistry student, said she thinks students will get involved with the council because the council supports issues that students care about.
“Students need more affordable housing and (need) to be involved more in Westwood since it’s one of the more safer areas in LA,” Birkenfeld-Malpass said.
Skiles said although the new council will not be elected in time to campaign for proposals on the November ballots, he said he is hopeful about the change that the new council will bring.
“My hopes for the council is that our community will finally have the representation it deserves,” Skiles said. “We’re also hoping that this council is going to be able to make significant strides toward making it easier for businesses to open in Westwood and for housing to get built, for bike lanes to get installed, and for students and workers to be able to have some fun in Westwood.”