Westwood stakeholders will run for positions on the new North Westwood Neighborhood Council in an October election.
The Board of Neighborhood Commissioners approved the borders and bylaws for the NWWNC at an Aug. 27 hearing, certifying the district as the 98th Los Angeles neighborhood council. An election is planned for some time in mid-October to fill the seats of the new council.
The NWWNC serves the UCLA campus, the North Village and Westwood Village. The new council will represent local stakeholders and make recommendations to the LA City Council on policy changes.
Westwood Forward, a coalition of students, homeowners and local stakeholders, formed the NWWNC following a May vote to subdivide portions of Westwood’s boundaries from the Westwood Neighborhood Council. The group ran on a platform of addressing issues such as affordable housing and a lack of nightlife entertainment in the area.
Westwood Forward is currently working with the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which supervises all neighborhood councils in Los Angeles, to determine polling locations and times to elect the new council members, said Michael Skiles, president of the Graduate Students Association and a member of Westwood Forward.
“We have to work with the city to see what resources they have available to facilitate this election,” Skiles said. “It would be our preference to have multiple locations and an online option for polling, but we may be constrained by the resources of the city.”
Skiles added Westwood Forward plans to release an application soon for those who want to run for the council as part of the Westwood Forward slate, a group of candidates running together with the same goals in mind. The application will have positions for business owners, renters, students, homeowners and other stakeholders that represent Westwood’s community, Skiles said. He added he plans to apply to be a part of the slate when the application is released.
Josh Trifunovic, owner of Rocco’s Tavern and a member of Westwood Forward, said he wants to run for the council as part of Westwood Forward to improve conditions in Westwood for businesses.
“I just want to be there to give my input and give my knowledge and expertise of the area to help it progress into something beautiful,” Trifunovic said. “I’d like to see more businesses, more restaurants, more retailers, just make it more inviting for businesses to come into Westwood.”
Andrew Thomas, executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, said he thinks several board members of the association are considering running for the council. The association is a nonprofit organization that provides the Village with amenities it cannot directly receive from the city.
Thomas said he hopes the new council will have similar goals to the association, such as changing current policies to make it easier for businesses to come into Westwood.
“From what we’ve heard from Westwood Forward, they would like to see Westwood Village as a more economically vital and vibrant community,” Thomas said. “Those priorities are in alignment with our stakeholders in the business community as well.”
He added the association hopes to work with the council to change the definition of food and parking requirements under the Westwood Specific Plan to better accommodate businesses. The Westwood Specific Plan is the master planning document that outlines zoning regulations in Westwood.
“Our plan has very strict definitions for what food is and how much food is allowed,” Thomas said. “We believe it’s contributing to our vacancy because definitions of what is considered a restaurant or fast food are ridiculously strict.”
Gabriela Meza, a fourth-year political science and Chicana and Chicano studies student, and a member of Westwood Forward, said she thinks that Westwood Forward will help improve affordable housing for students in Westwood, but that there are still other factors that need to be addressed as well.
“Affordable housing doesn’t end with local government and the neighborhood council,” Meza said. “There’s still city issues and even state issues that we have to deal with as well, but it’s a step forward.”
She added that she thinks many people are planning to apply to run on the Westwood Forward slate, and intends to submit her own application for the council on the Westwood Forward slate as well.
“I’m so invested in it. I want to have a say about what goes on in Westwood,” Meza said.