Picture this: You’re on a casual stroll through Westwood and a blistering crack in the sidewalk unexpectedly throws you off balance. You suddenly see a tall tree fall over a row of cars across the street. Now, you’re back in your apartment working against a deadline to turn in an essay and the power goes out – no more internet.
Welcome to the Westwood experience.
Many students are forced to live in North Village since it is close to campus, despite the conditions not being so great. The average two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Westwood costs about $4,883 a month to rent. Money-deficient college students are not putting up that much for rent by themselves – many of these apartment spaces are being split between large groups of students that exceed the healthy living capacity these spaces allow.
It doesn’t help that the Westwood that students live in is falling apart – literally.
In recent weeks, the neighborhood’s infrastructure has been plagued with issues. Power outages have affected apartments all across Westwood in the heat of midterm season. The sidewalks in residential areas near students’ apartments are in poor condition. Trees are falling over all around various areas of the neighborhood.
All these issues are compounding with no solution in sight. Nothing is being solved in a timely manner, which will make new infrastructure problems harder to address when a persisting backlog of older issues remains.
It’s the small things being glossed over in the neighborhood’s infrastructure that ultimately keep it from providing an adequate living experience for its residents. The City of Los Angeles has a responsibility to serve the needs of all its residents. Westwood, however, seems to have missed city council’s decades of to-do lists.
It’s about time Los Angeles made major improvements in Westwood’s sorely lacking infrastructure to alleviate the concerns of its 50,000-plus residents.
Recently, more than 1,100 Westwood residents dealt with power outages lasting hours. With finals week coming up, students can’t be bogged down by lack of internet at a crucial time when they need it to study and turn in projects. But that’s Westwood for you.
Varun Sriram, a first-year biology student, was at a friend’s apartment when one of the power outages hit.
“We were just hanging out when the power went out and I got really confused,” Sriram said. “I’m concerned because I might look into getting an off-campus apartment in the near future, and I can’t have the power going out all the time.”
The issues continually faced by Westwood are actually related to the entire city of Los Angeles, which suffers from an antiquated water and power infrastructure. State funds for repairs are sparse and need to be shared among LA’s 272 neighborhoods. The city’s increasingly large population will only further stress its outdated infrastructure if repairs aren’t made. And that’s exactly what’s happening in Westwood.
Michael Skiles, president of the North Westwood Neighborhood Council and the Graduate Students Association, said the city hasn’t put aside enough money to deal with its infrastructure issues in a timely manner.
“The (city’s) water and power infrastructure should have been replaced long ago, not only because of its age, but also its unsuitability to serve a population that has substantially grown,” Skiles said.
The lack of time and effort put into updating or even maintaining the city’s infrastructure is what has led to a growing list of problems in Westwood.
The sidewalks in the residential areas of the neighborhood are cracked and uneven, adding difficulty to the morning walks of students living in apartments. Students with disabilities have voiced concern about their motorized chairs not being able to ride along broken sidewalks. The city is neglecting areas where foot traffic is most active on weekdays.
Though the Westwood Village Improvement Association has made plans to improve sidewalk conditions in the Westwood Business Improvement District area, this may not include some of the residential pathways students rely on to get to campus.
Andrew Thomas, executive director of the WVIA, said the association is working to get the city to return to the district to complete more reconstruction and repairs.
“We have identified the areas of need and now it’s about securing the funding to complete the work,” Thomas said.
But it shouldn’t take this much prodding from local officials for Los Angeles to care about, well, Los Angeles. It’s ridiculous that students in Westwood are forced to live in subpar conditions because elected officials are so unwilling to pay attention to how outdated city infrastructure is.
Of course, it’s inherently impossible for the city to deal with all of its neighborhoods’ problems. But when issues such as power outages, crumbling sidewalks and tumbling trees start to rack up, there comes a point when you can no longer let those problems stockpile. Westwood is a neighborhood that has reached that point.
The Village has a tremendous social atmosphere for its residents, and students have every right to participate in that. For now, though, it just takes them being forced out of their power-deprived apartments to experience it.