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Westwood nightlife restricted by zoning laws

By Brian Sullivan

Sept. 21, 2002 9:00 p.m.

As nearly every other college town in the nation caters to its
students with a variety of nightlife, bookstores and cultural
venues, one UCLA student representative would like to see Westwood
offer more entertainment devoted to students.

Michelle Styczynski, a general representative for the
Undergraduate Students Association Council, wants students to have
a greater voice in community development. In particular, Styczynski
wants to see live entertainment and a nightclub brought into the
Village.

“There isn’t that much to do here at night,”
Styczynski said. “I don’t think that our students are
proud of our town.”

Styczynski referred to how other University of California
students feel happy about their surrounding communities. But unlike
these other campuses, there isn’t much in UCLA’s
surrounding community for Bruins to get excited about, she
said.

Though Westwood lacks a nightclub now, it has had several in the
past. Back in the mid-1970s, Dillon’s was a discotheque
occupying all four floors of what is now the El Pollo Loco building
on Gayley Avenue, each level offering a differently-themed dance
floor. At the time, Dillon’s was hot ““ one of the most
popular clubs in Los Angeles.

When disco faded away, so did Dillon’s. But another club,
Baxter’s soon followed.

Baxter’s was a popular westside club with a dance floor
and DJ in the basement of the property most recently known as the
Mann 4plex on Gayley, which will soon be a Whole Foods Grocery
Store.

More recently there was Duet, a restaurant and nightclub on
Westwood Boulevard. Duet operated without a dance hall license and
was evicted by its landlords in 1999, mainly because of frequent
city and fire code violations.

But club owner Chris Mallick sued community and city leaders for
alleged racism against the club’s “predominately
African American clientele.”

However, any plan for bringing a nightclub back into the village
will have its obstacles. Establishments selling alcohol and
providing a space for dancing and live entertainment have to go
through several agencies for the necessary permits.

Such permits are necessary in any part of Los Angeles.

Restrictive commercial “C-4″ zoning and a set of
provisions called the Westwood Village Specific Plan, which all new
businesses must abide by, make bringing some forms of
student-oriented entertainment into Westwood especially
difficult.

Westwood is zoned as “C-4″ to reflect its more
upscale economy, prohibiting certain kinds of commercial business,
such as auto repair shops, mortuaries, tattoo parlors and pool
halls.

These restrictions affect the kinds of entertainment Village
establishments could offer. Because pool halls are prohibited,
local pubs would be unable to legally put in a few pool tables for
their guests.

Under the Westwood Village Specific Plan, bars are only allowed
to operate in conjunction with a restaurant or hotel. Nightclubs
with dancing and live music are also allowed, but again only in
conjunction with a restaurant and even so must apply for a
conditional use permit from the city.

According to Lisa Hansen of Councilman Jack Weiss’ office,
Westwood’s plan is one of the most restrictive of its kind in
Los Angeles. Weiss represents the Fifth District, which includes
UCLA and Westwood.

Drafted in 1989, the plan was the end result of a collaboration
between many community groups, including Westwood homeowners
associations, UCLA and Village property owners. One of the
plan’s major goals was to get more “daytime”
businesses serving local residents into the Village, which had been
pushed out by cinema screens and other youth-oriented retail.

Therefore, nightclubs and bars are subject to more regulations
than other kinds of businesses. Some residents still adamantly
support the plan.

“(If the plan were less strict) people who have properties
would be inundated with requests to open up such clubs and the
daytime use would disappear,” said Sandy Brown, president of
the Holmby-Westwood Homeowners Association.

Brown maintains that the Village should serve Westwood residents
first and foremost.

“What the residents mind is something that only serves
students,” Brown said.

In recent history, Westwood club owners have been known for
bending the rules or breaking the law outright, leaving Westwood
residents and homeowners associations with a bad taste in their
mouths.

Also, any business wanting a permit for live entertainment must
be willing to shell out nearly $5,000 for the application fee and
related costs ““ not including legal fees ““ and then
present their plans at a public hearing. If there are strong
objections the establishment would likely lose the license and the
money spent in the filing process.

Since a nightclub is typically a high risk business venture with
a short life span, potential investors might be reluctant to face
the Village’s myriad building codes and neighborhood advocacy
groups opposed to such development.

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