Wednesday, May 27

Westwood Neighborhood Council may have limited influence

As members wait to elect a board of directors, supporters see a future voice for community

Daniel Schonhaut / Daily Bruin

Formed on the promise to bring sweeping change to a long-declining neighborhood, the newly-certified Westwood Neighborhood Council may have to wait a number of months before it can act as a functioning body.

Even then, the extent of influence the council will have remains to be seen.

The neighborhood must first elect a 19-seat board of directors, which will include one student and one faculty seat.

Council proponents are hoping an election will be held by the Los Angeles city clerk this spring.

If this is not possible, the board likely won’t be established until the next election in 2012, according to Roxane Stern, a condo owner in the North Village who was part of the council formation committee.

Once up and running, the board will have a voice on neighborhood issues and will receive an annual sum of $45,000 to spend at its discretion. Much of the funding will likely go toward community outreach activities sponsored by the council and community beautification projects, according to Bong Hwan Kim, general manager for the department of neighborhood empowerment.

Though the money will have some impact on the Westwood community, even supporters of the council agree its impact will be limited.

“The money won’t do very much, but it’s possible to apply for grants for special projects,” said Margaret Jacob, a UCLA history professor and co-chairwoman of the neighborhood council formation committee.

Despite its lack of monetary backing, Stern said she hopes the council will play a role in fixing many of the problems that are facing Westwood, which include a loss of businesses, traffic congestion and general dilapidation.

“I don’t even know where to begin. There are so many opportunities for us to get involved,” she said.

Other neighborhood councils have purchased books for their local libraries and contributed to schools and emergency services, she added.

Specific solutions, though, have yet to be discussed.

“These are all just dreams,” Stern said. “There’s no money and no board yet.”

Jacob said she hopes the council will establish an interim board of directors within the next couple of months to begin working on issues.

Once established, the board will hold regular meetings and will have the ability to summon city officials, she said.

“Neighborhood councils have made significant differences in many parts of the city,” Kim said. “They establish closer working relationships with police, fire, street services, and really are extensions of city government into communities.”

Though officially not in support of nor opposed to the formation of the Westwood Neighborhood Council, UCLA petitioned to be removed from the council’s boundaries at the certification hearing.

This petition, which cited the university’s autonomy from city ordinances and regulations in accordance with state law, was denied.

UCLA does not currently plan on seeking legal recourse against the decision, said university spokesman Phil Hampton.

“UCLA has a good working relationship with the city and its various departments,” Hampton said. “The issue of removing the campus from the (council) boundaries is not a priority.”

A letter sent to the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners by a UCLA administrative vice chancellor noted, though, that no student or faculty member who may eventually serve on the council will be permitted to speak officially on behalf of the university.

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.