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UCLA’s cityLAB presents two visions of a more urban, pedestrian-friendly Westwood

By Damien Sutevski

Oct. 11, 2011 1:34 a.m.

Clarification: The original version of this article was misleading. Professor Neil Denari’s quote about a real city not requiring a car was part of a fictitious premise used to introduce his “Car-Lite Village” vision. It does not reflect his own personal beliefs.

A traffic map of Westwood Village at 10:30 a.m., showing red, gridlocked streets, is displayed to a nearly full theater of 250 people.

Traffic was one issue tackled at a symposium for the revitalization of Westwood Village at the Hammer Museum on Monday.

The general decline of Westwood Village ““ characterized by a loss of retail stores, a decline in moviegoers, a lack of parking and the issue of homelessness ““ compelled the Westside Urban Forum to engage UCLA’s cityLAB in developing a future plan to restore the community.

After a year of research by cityLAB and two weeks of designing, two different visions for Westwood’s potential future were presented by design teams, which included UCLA professors.

The presentations were followed by a panel of experts who discussed the different plans.

One of the plans included UCLA architecture Professor Neil Denari’s “Car-Lite Village.”

To open his presentation of “Car-Lite Village,” Denari offered a fictitious conversation in which partygoers in a fictitious city expressed a negative view of Los Angeles. Voicing the viewpoint of one of these hypothetical partygoers, Denari said,“If you have to get in a car, then it’s not a real city.”

To reduce traffic congestion in the Village, Denari suggested physically lowering Wilshire and Westwood boulevards at their intersection and providing a pedestrian walkway across Wilshire, with an access to Westwood Boulevard limited to buses.

In the other vision, “Living Culture,” professor of architecture Roger Sherman and his project partner Edwin Chan emphasized culture as an anchor for the revitalization of Westwood Village.

A boundary exists between UCLA and the Westwood community, mostly because of accessibility, Chan said. Programs like UCLA Live at Royce Hall and the Fowler Museum are difficult for people to access, especially because of parking, he said.

Sherman and Chan’s goal is to make these cultural features more visible and accessible by moving them into the Village, restoring Westwood to its former glory as an entertainment capital, Chan said.

Village traffic would be re-routed around the core, with a relocation of the Broxton Avenue parking garage from the center to the edge of the Village, he said.

In place of the parking garage would be a new public space for pedestrians.

John Prewitt, a real estate broker who lives in the community, attended the event on Monday. He said he has noticed the disconnect between UCLA and the Village and feels the two should be more integrated.

Despite taking different approaches to improving the Village, both visions converged at points during the event.

The two plans integrated future plans for a subway connecting the Village to the greater Los Angeles area, which is expected to reduce car traffic but increase pedestrian traffic.

This would require collaboration between the Los Angeles Metro Transit Authority and UCLA, said Nick Patsaouras, past president of the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners.

“The subway is the big idea here. That … is enough to get the conversation started,” said Christopher Hawthorne, an architecture critic at the Los Angeles Times who sat on the panel.

They both also embraced creating public spaces for pedestrians in the Village.

Although no definite conclusions for Westwood’s future came out of the event, Dana Cuff, director of cityLAB, said bringing together residents, UCLA administrators, merchants, developers, property owners and students to think about the Village seems more essential than ever.

“I think Westwood could be the next generation of L.A. urbanism ““ less cars, more bikes and more interesting to be there,” she said.

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Damien Sutevski
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