Thursday, November 21

WWNC asks to delay approval of Westwood Forward’s subdivision proposal

Students and other community members spoke about Westwood Forward's plans to subdivide the Westwood Neighborhood Council during its monthly meeting Thursday. If the proposal is approved, a new council will be formed for UCLA's campus, Westwood Village and the North Village. (Jacob Preal/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Students and other community members spoke about Westwood Forward's plans to subdivide the Westwood Neighborhood Council during its monthly meeting Thursday. If the proposal is approved, a new council will be formed for UCLA's campus, Westwood Village and the North Village. (Jacob Preal/Daily Bruin senior staff)

The Westwood Neighborhood Council requested the city to delay approving an application to create a new neighborhood council at its monthly meeting Thursday.

Westwood Forward, a coalition of students, business owners and homeowners, submitted a subdivision application in December to split up the Westwood Neighborhood Council. At its February meeting, the Westwood Neighborhood Council requested the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which receives subdivision applications, halt the application process until Westwood Forward conducts further outreach to inform the community about its proposal.

Gabriela Meza, who works in the Undergraduate Students Association Council Office of the External Vice President and is a leader in Westwood Forward, said the coalition wants to separate from the Westwood Neighborhood Council because it thinks the council does not adequately represent student interests in Westwood. She added she thinks the current council is a hostile environment for public commenters and fellow council members.

“We need something in which we can be democratically elected,” she said. “And we will do it whether this passes or not.”

The Westwood Neighborhood Council reserves one seat for UCLA students, while the proposed council would create a graduate student seat and an undergraduate student seat. However, both councils allow students to run for additional seats if they rent in Westwood or are involved in the community in other ways.

Because the department requires neighborhood councils to respond to subdivision proposals near their areas, the council initially considered whether to pass a resolution approving the coalition’s subdivision, council President Lisa Chapman said.

Councilmember David Lorango said he thinks the council does support student issues, since it recently passed a measure that made it easier for restaurants to open in Westwood and another that removed Westwood’s alcohol conditions, which incoming businesses needed to adhere to if they wanted to sell alcohol. Many student members of Westwood Forward advocated for these changes when forming the coalition and in the council’s Student Advisory Committee, which allows students to provide input on council items.

Lorango added he thinks it is important students remain engaged in Westwood politics, but that dividing the current council will not help address student needs. He also suggested the council motion to support the Westwood Forward coalition, but only if they adjust their boundaries to exclude Westwood Village.

Westwood Forward’s initially proposed boundaries comprised Westwood Village, UCLA’s campus and the North Village. Last week, Mike Fong, director of policy and government relations for the department, said in a letter the coalition would need to include an area near the North Village in its boundaries because the area would be isolated from the rest of the Westwood Neighborhood Council.

However, some members of the Westwood Neighborhood Council said they felt the coalition had not reached out to enough constituents within their boundaries to inform them of the subdivision proposal.

Chapman said the only homeowner group Westwood Forward contacted was the Holmby Westwood Property Owners Association, and, even then, the group was only notified after the department accepted the application.

After council members indicated they believed constituents were not informed enough about the subdivision, Barbara Broide, who serves on the Westwood South of Santa Monica Neighborhood Boulevard Homeowners Association, walked up to the council and handed council Vice President Sandy Brown a note.

Brown then recommended the council pass a resolution calling on the department to stay the application because she felt the coalition did not meet the public outreach requirements set by the department. The resolution passed by a majority vote on the council.

The Westwood South of Santa Monica Boulevard Homeowners Association is not within the Westwood Neighborhood Council’s boundaries or the proposed boundaries of the North Westwood Neighborhood Council.

According to the subdivision ordinance, which outlines the steps groups must take when forming a new council, applicants must conduct outreach within their proposed boundaries. Applicants for subdivided neighborhood councils also need to submit an application containing at least 200 signatures from stakeholders in proposed boundaries.

Several community members at the council’s public comment sessions said they had mixed feelings about the formation of the North Westwood Neighborhood Council.

Earlier in the meeting, Broide said she thinks the department failed to create suitable requirements for subdividing neighborhood councils. She added she thinks Westwood would be more stable under a single council that oversees UCLA and the nearby residences.

Terry Tegnazian, who represents the Westwood Hills Property Owners Association, which now falls under the coalition’s proposed boundaries, said Westwood Forward reached out to her once the department modified its application to include the new area. However, she added she thinks Westwood community members are better off negotiating with one another than splitting up the council and forming a new one with more student representation.

Wren Reynolds, a UCLA programmer analyst, said he supports Westwood Forward because he thinks Westwood needs a more proactive council to address community concerns. He said the proposed council’s boundaries are set up so that no stakeholder group, including students, homeowners or renters, can realistically take a majority of the seats on council.

Of the 15 available seats on the proposed council, three are reserved exclusively for a UCLA faculty member, a UCLA staff member and a homeowner, and two are reserved for business owners.

This means students could take up to 10 seats on the council, but only if they secure all renter seats, organization seats, at-large seats and the general resident seat. In addition, the UCLA faculty, staff and student seats prevent business owners or homeowners from easily taking majority on the council as well.

Katelin Murray, a first-year political science student who serves in the USAC Office of the President, said she thinks the Westwood Neighborhood Council is too hostile of an environment to properly support Westwood interests, citing examples of council members disregarding student comments by interrupting them or laughing.

Murray said she thinks students still deserve more representation in the area, despite the initial three-page motion brought forward by the Westwood Neighborhood Council indicating that students who do not pay taxes or own property in the Village are the main drivers behind the new council.

“We’re here and we’re here to stay,” she said.

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Editor in chief

Preal is the editor in chief of The Bruin. He was previously the assistant news editor for the city and crime beat and a news reporter for the city and crime beat.

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  • Lisa Chapman

    Let’s start this oh so tired conversation again. the WWNC is IN FAVOR of the Westwood Forward coalition having it’s own council, we just disagree that Westwood Village should be in those boundaries. There have been two homeowner groups added to Westwood Forward’s boundaries by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. These homeowner groups do NOT want to be part of this new council, and WW Forward had no intentions of including them. Our issue of late is that WW Forward has not participated in the outreach that is a REQUIREMENT for them to complete. NO outreach has been done with any of the four homeowner groups, and almost NO outreach has been done to the business owners, merchants, and property owners in Westwood Village. This is just fact. They must do this, and they have not. We are not asking this process to stop, we are asking for a delay until outreach has been completed. They have no interest in doing outreach, because they already know what the outcome will be, that these groups do not want to be led by a group of transitional students. Student money and participation does not support WW Village, the community outside of the campus does…. Let’s also discuss the claims that student issues are not being addressed. Every issue which has come before the WWNC ad hoc student engagement committee has passed. The students speak of not being respected, and not being heard, but at last week’s meeting, we listened to 2 minutes each from over 15 students. When it was finally time for the board to react, and state their replies, almost 90% of the students that spoke, got up and left the meeting! They roll their eyes, talk while board members are talking, etc. Respect goes both ways. Most of the students that attended the meeting to complain have NEVER been to one of our WWNC meetings before! And as we understand, USAC funds are being used to pay their UBER rides to come and complain. There’s your next story!

  • Hooraj

    That you say “student money and participation does not support WW Village” shows how misguided your narrow view of the area is. The businesses that thrive in the area depend on students and the office workers–not the neighborhood. This is why Westwood really only comes alive during lunch hours. As naive as Westwood Forward is on certain issues (lots of Westwood’s problems are due to high-end blight happening around the nation with the changing retail environment and landlords wanting to hold onto past profits–Westwood Forwards ideas on letting some retail turn into fast-casual restaurants, that you all have adopted, will only increase the revolving door of openings and closings and not provide any long-term health), your arguments come off as someone unwilling to relinquish control.

    Yes, your position has been thankless and Westwood Forward has several imperfect or half-formed solutions where your council can show actual results. The current council has done a wonderful job trying to maintain the architectural history of the area and you all definitely care about Westwood. Let us know about your successes if trying to sell the public on why Westwood Forward is unnecessary (and don’t mention the recent policy changes that it took the pressure of Westwood Forward to make you all finally move), not this odd attack that areas are being excluded when one of your basic arguments is formed off the basis that students aren’t necessary to the Village’s health (talk about wrong and exclusionary).

    Debate about Westwood Forward is necessary, but so far your op-eds and comments have done a terrible job at selling your side. That it took Westwood Forward to make you all move on certain issues shows how necessary the pressure has been–about time. As it stands, neither side seems interested in listening to each other, so this is going to be a huge mess–appropriate for these times.

    • Lisa Chapman

      It’s a bit hard to comment on all that you write, when no one has any idea who you are, or what you stand for, but let me throw up a few things that are incorrect. There has been movement towards addressing revising the alcohol guidelines and restaurant definitions for quite some time, and much before WW Forward came on the scene….if you look back on the votes taken, you will see that. The students constantly complain that the Westwood eateries and shops are too expensive for them, that and with the fact that quite a few of the very same entities are already on campus, they do not spend a huge amount of money in Westwood. Families in the area, young singles in the area, and UCLA employees are he ones spending money in Westwood. That you think it is a great idea to have a majority student-led group navigate the business community when they have no experience seems unwise and naive to me. We have never said WW Forward is unnecessary. I fully support them having their own council, and $$ for grants. I just oppose them having the Village. Especially with their board make-up, they will not have enough representation from the business community. They have not even done their required outreach to the Village business community, that is just fact. Their outreach all over has been abysmal at best. I didn’t say that student’s were not necessary to the Village’s health, I said they should not be exclusively the entity in charge of advising on the Village. If the WW Forward folks agreed to have WW Village be a shared resource, I would support their efforts 100%, AND go to bat for them. But they have no interest in that or listening to what they consider to be an outdated group of homeowner NIMBY’s, which is clearly not what we are as a group. As far as my op-ed, I would have chosen to speak on lots of different ideas, unfortunately, I had to refute the blatant lies told to the public about our council and how it has stood on issues. There went my 900 words. I had to argue with the Daily Bruin in order to use the word gerrymander in my OWN piece!

      • Hooraj

        I am someone you represent with your position on the council, and I don’t stand for anything, I just want a Westwood Village that thrives both day and night, not just lunch hour. Where are your statistics on students spending money in the Village from? By observation, the places that do well seem to mostly be those that are low cost and high volume–these places could survive if the neighborhood disappeared, but not without the office workers and students. The neighborhood dollars have too much competition in the area with Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Century City. High end is not the future (or even the present) of Westwood, especially with a subway stop coming.

        Also, the students may end up running Westwood Forward, but I believe those positions are up for vote and only a bit more weighted toward the university (the same thing you say about the neighborhood council’s positions being available to students, which is completely true–they could run the council now if they could get out the votes). Currently, I do feel that the Village has been such a mess and the council so focused on tilting the Village toward the neighborhood that giving a vote to try something new seems best. Neither of the groups are ideal, but I’ve heard so many bad things about the current situation for so many years, I’m willing to give new ideas a shot. As I see it, the experienced side doesn’t have much to crow about for quite a long time. You talk about movement within the council to get things done, but it seems to have taken Westwood Forward’s pressure to make things actually happen.

        That said, I’d love to hear an actual debate (instead of an airing of grievances that Westwood Forward has held so far) where the council can explain what it believes its successes and failures are (the more specific the better). No clue if this is possible given the animosity, but please record it and put it online if it happens (cheers to Westwood Forward allowing people to see their meetings if unable to attend). I want to be convinced and realize that this new spotlight on the council isn’t completely fair, but so far the council’s response to this existential threat hasn’t inspired confidence in them.

        • Lisa Chapman

          Fair enough. A debate would be a really valuable tool, I believe. I somehow don’t see that happening in the current environment, and that is really a shame. The truth of the matter is that we are all volunteers, I know I spend countless hours of my free time each week on council business….and we all care about the promotion and future of Westwood. I guess we all need to remember that.

          • Hooraj

            I do agree that more time is needed. Although I am in favor of Westwood Forward, I find them to be…

            1) unproven and inexperienced
            2) extremely short on details and promising changes where they will only actually have an indirect influence
            3) untested and never having had to defend their ideas in a forum they aren’t hosting

            I also get the feeling that developers and businesses will play Westwood Forward like a fiddle in their desire to be more business friendly, and that this will negatively affect the community. Hard to say since they are set up to be everything to everyone so far–would love to know how they’d actually govern.

            I hope some sort of debate can be arranged.