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Editorial: Proposed neighborhood council would be welcome change to Westwood

By Editorial Board

May 13, 2018 11:24 p.m.

For many years, the words “Westwood” and “forward” hardly seemed appropriate in the same sentence. But with a new neighborhood council, Westwood might actually start moving forward.

The Daily Bruin Editorial Board endorses the creation of the North Westwood Neighborhood Council. Westwood Village is in need of a significant jumpstart, and the new neighborhood council might just provide that.

The measure to create NWWNC is spearheaded by Westwood Forward, a student-led coalition of student leaders, business owners and community members. The measure aims to carve out a new council covering UCLA, Westwood Village and North Westwood Village.

The need for new leadership is clear: The Westwood Neighborhood Council, which currently represents these areas, has failed in its duties. Council members have shouted at meetings and been disrespectful to members of the public. They’ve been restrictive on businesses trying to settle into Westwood. They’ve opposed online voting for the council elections.

And worst of all, WWNC has failed to accurately represent the interests of UCLA students, faculty and staff – a major constituency of the Westwood area. In 2016, for example, WWNC attempted to extend term limits to four years, thereby excluding most students from the council. And the council’s Land Use and Planning Committee has opposed construction of an essential UCLA Housing project.

NWWNC, however, promises to break from this obstructionist trend. Westwood Forward’s proposed council would be more inclusive of students and the general UCLA community. The coalition’s rhetoric indicates that it will be more welcoming to businesses, which would give the currently paltry Westwood economy a much-needed boost.

One of the coalition’s most impressive goals is to upzone Westwood. Graduate Students Association President Michael Skiles, a leader in the coalition, has said WWNC receives requests to expand housing but doesn’t always approve the scale needed. A council less adverse to building more housing in Westwood could help alleviate the neighborhood’s housing unaffordability.

Skiles added he would like to ensure the Village has mixed-use zoning. This would be a worthwhile pursuit, considering the Westwood Village Specific Plan hasn’t received a major overhaul in years.

That’s not to say Westwood Forward has it all right. NWWNC will need to keep in mind that this neighborhood isn’t just meant for students. From the beginning, student leaders have advertised NWWNC as an avenue to make the Village more student-oriented, with a particular focus on encouraging nightlife. The coalition has also promised to be more accommodating of business owners’ needs and wants.

But other stakeholders, such as homeowners and landlords, also deserve a voice at the council table. The new council should keep these constituencies’ needs in mind while governing. Whether that means increasing the number of homeowner-specific council positions beyond the lone seat or welcoming public comments from them, NWWNC will need to ensure it doesn’t replicate the exclusionary behavior of WWNC.

It’s also worth taking a look at how the new council would approach businesses. The coalition has attacked WWNC for not being business-friendly, but some of WWNC’s decisions have been common-sense regulation moves. A new council shouldn’t take an all-out, laissez-faire approach to governing the Village.

That being said, WWNC has set the bar so low that it’s hard to see a new council making a negative impact on the area. Westwood desperately needs an alternative to WWNC’s childishness, and it’s only appropriate the Village takes a chance on Westwood Forward’s gambit.

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