Tuesday, March 31

Editorial: Proposed neighborhood council would be welcome change to Westwood

The editorial board is composed of multiple Daily Bruin staff members and is dedicated to publishing informed opinions on issues relevant to students. The board serves as the official voice of the paper and is separate from the newsroom.

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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  • Hooraj

    While I support and have already voted in favor of Westwood Forward, I find their behavior in the past few months to not match the rhetoric they’ve used.

    First, they promised to provide video of their meetings so that everyone who can’t attend can still be informed. Since January, they’ve completely failed to do so and failed to fully live up to their goals of inclusion. Westwood Forward is always on the case of the current council for not having online voting, but Westwood Forward can’t even provide video when they’ve promised to do so – a much simpler task.

    Second, Westwood Forward and Michael Skiles on their social media have pretty much only tried to appeal to students with populist promises of a more “fun” and “cheaper” Village. Westwood Forward’s understanding of what power they’ll have once voted in is either completely naive or they are making empty promises to try to win votes. Just the change to allow more fast food-style restaurants into the Village will only make it harder for independent businesses to open.

    Westwood Forward puts a lot of blame on the current council that is really more on landlords and business owners. Westwood Forward doesn’t seem to understand that their goal of inclusion will require them to use a carrot & stick approach towards businesses and landlords to make sure the Village has a great mix of things. A laissez-faire approach will only lead to businesses chasing as much money as they can at the expense of the community. Sure, the scale needs to tip back to business a bit after the WWNC leaves, but it’s okay for the community to ask that business doesn’t only act in business’ best interest.

    I’m glad to see the Daily Bruin’s levelheaded take on the upcoming election and hope they maintain their vigilance in keeping Westwood Forward honest.