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Submission: Creation of Westwood Forward will ensure representation of all Westwood communities

By Marjan Abubo, Joshua Baum, and Zahra Hajee

May 17, 2018 10:21 pm

The UCLA community has a rare opportunity Tuesday, May 22 to make history by gaining a voice in Westwood governance.

Westwood stakeholders will have the opportunity to vote whether the Westwood Neighborhood Council should be subdivided to create a new neighborhood council for the North Westwood area. With the certification of a new neighborhood council, students, faculty and staff will not only have the ability to take official stances on local legislation, but also have access to funding and policymakers that will make it possible to work toward increased affordable housing, entertainment options and mobility in Westwood.

If the vote passes, students, renters, business leaders and other stakeholders who have been neglected by current community leadership will finally have a strong and present voice at the table.

In an effort to secure a pathway for effective student advocacy on a local level despite disenfranchisement by the Westwood Neighborhood Council, undergraduate and graduate student leaders have worked closely with community organizations and local stakeholders to set a foundation for the Westwood Forward coalition. While we officially announced our intention to separate from the existing neighborhood council in November, the process has been almost a full year in the making. Our effort first started with the inception of the unsuccessful student engagement committee on the WWNC last summer.

Although UCLA’s more than 44,000 students represent a large number of Westwood’s stakeholders, the opposition to Westwood Forward has questioned the student-led coalition’s legitimacy by claiming we are “transients” who are incapable of sustaining a long-term vision for the local community. While it is true that many students choose not to remain in Westwood after graduation, key issues such as affordable housing, safety, infrastructure accessibility, entertainment and nightlife have lingered in Westwood across generations of students.

UCLA has been a core part of life in Westwood for almost a century and its students, faculty and staff have every right to demand a voice in the governance of Westwood.

The decision to separate from the existing council was not easy to make. Elected officials, both on and off campus, questioned the feasibility of students leading Westwood and were worried about the political backlash we would generate. Yet to this day, we have not given up on our vision to create a more inclusive space for Westwood residents to participate in local affairs. Since the start of our movement, we have expanded our coalition to include the business community and the local Persian community, among others, and have crafted a progressive vision that will ensure our success as a functioning neighborhood council.

Our primary focuses include combating the lack of affordable housing in the area, providing a more inclusive form of representation for our constituency and securing a more diverse set of entertainment options for Westwood residents. These areas of interest have been developed through consistent outreach, as well as input from students and other community members who have a stake in what our new neighborhood council hopes to accomplish.

Our goal is painstakingly within reach, and we need every Bruin and Westwood community member to make this historic opportunity a reality. Voting “yes” on Westwood Forward goes beyond student government politics or UCLA politics. And it’s a simple process: All students, regardless of residence, citizenship or voter registration address are eligible to cast a ballot at the John Wooden Center or the Westwood Recreation Center between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

This is a chance to reclaim Westwood as a community not just for some, but for all. If we are successful, this moment will be remembered as the turning point in Westwood Village’s revival story and will ensure that generations of future students will have a space to call their own. This is our time to forge the path for a new Westwood rooted in affordability, inclusivity and community-centered leadership.

This is our time to move Westwood forward, together.

Abubo is the chief of staff of the 2017-2018 Undergraduate Students Association Council Office of the External Vice President. Baum is the local legislative director of the 2017-2018 Graduate Students Association external vice president’s office. Hajee is the 2017-2018 USAC Facilities commissioner.

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Marjan Abubo
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