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NWWNC councilmembers reflect on council’s achievements in its first term

The NWWNC achieved many of the goals it set in its first term despite challenges posed by a lack of experience among members and a short term.
(Daily Bruin file photo)

By Maanas Oruganti

July 1, 2019 10:40 a.m.

The North Westwood Neighborhood Council accomplished many of its goals, but members faced challenges from a lack of experience and a shorter-than-usual term.

The members of the NWWNC collectively sought to address topics ranging from housing development to promoting businesses and entertainment in Westwood Village, said NWWNC President Michael Skiles. However, the NWWNC dealt with setbacks that impacted its success during its first term, which ended in May.

Amir Tarighat, NWWNC treasurer, said the council began its first term in November, which gave its members less than half of a full term, which is normally two years, to achieve their goals. Council members did not anticipate the additional workload of establishing the new council, which inhibited their progress.

“A lot of the stuff we did was housekeeping and really building the base of what our procedures are,” Tarighat said.

Some of the council’s early efforts included establishing a website to disseminate information to the public efficiently and contracting a company to construct that site, Tarighat said.

The council’s funding requests required time for the city to process and approve, which delayed the council from accomplishing its goals, Tarighat said.

Tarighat added most of the council members in the past term lacked formal experience with neighborhood council procedures and requests for funding, which hindered some of the council’s progress.

Despite these setbacks, the council met many of its goals, endorsing several projects and events and completing plans for longer-term projects.

Ryan Snyder, co-chair of the NWWNC Transportation and Safety Committee, said most of the council members worked to improve the student-friendly nature of Westwood.

“A lot of it was having more choices for students in shopping, dining and going to bars in Westwood Village, along with better bicycle access,” Snyder said.

The council endorsed several housing project proposals, including The Agora and a 31-unit, four-story complex on Westwood Boulevard. Although these projects have yet to be finalized, the NWWNC encouraged them to take advantage of bonuses from the city such as reduced parking requirements from Metro’s Purple Line Extension, Skiles said.

“The biggest success for the council will be when we see some of this housing finally approved and the construction starting and people being housed,” Skiles said. “But the first step is happening in that these projects are coming to our council where I don’t think they would have even attempted to come before the previous council given their hostility to anything that would exceed the baseline of entitlement.”

The NWWNC also proposed changes to food use definitions and parking requirements in the Westwood Specific Plan, the master planning document for Westwood, to promote fast casual restaurants in Westwood, Skiles said.

“We hope by those actions to send a signal to businesses that our council is going to be a lot more encouraging of businesses and is going to work with businesses to have these restrictions removed as opposed to (putting) these restrictions on like the previous council did,” Skiles said.

To address homelessness, the NWWNC endorsed a bridge housing shelter project at the Chabad of Westwood house on Gayley Avenue, which Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz made a motion for as well, Skiles said.

Most neighborhood councils do not support projects like the Chabad bridge housing, Skiles said. While the project made significant progress, it was not completed due to city regulations and restrictions regarding liability on the part of the Chabad, Skiles added.

The NWWNC also participated in and encouraged community members to attend both the Westwood Homeless Count for the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority and Westwood Connect Day, and also donated around $6,500 to homelessness outreach programs such as the UCLA Community Programs Office food closet, Skiles said.

“At the very least we have been able to divert volunteers and resources to that issue, although we’re not going to be satisfied until we get the shelter and a lot more done,” Skiles said.

The NWWNC proposed the construction of a bike lane on Gayley between Wilshire Boulevard and Le Conte Avenue, which is currently awaiting funding through Koretz’s office. The NWWNC also submitted plans to the city to increase the number of bicycle loops on parking meters for people to lock their bikes throughout Westwood, Skiles said.

Snyder said the council worked with the Westwood Village Improvement Association on a grant application to improve bus stops and pedestrian access to those stops throughout the Village. The city has yet to approve the application.

Snyder said the council completed most of the planning for its transportation goals. He added the council now has to implement these plans to complete its work.

“From a planning perspective, I think we achieved quite a bit, which is all that you can really expect from a short time frame,” Snyder said.

Additionally, the city approved an NWWNC-endorsed bid to transform the south side of Broxton Avenue into a pedestrian plaza, which would permanently close the area off to traffic and reserve it for people and events, Skiles said.

“So, that is in the process of being converted into a permanent space for the community,” Skiles said. “We see that as a very positive and exciting development, and we look forward for more places for people emerging.”

Skiles added the NWWNC worked to promote events that would promote activity and congregation in Westwood, such as the Far-Out Fest and Places for the People.

Tarighat said the NWWNC’s ability to address topics ranging from the Agora project to the closing of Sepi’s exemplified the council’s effectiveness.

“We were effectively able to act as a forum to bring attention to this sort of stuff quickly, on top of the business of events and neighborhood grants,” Tarighat said. “So, I would say all in all we were very effective in that short time frame.”

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Maanas Oruganti | Enterprise editor
Oruganti is the 2020-2021 Enterprise Editor. He was previously a News staff writer in the City & Crime and Science & Health beats. He is also a third-year cognitive science student at UCLA.
Oruganti is the 2020-2021 Enterprise Editor. He was previously a News staff writer in the City & Crime and Science & Health beats. He is also a third-year cognitive science student at UCLA.
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