Frustration builds for Westwood residents near UCLA Housing construction projects
Several residents have expressed concerns about how UCLA is conducting construction projects in Westwood. Some struggle with excessive noise, frequent demolitions and traffic issues. (Amy Dixon/Daily Bruin senior staff)
September 9, 2019 12:48 am
Several Westwood residents have expressed concerns about how UCLA is constructing new student housing in Westwood.
UCLA Housing has undertaken several construction projects since March 2017 so it can guarantee housing for undergraduate students for up to four years, but some Westwood residents have been struggling with the frequent demolition, noise pollution and even alleged sexual harassment.
Justin Joseffy, a Westwood resident who lives close to three of the UCLA Housing construction projects, said he chose to speak up about his problems with the construction after his wife was sexually harassed by one of the construction workers.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back for me is that now they’ve closed off our part of the street,” Joseffy said. “My wife went to pull out the other day, and the guy who was working the sign was sexually harassing her.”
Joseffy said he initially reached out to a city-provided service line and was directed to call the nonemergency police line. However, he didn’t call because he felt that using police resources should not be necessary because these sorts of issues should be addressed to a community liaison from UCLA Housing.
Sarah Dundish, director of housing services, said in an email statement that UCLA Housing and any construction companies that receive contracts from UCLA are subject to a zero tolerance policy against any type of harassment.
Joseffy said he was not opposed to the construction of student housing. However, he said he was frustrated by how these projects were executed.
“My issue is that we’ve been under construction in this neighborhood for what seems like years,” Joseffy said. “There’s just absolutely no consideration from whoever this construction company is or from UCLA regarding the people who live in this residential neighborhood.”
Michael Zhang, a fourth-year microbiology student who lives beside the construction, said UCLA’s housing construction has caused traffic problems for the surrounding residents.
“I don’t have a car, but I feel like depending on the day, when there’s a detour, it does change the flow of traffic,” Zhang said. “And that makes it harder for people who do have cars to get to certain (destinations).”
Zhang added the construction disturbed his mornings and returning to his apartment proved to be more complicated with the construction sites.
“There’s this vibration in the room in the morning, but based off my schedule right now it doesn’t bother me too much,” Zhang said. “When I’m getting groceries, I just have to be mindful of the construction, and sometimes the dust.”
Joseffy said he thinks even if this amount of simultaneous construction could be acceptable for residents, UCLA Housing is not adequately reaching out to the community or providing ways for Westwood residents to get in contact with the appropriate UCLA personnel.
“There are no postings down at the construction site about who to call,” Joseffy said. “There’s no management information or who to call if there is an issue or complaint to be made.”
Dundish said Capital Programs reaches out to residents near construction projects through community meetings and by posting information on their website.
Joseffy said other problems he noticed with regard to construction include constant construction noise at all hours of the day and the movement of diesel trucks up and down his street throughout most of the morning. Joseffy said he believes some city traffic statutes are being violated in the construction of these new housing projects.
However, Michael Skiles, president of the North Westwood Neighborhood Council, said UCLA is not subject to Los Angeles city regulations due to its membership in a state agency, namely the University of California system.
Skiles said the NWWNC has heard several complaints about noise pollution from residents near these construction sites. Although many of these complaints have been fielded to UCLA, he was told by the housing department that they are unable to fund certain methods of noise cancellation, such as the installment of double-paned windows in adjacent buildings due to legal concerns about the funding being considered as bribery, Skiles added.
Skiles presented the concerns of residents to Michael Beck, administrative vice chancellor, to facilitate the installment of double-paned windows in residents’ homes, but Beck told Skiles he would not be able to reimburse the residents, Skiles said.
“(Beck) said he was advised by legal that it wasn’t allowed because it would be considered a private gift of public funds,” Skiles said.
Konstantinos “Duncan” Palamourdas, a professor at UCLA Extension, lives at the Club California apartment complex, which is adjacent to the Le Conte/Levering construction project, and he said while he supported UCLA’s efforts to provide more students with housing, communication with the university has proved to be difficult.
“The biggest issue for me was the inability to communicate in order to find a resolution with the UCLA officials,” Palamourdas said. “If I were to summarize my experience, it would feel like they never gave up an inch.”
Palamourdas added when he spoke with Beck, he was sent along a chain of UCLA officials to find a solution that worked for the residents and the university. However, none of the officials accepted any of his suggestions for compromise, including a reduction of one hour from the daily work schedule, and construction continued even through most of finals week, he said.
“I’ve never felt like I was wasting more time in my entire life,” Palamourdas said. “If they had told me, ‘You know what? I don’t care what you say or what you think; we’re going to go XYZ, take it or leave it,’ I would have saved a tremendous amount of work hours.”
Joseffy said he hopes UCLA will reach out to the communities near the construction sites to improve their residential situations.
“Living in this constant state of construction without being able to talk to someone feels really aggressive from the university,” Joseffy said.
Contributing reports from Wendy Li, Daily Bruin contributor