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Westwood Village Improvement Association obtains permit for Broxton Plaza Project

Broxton Plaza is pictured. The Westwood Village Improvement Association will transform the area into a pedestrian-only walkway by July. (Ethan Manafi/Daily Bruin staff)

By Gabby Jamall

May 19, 2023 12:28 p.m.

The Westwood Village Improvement Association received permits from the city of Los Angeles to implement the Broxton Plaza Project, a plan to transform part of Broxton Avenue into a pedestrian-only walkway by summer.

Broxton Plaza is a collaborative project between the WVIA and the LA Department of Transportation as part of LADOT’s People St Program, which aims to improve the safety and security of neighborhoods while also creating aesthetic and vibrant public spaces. According to the program’s website, communities seeking to enhance their outdoor atmosphere and add liveliness to their public spaces can apply to have the city implement parklets, plazas, colorful intersections and extended bike parking.

The pedestrian-only area will be between Weyburn and Kinross avenues in Westwood.

The WVIA applied to the People St Program in 2015, and the application was approved by the LA City Council in 2018. Michael Russell, executive director of the WVIA, said issues with the COVID-19 pandemic and being short-staffed within LADOT delayed the start of the project.

“There’s just a lot of different pieces to make it all come together, and it’s just turning out to always take a little longer than we were hoping,” Russell said.

With the necessary permits and permission from the city for the plaza, the WVIA has been able to start planning and preparing for the event and community space, Russell added. He said he hopes construction will be finished by July.

The project will close off the one-way part of Broxton Avenue to vehicles, turning the area into a walkable public space where people can walk around, visit local businesses and attend social gathering events, according to the WVIA.

This project will be significant for Westwood Village because it creates an open public space dedicated to pedestrians, said Madeline Brozen, deputy director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and expert on transportation issues in urban design.

“Westwood Village doesn’t historically have as much space for people to just sit and enjoy,” she said. “Converting Broxton street into a plaza is really the opportunity to do that on a permanent basis.”

Erin Coutts, the renter stakeholder of the North Westwood Neighborhood Council, said in an emailed statement that having an open community space free of cars is crucial as Westwood prepares for future large-scale events, such as the 2028 Olympic Games where Westwood will serve as Olympic Village, as well as the opening of the Metro’s Purple (D Line) Extension Transit Project.

The WVIA has numerous community-gathering events and activities planned for the opening of the new plaza, including Saturday night farmers markets, live music, yoga classes and holiday lighting ceremonies, Russell added. He said the space is likely to bring a renewed vibrancy to the neighborhood, which may attract more visitors.

The portion of Broxton Avenue that will be transformed features several Westwood businesses, including Barney’s Beanery and Prince of Venice. AJ Sacher, director of operations at Barney’s Beanery, said the success of current pedestrian-only events on Broxton, such as the Westwood Village Farmers’ Markets and First Thursdays, make him optimistic the plaza will be beneficial for his business.

“We think it’s going to be a great benefit to the neighborhood,” Sacher said. “We think it’d be good for us specifically because we’d like to be part of the scene that’s going on, and we love being in Westwood and being a place for both the UCLA community but also for businesses and residents.”

Sacher added that an open plaza could even promote a safer atmosphere by encouraging personal social interaction between people on the streets.

“Whatever we can do to promote this kind of positive social engagement, I think it creates safety, and it adds for a great amount of growth potential in the area,” he said.

Brozen said Broxton Plaza is also a chance for UCLA students to come together and enjoy outdoor spaces without having to leave the neighborhood.

“Hopefully, this is one step in terms of Westwood Village continuing to be more student oriented and providing socializing opportunities for the UCLA community,” she said.

The transformation means that some street parking spots on Broxton Avenue will be lost, Russell said, adding that the WVIA is working with LADOT to potentially create new delivery and pickup zones for drivers, as well as improve the parking experience in the Broxton garage to prevent traffic congestion.

Sacher also said he thinks the gains of an added pedestrian customer base will outweigh any problems that street parking loss could create for his business.

“I don’t think that long term, the loss of these few spaces is going to negatively impact businesses more than the added benefit of having this dynamic walking environment where people kind of want to be a part of the scene,” he said.

Russell said the final step before construction can proceed is the approval of a street closure ordinance by the city council’s transportation committee. Following the approval, the ordinance will be sent to the LA City Council and, if passed, will allow for street closure and construction to officially begin.

The Broxton Plaza is an opportunity for growth and development as the community moves forward from the pandemic, Sacher said.

“We’ve had a rough couple of years, as everybody has,” Sacher said. “We’re bouncing back now.”

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