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Students advocate for recreation spaces, clothing stores in Westwood

Westwood Village is pictured. Students said they would like to see boutique shops, clothing stores and more spaces for social gatherings. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Dora Gao

Feb. 4, 2024 6:56 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 4 at 11:55 p.m.

Boutique shops, clothing stores and more spaces for social gatherings are three things UCLA students said they would like to see more of in Westwood.

In a recent meeting of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, Kevin Crummy, the association’s board chair, said 17 new businesses opened in the last year, totaling to 243 businesses in Westwood Village. Thomas Contreras, a resident stakeholder on the North Westwood Neighborhood Council, added that new businesses including Danny Boy’s Pizza, House of Mandi, Raising Cane’s, Sender One, STK Los Angeles and The Breathing Room are also coming to Westwood soon.

However, Michael Russell, executive director of the WVIA, said in an emailed statement that the number of storefront vacancies has increased in the Village since the start of the pandemic with vacancies hitting a high of 32% at the start of 2022. He added that there is still a 14% vacancy rate, though nine businesses plan on opening this year.

Contreras said he believes the high price of owning commercial real estate in West LA is a factor in the Westwood vacancies. Russell added in the statement that he thinks appealing to businesses is key in getting more storefronts in Westwood.

“A lot of it has to do with creating interest in the area – sometimes there is somewhat of a chicken-and-egg scenario where we need people to make the area viable,” Russell said. “Whenever someone’s interested in the area, we will happily meet with any stakeholders or business owners.”

Some students said they would like to see more recreational spaces in the village.

Ellie Wolverton, a first-year music industry student, said although she was happy with the variety of grocery stores in Westwood, she would like to see more available activities.

“It would be fun to have more recreation, like a bowling alley or the more fun activities you could do,” Wolverton said.

Alex Clayton, a first-year design media arts student, added that having more late-night options in the Village would better cater to student lifestyles, particularly for students who also have part-time jobs.

“Hours is definitely a big deal, like having more time open, because I know a lot of us can only do work past 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.” Clayton said. “If everything’s closed in Westwood by then there’s no option.”

Other students said the village could have a wider variety of store types.

Natasha Sutkin, a second-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student, said she would like to see more boutique and clothing stores, such as PacSun.

“Clothing stores would be fun,” Sutkin said. “I feel like we don’t have any small business boutiques.”

Sam DiMarco, a first-year financial actuarial mathematics student, said she would also feel more supported by local small businesses if they offered more promotions or discounts aimed at attracting students.

“I would totally shop more or be able to afford other things if there was student discounts,” DiMarco said.

However, Lautaro Ibarra, a third-year geography student, said he was satisfied with the number of restaurants available in the Village, such as Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, Rocco’s Tavern and Barney’s Beanery.

Lea Tomaskovic, a second-year physics student, said she feels the Village should take into account student opinions because so many of them live and walk through the community. Contreras said the NWWNC is working with businesses to serve the student population better.

“There is a spot for businesses to come and share their concerns at every meeting,” Contreras said. “There are a couple of businesses that come to every meeting and are present in the audience, and when they have a need in mind, they make public comments.”

Providing feedback to the WVIA can be done through their website or via email, Russell said in the statement, adding that information about attending association meetings is accessible for all UCLA students.

Student involvement is crucial in NWWNC meetings, Contreras said.

“We do really take into account student voices, and it really does help that we have so many UCLA students actually serving on the council,” he said. “Part of our interests, too, is making sure that the voices of our school and our community are present at every meeting.”

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