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Westwood Village Ambassadors manage safety, cleanliness for community members

David Solache, a cleaning ambassador for the Westwood Village Ambassador Program, is pictured. Members of the ambassador program, which is part of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, work to maintain the cleanliness of the village. (Courtesy of Westwood Village Improvement Association)

By Wendy (Pui Wan) Chong

March 11, 2024 9:49 p.m.

The Westwood Village Ambassador Program aims to enhance the safety, cleanliness and overall community spirit of the Village.

The program provides safety escorts in Westwood to help students and community members feel safer, especially when walking late at night, said Henry Rojas, a supervisor and the team lead of the Westwood Village Ambassadors. He added that people can call the ambassadors, who collaborate with local police departments, and be escorted to their car or other locations within the Village.

“Showing our presence usually …. deters crime. Also, a lot of people just by seeing us out there, they feel a lot more safer,” Rojas said.

Another main focus of the ambassadors is graffiti removal and waste management, said David Solache, a cleaning ambassador. Cleaning ambassadors remove stickers and graffiti as well as change the trash in around 110 cans on a daily basis to make sure the Village remains inviting, he said.

Handling the logistics of maintaining cleanliness during large community events, such as Broxton Nights, First Thursdays and the farmer’s markets, is part of the program’s responsibilities, Solache said.

“We have pretty much our entire team come in that day, and we have our safeties, our cleaning team, just patrolling, just making sure that there’s order,” he said. “We also have LAPD on site, the fire department, just in case.”

[Related: Broxton Nights Sweetheart Market offers community space for attendees, loved ones]

The work the ambassadors do is crucial in keeping the area clean and beautiful, said Steven Sann, the chairman of the Westwood Community Council.

“If we did not have a BID – a Business Improvement District – there would be no one to pick up the trash,” he said. “Trash would overflow after just one day, … it would become a health hazard almost immediately,” he said.

The ambassadors arrive quickly and ready to handle any situation, said Dana Slatkin, who is the owner of Violet L.A., which is a California-French bistro in the Village. Michael Russell, the executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, added that he feels the addition of the program has improved the Westwood community experience.

“I definitely think it’s enhanced the Westwood Village community and improved the area around UCLA,” Russell said.

Russell said he witnessed an ambassador help an elderly woman park her car, which he said represents the type of work that the ambassadors perform.

Quality of life ambassadors also assist by reaching out to those experiencing homelessness, said Andrea Barrera, the outreach specialist for the program.

She added that she refers people experiencing homelessness to organizations such as LA-HOP and also coordinates with UCLA medical students, who offer assistance to people experiencing homelessness twice a month.

An upcoming change to the program will involve hiring a plaza ambassador to oversee the plan to make Broxton Plaza a pedestrian-only walkway, Russell said.

[Related: Westwood Village Improvement Association obtains permit for Broxton Plaza Project]

In the future, ambassadors also plan to direct users as they exit the expanded line of the metro station, he added.

Sann said in the future, the ambassador program could benefit from an increased budget to expand certain services. It would be useful to pressure wash the sidewalks more frequently because of how dirty they quickly become, and more regular tree trimming would also help to maintain a positive experience in Westwood Village, he said.

Slatkin added that she appreciates the ambassadors’ community approach, something she thinks other neighborhood programs and the LAPD could learn from.

Ultimately, the Westwood Village Ambassador Program aims to contribute to the safety, cleanliness, and welcoming nature of Westwood, Rojas said.

“It takes more of a team effort to get out there and have everything running smoothly,” Rojas said.

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Wendy (Pui Wan) Chong
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