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Political Earthquake in Westwood

Westwood’s new neighborhood council could help catalyze more progressive initiatives there

A May 22 neighborhood council vote could dramatically shift the future course of Westwood. Unofficial tallies show that 58 percent voted to form a new neighborhood council to represent UCLA campus, Westwood Village, Westwood Boulevard south of Wilshire Boulevard and the multi-family neighborhoods to the west and south of campus.

For some 35 years homeowner association leaders have claimed to be the “voice of the community” in Westwood. They’ve been well organized and quite City Hall savvy. During this time many other residents, business owners, students, UCLA faculty and others have felt left out and frustrated by the process. Westwood was one of the last parts of Los Angeles to have a neighborhood council because the homeowner association leaders resisted it, knowing it could mean sharing power with others. Once it was formed, they co-opted it and have controlled a strong majority of the seats on the existing Westwood Neighborhood Council.

After that, the Westwood Neighborhood Council created a track record of opposing bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard, opposing businesses that would bring activity such as live music or billiards, opposing new affordable housing for students, and being quite open about saying that renters and students shouldn’t have a voice in Westwood. UCLA students organized Westwood Forward to create this breakaway neighborhood council. Their successful effort could mean a real shift in course for Westwood. The new neighborhood council is likely to be friendlier to bike lanes, street designs that favor pedestrians, street life, nighttime activity and public transit.

This political earthquake may help Westwood to become the hip neighborhood that it ought to be. Home to UCLA, this university community should be one of the more progressive and more interesting parts of Los Angeles. Instead, it has arguably been the sterile epicenter of NIMBYism for decades. I’m looking forward to it!

Ryan Snyder is a transportation planning consultant, a member of the UCLA Urban Planning faculty and a resident of Westwood. Follow Snyder on Twitter.

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