Students, businesses, establishment politics clash.
By Sam Catanzaro
There is a debate heating up over local politics in West Los Angeles around the creation of a new neighborhood council.
For years, all of Westwood was under the jurisdiction of the Westwood Neighborhood Council (WWNC) but earlier this year, students and Westwood residents voted to create a new neighborhood council in Westwood. Known as the North Westwood Neighborhood Council (NWWNC) the borders of this new council include UCLA, Westwood Village and the North Village.
The creation of the NWWNC came after many UCLA students, faculty and staff felt their concerns and interests were not being met by the WWNC.
“We the stakeholders of North Westwood deserve a council that represents us and works to address the needs of our community. When Westwood’s rents are the highest in the state, and students are forced into homelessness or cramming 8 students into units made for 2, we need a council that’s focused on building housing catered to students walking to campus,” said Michael Skiles, president of the UCLA Graduate Students Association and a member of Westwood Forward. “WWNC repeatedly opposed UCLA’s housing projects, fraternity houses and private housing development projects that would considerably alleviate our housing crisis.”
While Brentwood News could not verify that Westwood rents are the highest in the state, according to a 2016 Apartment List study, the average rent for a two-bed in Westwood, $4,200 a month, is the highest in Los Angeles.
Lisa Chapman, President of the Westwood Neighborhood Council says, however, that this new neighborhood council is unnecessary and will only divide the Westwood community.
“There was no reason to subdivide this Neighborhood Council. The UCLA students have had the opportunity to run and win a majority of seats on the existing council for many years, they have never chosen to do so. Instead, they chose to divide and tear apart an entire community,” Chapman said.
In addition, Chapman accuses the Westwood Village Improvement Association (WVIA), which is the business improvement district (BID) in Westwood, of encouraging students to create the NWWNC to allow the BID to push through an agenda without opposition.
“The BID wanted the students to be in charge of the Village, because they knew they would be an easy target to push any agenda through without any oversight or opposition,” Chapman said. “This was maneuvered and influence by the Westwood BID executive Director, Andrew Thomas, and board member Kevin Crummy.”
Chapman bases her claims off of documents published on the blog michaelkohlhaas.org. The documents can be read by visiting https://bit.ly/2OCI4ti.
After the vote to create the NWWNC, the WWNC drew up boundaries that would have shared jurisdiction of Westwood Village between the two neighborhood councils. Earlier this month, however, the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC) approved boundaries that gave the NWWNC sole control of Westwood Village. Skiles says this will make it easier for businesses to operate in Westwood Village.
“It would have been a nightmare for every proposed business and development to have to go before 2 different councils and their respective committees, especially when WWNC has brought back some projects as many as 10 times,” Skiles said.
Last month, BONC approved the borders and bylaws for the NWWNC, officially certifying it as the 98th neighborhood council within the City of Los Angeles.
Within the neighborhood council, there are several avenues for students to serve. There’s one graduate student seat, two undergraduate seats and three at-large seats open to all stakeholders as well as two organizational seats open to those engaged in any organization within the community.