WESTWOOD—UCLA students have become more active in the Westwood Neighborhood Council and are proposing to create an entirely new council to push their own plans.
Micheal Skiles, President of the Graduate Student Association, led a group of graduate and undergraduate UCLA leaders in proposing a plan to create an entirely new council, dubbed the North Westwood Neighborhood Council. The council would be autonomous from the current Westwood Neighborhood Council and would preside over UCLA’s campus, Westwood Village and the North Village. Any businesses or residents that are currently a part of the Westwood Neighborhood Council (WNC) and live in the proposed new council’s domain would have to resign from the WNC.
The debate began when UCLA housing groups proposed a plan to convert a UCLA Extension Building into new dorms for over 1300 UCLA students. The plan was rejected by the WNC’s Land Use and Planning Committee. It was not the first time such an action transpired. In 2011, the committee refused to allow the school to repurpose some buildings in Westwood into residential spaces for around 360 students.
According to The Daily Bruin, members of the WNC attempted to limit student stakeholder input in the meeting. As recorded in the meeting’s minutes, WNC members were “concerned students would mobilize and overshadow homeowners with their large numbers.”
Increasing housing in the area has become more important as Los Angeles population continues to grow. Westwood is mainly residential, but the housing is expensive; on average, one-bedroom apartments rent for upwards of $2500 per month in the region. Many students, especially those on financial aid, cannot afford those housing costs. More options for housing will lower the average rent in the area.
Many UCLA student leaders have been speaking out against the WNC. According to The Daily Bruin, many leaders have stated that the WNC are “NIMBY and obstructionist” about building new housing. Bars, fast food restaurants, night clubs and other businesses are currently limited by the WNC’s Westwood Village Specific Plan, but students are hoping to change those limitations.
In order to be considered, the new council must attain between 200 and 500 signatures from stakeholders living in its proposed area. Westwood Forward, a group of students who are championing the changes are contacting stakeholders. They will also complete an application for the neighborhood subdivision that will be turned in to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment; the city’s legislative body for overseeing neighborhoods. If the body approves the new council, elections for board members will likely begin in June 2018.