A group led by UCLA students wants to create a new neighborhood council for Westwood, according to a report by KPCC.
UCLA's 45,000 students make up most of Westwood's population. But Michael Skiles, a philosophy graduate student helping to lead the new group Westwood Forward, said student voices are marginalized by the current council.
Neighborhood councils don't make planning decisions for the city, but Skiles said the Westwood group's opposition to more density has stymied residential development in the past.
"UCLA is a very expensive area, and now you’ve got students cramming into apartment units because there’s just no affordable housing anywhere near here," Skiles said.
Typical rent for a one-bedroom in Westwood is about $2,600. Skiles said those who can't afford the high rents end up commuting from such places as Palms and Culver City.
Lisa Chapman, president of the Westwood council, responded by email: "We have never opposed more student housing at UCLA, not once."
Chapman added members recently opposed a housing project she described as "a monstrous 20-story building on an incredibly vulnerable, dense, and busy corner of Westwood." She said the council asked that the housing be built elsewhere on campus.
UCLA students and council leadership have also butted heads over how the council treats Westwood businesses. Skiles said the council is too stringent and "nit-picky" about design criteria that local alcohol-serving establishments must meet. Chapman said the council has to consider constituents other than the businesses, including residents living nearby.
Grayce Liu, general manager of the city department governing Los Angeles' 97 neighborhood councils, said if the students get their application in on time, a vote to create a new council could take place next spring.
Liu said the city has been piloting online voting for its neighborhood councils, and that an online vote could be conducted for a new Westwood council.
Skiles said online voting would almost assure passage of their proposal because UCLA students already have high participation rates in online voting for student government elections.