Pedestrians cross at the intersection of Westwood Boulevard and Weyburn… (Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles…)
Re "Reinventing Westwood," June 18
The only way anything new will survive in Westwood is to increase the amount of reasonably priced and accessible parking.
Having been a graduate student and researcher at UCLA for more than 10 years, I loved going into Westwood. But I had an in: a UCLA parking pass, which allowed me to walk from the campus into Westwood after work. My wife and friends never joined me because they could never find parking.
Angelenos love their cars, so Westwood has to provide more parking to accommodate more people from out of the area. And yet to my surprise, the article says some parking spaces will be converted to "parklets." Talk about killing a project before it even starts.
Missing from this article is any mention of the efforts of the Westwood Business Improvement District.
Since its inception just 21 months ago, the BID has made Westwood cleaner and safer than it has been in years. Ten thousand square feet of sidewalks have been reconstructed and new trees have been planted. The BID is also working to improve parking.
True, this work is not the cure-all, but it has created a climate that has led to new business and development. Many of the storefront vacancies referenced in the article have signed tenants working to open.
There are many challenges ahead in this competitive marketplace, including erasing the persistent perception that there is nothing to do in Westwood. To the contrary, Westwood boasts Los Angeles art hubs the Hammer Museum and the Geffen Playhouse, a world-class university and medical center in UCLA, and some of the most profitable retail shopping on the Westside.
A resurgence is underway in Westwood Village. The energy and momentum is real, and this time, I believe, it's here to stay.
The writer is the executive director of the Westwood Village Improvement Assn.
I work in Westwood and know that the primary reason the neighborhood is dying is that this area is difficult to get to and, when you do finally arrive, expensive to park in. Westwood needs more access to public transportation.
A light-rail line would help. Downtown L.A. and now Culver City are both served by light rail lines that have made access to commerce and entertainment venues immeasurably easier. Downtown L.A. is served by not one but five rail lines. That's why it is bustling again.
Westwood residents must now decide if they want to invite working-class Angelenos to visit their country club via public transit, or if they prefer to stay isolated and see their neighborhood slowly die.
While it is true that the 1988 shooting of Karen Toshima was an important factor in changing the public perception about Westwood, it was the "New Jack City" riots in March 1991 that had the most profound and long-lasting effect.
With the beating of Rodney King having taken place only days earlier, crowds rioted when hundreds were turned away at the movie's premiere at the Mann Westwood Fourplex Theater due to overselling. I lived on Wilshire Boulevard in the Paul Williams-designed apartment complex adjacent to the old Westwood Inn Motel; I remember cars driving up on the sidewalk laden with gun-toting youth.
Ironically, while the dozen-plus movie theaters may have been the pulse of the village, it was a single film released in the wrong place at the wrong time that was the greatest agent of change.
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