Editor’s note: This is one of several articles in a series of profiles on Westwood Neighborhood Council candidates. Profiles will be published in the days leading up to the Oct. 28 election. Click here for more Patch election coverage.
Westwood Neighborhood Council candidate Brant Feldman is running for a Rental Residential Group seat on the 19-seat board.
Westwood-Century City Patch: Are you involved with any local organizations? Which one(s)?
Brant Feldman: I do not belong to any Westwood-based organizations, but I make sure that I frequently attend Westwood Neighborhood Council meetings to see what is being said, who is saying it and to ask questions of our current board members and take a position on things that are on the agenda as a stakeholder of our community.
I have volunteered to take part in grievance meetings for WNC and took part in one this past year. As far as I am aware it is was the only grievance meeting for WNC.
Patch: What are the important issues facing Westwood and what is your position on them?
Feldman: This is a complex question. From each group's perspective it is different things. Here is my overview of them:
Student: While attending university anywhere it is to have a suitable environment to have fun while not in class. This would be to have more places to shop, drink/dance, blow off steam and to be able to do so in a convenient location so you can walk to/from those places. Additionally, students while they may be temporary residents in nature they are an active part of our community and deserve to have a say in how their community affects their experience while attending UCLA. My thoughts on this is that via the Westwood BID that we need to support more opportunities for these students to not drive away from the area, but keep more of their dollars in the Village.
Homeowners: In general, homeowners do not want to see added growth in the Village because they do not want to see their streets turned into shortcuts for additional traffic and blight that comes with that. This was a common theme that I heard two years ago running the first time. They would not like to see Westwood become what it was as a destination in the 80s and the amount of people that came with it. I believe that there is a way to satisfy our housing residents while at the same time increasing the opportunities away from the majority of residential homes west of Westwood Boulevard. This is not going to say that traffic will be mitigated, but other traffic restrictions could be imposed to help these residents.
Business: Honestly, the state of Westwood Boulevard north of Wilshire has been a disaster for more than a decade and while new ideas like the BID that has been implemented now we need to do more to change the direction, help storefronts reopen and add to what should be a thriving area. While parking has been an issue, with better dialogue between the developers that own lots under their property and our city garage there is plenty of parking to help everyone. I think that the WNC needs to really take a clear position with Councilman Koretz that we want to see our community thrive again with a growth plan that factors in all of our stakeholders and get our head out of the sand. This does not mean you let in everyone and you don't have a plan, but what has happened here has not worked for 20 years. Time to change the game.
Renters: Being that I am in this category, I have always thought that we have not had our voices heard when it comes to other factions in the area. I have been a renter in Westwood for 14 of the past 20 years. It's a great area. I can't afford a multimillion dollar residence, but certainly I have similar needs as other residents. We need more stores right here, we have lost movie theaters, video stores, video arcades, restaurants, Best Buy and seem to have a glut of coffee shops and pizza joints (though I love 800 Degrees and go there after WNC meetings because of their quality and late hours). In other parts of Westwood, renters have issues that are similar to that of homeowners, but many times those issues get fixed or treated first for the homeowners or businesses. I want to be a voice that levels the playing field, but done so that we listen and weigh it for the overall good of the community. Not just our clique because that is not productive as well.
Passersby/workers: Certainly transportation to/from the Village is a major concern and with the subway coming this way this will be an issue that comes up more and more. If we can get people to come and go with a better plan than today via Metro, incentives for carpools or promotion of alternatives like bike (if applicable) we need to do this. Being sensitive to those who are opening and closing doors plus spending money here needs to be looked at by WNC and pass along our comments to the City. This is not going to magically disappear, but being proactive helps shape policies that will affect us all.
Patch: What Westwood Neighborhood Council decisions have you agreed with? What, if anything, would you do differently?
Feldman: Being that this is only the second election and that there was early public outcry that the WNC was not needed or wanted, I feel that WNC is tremendous because it is the first entity that was not controlled by anyone. I understand the power that the homeowners associations have and that they are better connected as opposed to renters, students and other stakeholders. There is an inherent advantage via decades of meetings, but that does not mean that their collective voice is not as important as everyone else.
WNC listens to everyone and while I can't say I have been happy with everything they have done, they have to play by rules that have been put into place by the government. Their are many other entities that pretend to be the official statement of the community, but they don't have to play by the same rules. I am not against any of these other entities from existing, but if WNC says something to bring an official position to the councilman or to the mayor, I think that the balanced board that WNC provides is a better way of representing the area.
One major element that I want to see different in the next two years is to have much better community outreach to let people know about what WNC does and to invite more people out to let them know that there is a body out there that wants to hear what our stakeholders want to say. I think that this was a major failure by the current WNC board and the amount of voters in this election will probably showcase that because people don't even know about the election.
Patch: In your opinion, what role should the Westwood Neighborhood Council play in the community?
Feldman: I think I stated this above, but I will take another shot at this. The Westwood Neighborhood Council should be who the elected politicians listen to because of the balance of all of the stakeholders in the community. This is not to say that our homeowners, business district and community council boards are not important, but none of them have to fall under the rules that have been put into place by DONE. They are all activists with their own specific agendas. I know that this is not a popular statement, but We The People, By The People, For The People rings a lot better for me then specific agendas.
Patch: What's one thing most constituents don't know about you?
Feldman: I am not part of a clique, an owners or business group or part of a block of voting that wants to jam all of their votes through without really listening to whatever issue is in play.
I want to be free to vote because I have not made any promises to a developer, homeowner, business, student group or other party. You vote because you think it is in the best interest of Westwood collectively. In this election you will see blocks of candidates trying to be a slate or ticket, this is not in the best interest of the entire community because all you're doing is putting group think on the board. I may support some of the candidates out there but it is because I think that they would be good for the job. Some may be on those tickets, some may not.
If you vote for me, realize that I am going to work for everyone just as I do for the athletes that have hired me for the past four Olympic Games. I live and work here, please let me help here too.
Patch: Why did you decide to run for a seat on the Westwood Neighborhood Council? What qualifications do you have to represent your community?
Feldman: I ran two years ago for WNC because I wanted to see our area thrive from the perspective of a long time resident of the North Village. My qualifications would be that I have a degree in Political Science from CSUN, I work as a sports agent that represents the interests of Olympic athletes for the United States, Canada and Switzerland and have to listen to the needs of businesses that need my athletes to help them with their specific goals to help grow their products. There is a lot of give and take that goes into this and if you can listen you can make deals and help to grow.
This is the same thing with a neighborhood council, you need to be able to listen to everyone and make informed decisions that will help all of those whether it be resident, owner, renter, student/teacher/faculty, business owner/employee or shopper.
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