The Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa (NCWP), a 31-seat board that was created to promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs, is readying for its 2016 election and looking for candidates to run in any of the 16 seats that will be up for grabs this spring.
“We’re looking for members who are interested in issues that affect the whole community,” said NCWP president Cyndi Hench. “Every member of the NCWP, while elected on a certain criteria, represents the whole community. We have to be mindful of being interested in the entire footprint. Most of the work happens outside of the meetings, so we want people that are interested and engaged in the issues.”
The council is made up of stakeholders from the Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista area with 15 seats reserved for residents, while the rest are reserved for representatives from service clubs, local businesses, youth organizations, the airport and LMU. Elections are held every two years, with half of the seats up for vote, and board members serve four-year terms. If a seat is vacated during that time, or no candidate runs, an appointment can be made if approved by board vote. Currently, there are four residential seats that are vacant.
Being on the council can be very time consuming. Besides the monthly board meeting that takes place the first Tuesday of the month in the Westchester Community Room, each member is required to serve on at least one of the council’s nine committees, which include Education, Planning and Land Use (PLUC), Governmental Affairs, Airport Relations and Public Safety. Playa del Rey resident and founding member of the NCWP, Pat Lyon, says that board members can expect to spend at least four hours a month on council issues, but for a committee like PLUC, which hears on a monthly basis from developers, business owners and residents looking to build in the community, the time commitment can be up to 20 hours a month to read reports, plans and attend meetings.
“We have some very talented, caring people on the committee,” said Lyon. “Planning and land use and development is a major concern in the community. We have been a hidden gem for so many decades, and we’ve been discovered. It’s been a very tough issue for the community. Many of the new residents look forward to change—new restaurants, new buildings–– but Westchester and Playa del Rey residents tend to stay here for a long time and change can be painful. It’s not always what all our neighbors want, but we try to find the balance of needed change and required change.”
Members are also required to attend mandatory trainings and stay on top of issues that pertain to Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista. Despite the hard work it takes to serve on the council, however, being a board member is a very fulfilling job said Lyon.
“These are not glamorous appointments, and you aren’t going to be popular with everybody,” said Lyon. “But at the end of the day, you hope you are doing what is best for the community.”
Echoes council member Alan Quon, “I’ve been on the council for six years and it’s been really rewarding helping the community and seeing the impact we are having.”
After all, the council helps advise Councilman Mike Bonin and the L.A. City Council on issues that directly and indirectly impact the community’s quality of life. This past year, the council has voted and sent letters to the city on a variety of issues from short-term rentals, sidewalk vending and small lot subdivision. The council has also hosted an education summit and a senior care expo, sponsored local events like the Race for Success and given grants to community groups including PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) and the Westchester Playa Village.
Hoping to make a difference is exactly why Playa del Rey resident Gilbert Oviedo recently decided to get involved with the NCWP. Concerned about the safety of the stretch of Culver Blvd. to Jefferson Blvd. that doesn’t have a sidewalk despite its popularity as a walking path, he has decided to run for a seat on the council this June.
“What better avenue to make a stand for my community than run for a seat?” said Oviedo. “I want to help make a safer community.”
Applications for those interested in running for the NCWP are scheduled to be available online starting February 21. Prospective candidates can then register through April 6.
Seats up for grabs in this year’s election include even numbered Residential Seats, an At-Large Seat, Business Seats in Westchester and Playa del Rey, the Community Organization Seat, the LMU Seat, the At-Large Affirmation Seat, the Education Seat, the Youth Organization Seat and the Service Club/Fraternal Organizations Seat. The election will be held on Sunday, June 5 in the Westchester Community Room.