UCLA is inextricably tied to the city of Los Angeles. Our campus sits in the midst of this cultural capital, a place teeming with people from all walks of life and all over the world; industries ranging from aerospace engineering to film production; incredible access to nature, the arts, shopping and nightlife; and every kind of cuisine imaginable. UCLA students, faculty, staff and alumni are not shy about taking advantage of all that L.A. has to offer — and, of course, they contribute much to its liveliness.
But within our city we also have a “college town” — Westwood — that has been deeply linked to the UCLA campus since its earliest beginnings. The cover story for the October issue of UCLA Magazine explores that relationship and its recent history, examining how the character of Westwood has changed, delving into some of its struggles and looking ahead to a future marked by great potential.
From the 1930s through the 1980s, Westwood was one of the most popular places for shopping, dining and entertainment on the Westside of Los Angeles. But a variety of factors — competition from new nearby commercial areas, the Great Recession and, most recently, the pandemic — have harmed the area’s popularity and vitality in recent years.
A healthy and close relationship between a university and its local community is enormously beneficial for all.
Even with the changes, though, the connections between UCLA and Westwood never disappeared. The sights of students, faculty and staff walking south to meet up with friends and colleagues at restaurants and movie theaters or returning north carrying bags from trips to the stores have remained commonplace.
As important as our historical ties have been, the current moment presents us with an opportunity to help chart a better future, one that reinvigorates the Westwood area not only as a commercial center and recreation destination, but also as an attractive and exciting place to live.
There are already signs of a renaissance in Westwood, with UCLA construction that will add student and faculty housing close to the village, potential changes to existing land use policies and greater efforts to connect UCLA and its students with the area’s artistic and cultural goings-on.
In conjunction with the new Metro Purple Line stop coming to the intersection of Westwood and Wilshire boulevards across the street from the Hammer Museum at UCLA, these changes have the potential to remake the neighborhood. Working together, we can accentuate Westwood as a vibrant area that enriches the experiences of all Bruins and the city we call home.
I have spent the many years of my career in college towns like Westwood; Charlottesville, Virginia; and Eugene, Oregon, and I believe that a healthy and close relationship between a university and its local community is enormously beneficial for all. As we reacquaint ourselves with the places we care about after so many months stuck indoors and behind screens, this is an opportunity for UCLA and Westwood — two closely intertwined and mutually dependent entities — to celebrate our ties and build a reinvigorated future as part of one community.
Read more from UCLA Magazine’s October 2021 issue.