Neighborhood Councils in the City of Los Angeles have the power to help or hurt city officials and this Neighborhood Council power goes far beyond City Hall, City of Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) director Greg Nelson told members of the Mar Vista Community Council.

The Mar Vista Community Council is the official Neighborhood Council for the Mar Vista area. Nelson spoke at a quarterly stakeholder meeting of the Mar Vista organization Tuesday, October 12th.

Also speaking at the meeting was Neal Richman of the UCLA Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy.

Nelson reviewed how the Neighborhood Councils concept started in Los Angeles, citing the success of such Neighborhood Councils in other cities.

“Attending a City Council meeting in another state, I was amazed when a city councilman said he couldn’t vote until he had received a response from the Neighborhood Council,” Nelson said.

Nelson said keys to success for a Neighborhood Council are threefold:

n how the Neighborhood Council conducts business and represents neighborhood diversity;

n how the Neighborhood Council communicates with its stakeholders; and

n how the Neighborhood Council develops a good working relationship with city officials.

“Petitions are next to meaningless, and it’s much more effective for 15 people to write letters to officials than to have 100 signatures on petitions,” Nelson said.

Nelson urged Neighborhood Councils to support each other on issues, saying that “What hurts one Neighborhood Council hurts them all.”

Richman, director of the Institute of Neighborhood Knowledge, is active in community organization and planning.

Richman said that the neighborhood typology breaks down into three components:

n apathetic — the neighborhood is in decline, broken down and forgotten;

n defensive — residents respond only at the initiation of others to stop all change, such as developers building new projects; and

n rare — where neighbors form a visionary organization with proactive approaches and use democratic methods of working with members to find solutions.

Traveling through the Mar Vista neighborhood, Richman said that while the community seems to “have its back to the commercial corridors such as Venice Boulevard,” there is a wide mix of ethnic markets and restaurants on Venice Boulevard that reflect an ethnic diversity.

Richman recommended that Mar Vista residents be visionary and creative, take complete inventories of demographic and other changes and gather information about their areas.

Also at the meeting was a panel of representatives from various Mar Vista and local groups, including:

Bea Steelman — co-founder of the Mar Vista Seniors Club;

Roz Bessen — Westdale Homeowners Association;

Sara Roos — Mt. View Neighbors group and organizer of the Taco Bell Neighbors Action Group opposing redevelopment of Taco Bell at Inglewood and Venice Boulevards;

Steve Wallace — Mar Vista resident and volunteer for the Mar Vista Community Council’s Commercial Corridors Committee; and

Amanda Seward — member of Gregory Ain Architectural Historic District group.

Roos took exception to Richman’s description of one neighborhood typology as “defensive.”

Roos said the Taco Bell Neighbors Action Group was not just defensive; it was part of an ongoing vision and accountability concerning the neighborhood.