“There are still folks who fight a certain amount of business activity because they want to keep things under control and keep the feel of Westwood as a village,” he said. “But they recognize that this is their backyard. There’s more willingness to find common ground so that it moves back in the direction of its former greatness.”
Some developers have learned to work with the community, but not without first butting heads with various neighborhood groups.
Westwood developer Kambiz Hekmat, whose real estate company Indivest Inc. completed construction in 1992 on the 23-story Center West tower at 10877 Wilshire Blvd., learned the hard way that it would have been easier to work with the area’s community groups rather than ignore them.
In 1987, shortly after he received permits for the building, a group called Friends of Westwood sued him and the city in order to halt construction. The group claimed the city shouldn’t have issued building permits to Hekmat without first doing an environmental impact report. In the end, revised rules for issuing building permits were put in place and Hekmat was forced to reduce the height of his building, which was originally supposed to be 26 stories.
These days, Hekmat enjoys a more productive relationship with the community. His plan to build a 29-story tower at the northwest corner of Wilshire and Gayley Avenue, perhaps surprisingly, has overwhelming support from the community.
The trick to gaining that kind of support, Hekmat said, is to keep an open dialogue with community members.
“Working with the leadership of any community, especially Westwood, is very important,” he said. “I think of it as an opportunity to exchange ideas and solicit their support, and that has been very beneficial.”