Meeting Your Board Member: Large Business Representative - Naomi Kageyama

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What’s your history with West LA?  

I grew up in WLA. I went to Brockton Elementary; Webster (when it was still called Junior High); Uni and UCLA. My husband Ron and I lived in Mar Vista for several years but moved back to WLA/Sawtelle a little over 10 years ago to be closer to family and the family business (F.K. Nursery).

What do you like most about West LA?

It is great to have so many things within walking distance. I have friends and family in the neighborhood and enjoy meeting new people. I love the diversity of this neighborhood.

What would you like to see improved?

I would like to see more community projects that bring people together – especially elderly. If you look at our demographics, we have a significant number of older folks – many who are isolated and/or homebound. I think a coordinated system bringing together community watch block programs would be great.

What made you run for a Board seat in the WLASNC?

My husband’s uncle Aki was approached by several community members to join the WLASNC. He asked me and Ron to participate. It came down to a coin toss between us!

Development is huge in West LA. What’s your opinion on it all? Specifics are fine too if you’d like.  

Before I joined the WLASNC it was easy for me to just shrug it off. Yes I’d lament the loss of the neighborhood I knew and loved as a child but times change and it’s important to move forward. I didn’t really think my voice mattered and I trusted our elected officials and City process. But now I see the process in a different light. Community voices are necessary and yes they do make a difference. It is important to state that I am NOT anti-development. But I am definitely an advocate for controlled and thoughtful development. Unfortunately I think the current City system is definitely skewed towards developers and less so for the average resident. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that aggressive development is the norm throughout our City! But what I’d like to see is more focus on community infrastructure and safety. Many of the streets and roads in WLA were never meant to handle the traffic demands we see today. They are narrow and noisy. Maybe this is a pie in the sky idea but I believe other materials should be used for our roadways (e.g. recycled tires). And our sidewalks are narrow and difficult to navigate – especially for those who are elderly and/or disabled. And what about our aging sewer lines and power systems? These are the things I’d like to see solutions for before we entertain large development projects!

And also… it only makes sense to have an organized ‘queue’ for development projects. We are facing an unprecedented number of big projects happening at the same time. This is not good planning in my opinion. I understand that our entire city is facing a housing crisis – but no single part of the city should be made to feel they need to shoulder this burden alone. Affordable housing is absolutely necessary – but I haven’t seen any true ‘promises’ that this actually happens even when it is included in developer proposals. It should not be under the purview of the developer – but rather supervised by the City or a citizen’s oversight group. The majority of units we see proposed for WLA are for high end professional living – singles and couples. Not really family friendly. And we also see ‘mixed use’ development projects maximizing ‘creative office space’ – i.e. more workers per square foot. Totally out of sync with outdated projections based on 1 person; 1 office. So projected traffic plans really don’t show the true picture and only serve to aggravate people.

Traffic is also a hot topic in West LA. How do you personally handle it?  

Ugh. Traffic! I need to leave my house by 6:50 am each morning in order to avoid morning madness. I drop my high school daughter off at her bus stop and go a short mile over to SM/Bundy area to check in and visit my elderly mom. Then I jump on the 10 freeway to get to the southeast area of downtown (which is currently inaccessible by metro and local buses). At end of day I leave downtown for home and do a daily battle with Pico gridlock and Barrington madness. The local WLA roads are worse than the freeway! And for those wondering – I drive a hybrid. The rest of the time I try to walk for all local errands or take the Expo for fun. It is my opinion that narrow streets in our area make it unsafe for biking. I also want to say that the street level Expo crossing on Barrington was an extremely poor decision.

Do you have any suggestions to help mitigate it?

No I really don’t! It is such a multi-faceted problem and I don’t believe most mitigation strategies have a significant impact in light of our increased density and current development projects. Walking for local errands and the use of public transportation whenever possible are tried and true strategies. But c’mon everybody – be mindful. Remember simple courtesy goes a long way.

Do you have any personal interests or hobbies that you’d like to share? 

I inherited a love for cooking from my mom. I just wish I had more time to enjoy this. Wish we had more time to travel too!