WESTWOOD — Even in a city that excels at reinventing itself, it’s tough to think of a Los Angeles neighborhood that has experienced as drastic a transformation as the tiny university-adjacent enclave of Westwood Village. Was it just ten years ago that UCLA students staged their legendary protest, walking out of classes and into Westwood’s abandoned storefronts to draw attention to their 49% occupancy rate? Today, the darkest day for the neighborhood has been all but deleted from Westwood’s collective memory, as a new generation of creatives have stormed the historic streets, activating the community, stoking economic growth, and throwing one heck of a monthly party.
Westwood Village’s rebirth is best viewed at the intersection of Westwood and Kinross on the third Friday of the month for the neighborhood’s TechWalk. Launched in 2020, the event is now one of the city’s biggest happenings, rivaling the now-defunct Downtown Art Walk of the 2000’s in both numbers and cultural influence. As you stroll the final hours of the weekly farmers’ market on the Zocalo (with much of the produce grown in the “garden penthouses” surrounding the square), your eyes will be drawn to the crowds streaming into dozens of tiny former storefronts that line the brightly-lit alleyways.
The 2015 initiative that handed over vacated retail to graduate students studying everything from micro-architecture to food technology has helped to double the Village’s population in ten years.
During last month’s TechWalk, Rita Fabricante marveled at the scene from a live-work space for her reactive fashion line in Sherman Alley, located between Broxton and Gayley. “It’s amazing to see how many different kinds of products are being made and tested in these few blocks,” she says. “My mom went to UCLA and she told me about when all these storefronts were just abandoned frozen yogurt stores.”
Longtime residents might also tell you of a time when Westwood’s only true entertainment options were a handful of 2D theaters. Now, after perusing the labs and galleries, one can catch the latest Suri Cruise tween hit in 4D or choose from a wider range of cultural diversions to indulge in, since all UCLA’s performing and visual arts institutions have been relocated to the village.
“I moved here 20 years ago and never knew about UCLA Live,” says Hannah Rich, who lives in one of the aging high-rises on Wilshire. “Now I have season tickets to their environmental performance series.” In fact, Westwood’s streets themselves are a cultural destination. Visitors can stroll Broxton’s pedestrian plaza in the glow of public art, like Richard Serra’s last—and some say his greatest—work, which resembles a giant orange peel.
Even arriving in Westwood is an experience, thanks to the new Metro station (which is really the only way for solo visitors to get here since the Carmageddon Ordinance began preventing single-person car trips). As you emerge from underground, the transit plaza transitions into an outdoor museum with rotating exhibits from the nearby institutions—it’s currently programmed by the Hammer with a delightful Shepard Fairey retrospective. Once above ground it’s easy to hop the Westwood Loop bus or swipe out a bike from UCLA’s bike-sharing station and head to Westwood Boulevard’s glittering new Restaurant Row. As he oversaw dinner service at his four-star Truck Stop, legendary restauranteur Roy Choi explained why the neighborhood has been such a draw for his fellow chefs. “You have everything here: adventurous eaters, hyper-local produce, and foodie tourists,” he said. “If you’re not in Westwood, you might as well not be in business.”
On this Friday night, as TechWalkers duck into kombucha bars and app cafes, students pore over their glowing tablets in Bruin Plaza, and neighbors linger in the alleys, it’s tough to isolate the single element responsible for the neighborhood’s turnaround. But one thing is clear. Westwood is finally what it always claimed to be: A village.
Written in the future, for the Wednesday, October 10, 2025 edition of the Village View newspaper, published by Roger Sherman and Edwin Chan. More about this project, and Westwood’s impending revitalization.