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How UCLA’s Landscape Plan Affects Your Health

How UCLA’s Landscape Plan Affects Your Health

UCLA’s vibrant campus is known to draw crowds of students, who gather on sunny days to enjoy picnics, engage in sports, or simply unwind by Tongva steps. These natural inclinations toward grassy patches, the botanical gardens, and outdoor study spaces is no surprise considering all of the benefits being outside provides. The positive association between

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spending time outdoors and improved health has long been established, including reduced anxiety, increased recreational opportunities, and enhanced community cohesion. Notably, a study conducted by researchers at Denmark University’s Aarhus revealed a correlation between residential green spaces and a lower likelihood of developing mood disorders such as depression, neurotic behavior, and stress-related issues.

The current UCLA Master Landscape plan, with its guiding principles, recognizes the importance of creating green spaces that are multi-functional and universally accessible. Beyond initiatives for safer transportation and ecological restoration, the strategic increase in green spaces, if implemented, will directly enhance student life.

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Of the recommendations outlined in the landscape plan, there is a focus on comfort. This includes the addition of tree canopies, shaded structures, and cool paving, all of which contribute to extended outdoor stays and resilience against extreme heat conditions. Other recommendations aim to encourage outdoor recreational and physical activities by adding trails and simplifying the process of reserving outdoor spaces for events. Furthermore, to promote spiritual and mental well-being, the master plan suggests increased ecological restoration efforts, the creation of intimate spaces, and the designation of quiet zones on campus. Several of the existing outdoor study spaces are being considered for expansion, additional tree canopies, and more visually appealing landscaping.

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Dr. Howard Frumkin, a renowned physician and epidemiologist currently serving as Professor Emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, has devoted his career to exploring the interplay between the built environment, public health, and sustainability. His research aligns with the mission of the BEWell pod, which seeks to improve the built environment at UCLA. By delving into the potential contributions of nature in creating equitable and livable cities, Dr. Frumkin’s expertise can deepen our understanding of environmental health. Our June Pod Meeting, held on Wednesday June 7 at 2pm, will feature a presentation by Dr. Frumkin followed by an interactive Q&A session. To RSVP, email for a zoom link.


Since the implementation of the master plan will change the landscape of UCLA for a lifetime, we must use it as an opportunity to improve our health, happiness, and natural environment. 

1 Engemann, Kristine et al. “Residential green space in childhood is associated with lower risk of psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 116,11 (2019): 5188-5193. doi:10.1073/pnas.1807504116

Pay It Forward: Advocating for a Subway Station at UCLA

Pay It Forward: Advocating for a Subway Station at UCLA

Pay It Forward: Advocating for a Subway Station at UCLA

As students and members of the UCLA community, we must powerfully advocate for a new subway stop on campus.  While a station on the LA Metro Sepulveda Transit Corridor would bring quicker, easier, and less costly commutes, failing to be properly included in Metro’s expansion plan would lead to arduous commutes, higher housing and vehicle costs, and worsening air quality. Demanding the accessibility and opportunity that the UCLA station would provide is our duty to future members of our campus community.

The Sepulveda Transit Corridor (STC) Project aims to connect the San Fernando Valley to the Westside, overcoming the geographic barrier of the Santa Monica mountains via a rail system that could efficiently transport people between the two regions and relieve traffic congestion on the 405. Currently, Metro is evaluating six possible options for how the rail line will function and where its stops will be located. Out of the six, four propose a direct stop at UCLA’s Gateway Plaza. Whether or not Metro proceeds with plans to provide an on-campus station could have a   transformative impact on everyone learning, working, and seeking medical care at UCLA.

Because improving our built environment, promoting equity, creating interconnectivity, and reducing environmental harm could be advanced with the STC project, students and faculty must voice their own, and their community’s needs about Metro’s decision.

Improving Accessibility & Promoting Equity

One of Metro’s goals with the STC is to “Improve Accessibility and Promote Equity”. UCLA has a daytime population of over 84,000 including students, faculty, staff, patients, service personnel and visitors. Considering how hard it is to find affordable housing in the neighborhoods surrounding UCLA, a large portion of people live in more distant parts of LA County and must commute on a daily basis. This travel can be long and costly, taking away time from studying and socializing thus creating a lower quality of life for students, simply because they cannot afford the high cost of living near UCLA. These same challenges create a barrier to employment for staff members and make faculty recruitment expensive and difficult. A direct line from the valley to UCLA could allow people greater flexibility to live elsewhere and commute efficiently to campus for their educational and employment needs.

Kerry Sempelsz a second-year UCLA student remarks, “Commuters miss out on a lot of connections and club activities that probably don’t run every single day. I think if transportation was more convenient and accessible for everyone here, it would further expand the student environment that UCLA is famous for.”   

Not only would accessibility and equity be furthered in terms of housing, but also financially. By cutting costs of vehicle ownership and regaining the productive hours that are lost to commute times, the rail line would be economically empowering and alternatives that don’t include a station on campus would be unable to fulfill these goals.

Another important equity consideration is the means by which Metro wants to realize each option. The two project alternatives that don’t include a station on campus would be constructed along the 405 freeway and utilize a monorail system. Three of the monorail systems entail that train cars are built above-ground on an elevated platform, while the fourth includes an underground people-mover from the Getty Center to Gateway Plaza.

Enhancing Interconnectivity

Lack of interconnectivity is another issue facing Angelenos and UCLA. Connecting new rail lines to existing ones is a long-term mobility investment for the entire county, and a necessary step if you consider the long-term impacts of transportation infrastructure. Currently, the STC options that include a UCLA station also connect the STC to the Wilshire/Westwood/Purple/D Line station. Since the D Line connects Downtown LA to the west side, an intersection of the two lines would be a mobility hub. According to Abdallah Daboussi, Principal Transportation Planner at UCLA, this connection will incentivize more regional utilization of transit and when you monetize people’s time and convenience, it will eventually justify the cost of the project.

“The average person sees mobility as a means to an end. They just want to get to a place in the most convenient, cheapest way possible,” he said. “So if you build something that isn’t going to work for them when they want to get to Westwood or UCLA, they’re going to keep taking their cars despite the negative externalities of paying for gas and paying for parking.”

Although increasing ridership and convenience is an important consideration for Metro because they are seeking a return on their investment, it is also an important consideration for environmental reasons. Transportation is the leading source of greenhouse gas pollution in California and providing alternatives to personal vehicles would have a great impact in curtailing these emissions.

“A lot of the frustration around transportation is people feeling like they have to drive and that driving is their only option,” Emily Han, Active Transportation Planner at UCLA, said. “The key to really encouraging people to drive less is offering quality transportation options.”

Make Your Voice Heard

Although the reasons to advocate for a Metro station on campus are numerous, current UCLA students might feel detached from the outcomes, as the STC will not be realized until around 2033. Han responded to this by emphasizing the ways in which current students might benefit from the station later- from attending more school, to going to doctors’ appointments and just enjoying everything that Westwood and UCLA have to offer. Today’s UCLA community benefits from those who preceded us; we need to offer today’s contribution to the vitality of UCLA.

Daboussi added, “The students at UCLA are stakeholders and also the constituency so they could be effective in swaying the direction of this more than they realize. [This project] is giving them a chance to use their collective voice to call for more equitable, convenient, sustainable, and connected transportation.”

traffic sign reading, "no thru traffic"

Changes to Our Public Space

Even with all the uncertainties in the world right now, we know one thing for sure: public spaces are now more important than ever. 

What is public space?

We all have a notion of public space in our minds; we might picture a park, plaza, or the street. A public space is defined as “an area or place that is open and accessible to all people.” Whatever it is that comes to mind, we are realizing just how important these spaces are in the  midst of the pandemic. 

Public spaces have become sanctuaries where we can escape cabin fever and get some much needed social interaction. They are essential. Cities are recognizing the need for outdoor, socially-distanced spaces by engaging in tactical urbanism.

What is tactical urbanism?

Also known as DIY urbanism, tactical urbanism is about creating short-term, low-cost projects to advance long-term planning goals. A good example is the Traffic Box Art Contest led by the BEWell Pod and UCLA Transportation, which added vibrant artworks to traffic boxes on campus. In supporting the installation of community-created artwork on traffic boxes throughout campus, Semel HCI hopes to enhance the UCLA built environment and promote awareness regarding the relationship between climate change, health, and well-being

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In the pandemic, many cities have initiated tactical urbanism projects to accommodate social distancing protocols in public spaces, enhance outdoor activities, and support local businesses and restaurants. Below, I’d like to share a few examples of tactical urbanism projects.


Sidewalk Extensions

Often created with cones, sidewalk extensions provide more space for people to comply with physical distancing protocols when walking or waiting. Cities like Milan, Italy have created new walking or biking paths altogether for over 21 miles of streets. 



Solomon Foundation via Flickr


UCLA Transportation has recently implemented curb bulb-outs, or curb extensions, along Westwood Plaza. Like sidewalk extensions, they repurpose existing space from a parking or travel lane to allow more room for social distance when Bruins return to campus. In addition, they increase overall pedestrian visibility when waiting to cross intersections and reduce the crossing distance. 

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Photos via UCLA Transportation


Slow Streets 

Slow streets discourage traffic and limit car speeds so people can walk, run, and bike safely. The City of Oakland started the Slow Street Program in April 2020 to mitigate overcrowding and reduce traffic in certain local streets. Oakland created 74 miles of slow streets to support citizens’ physical activity and recreation. More information on slow streets and how they are implemented here


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Solomon Foundation via Flickr

Outdoor Dining

Perhaps the most noticeable change to urban spaces is the boom in available outdoor dining areas. They allow restaurants to comply with physical distancing protocols while continuing dine-in operations. For cities with limits on restaurant capacities, outdoor seating provides an alternative for the space limitations to indoor dining. Many restaurants have repurposed parking spots for outdoor dining, as seen in the image below. 


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Solomon Foundation via Flickr


There are many more tactical urbanism strategies that have transformed public spaces during the pandemic. In addition to cities adding more bike lanes, my home city of Vancouver, Canada has created pop-up plazas. I’ve personally really enjoyed the changes around the city due to the pandemic. They’ve installed a new bike lane by the beach and there are more cyclists now than ever. When the weather is nice, everyone flocks outside to take advantage of it. Seeing everyone in the public space reminds me that everyone appreciates being outdoors just the same and that we are not alone. 

I hope that these acts of tactical urbanism continue past the days of COVID-19 as we engage in a continuous dialogue with our built environment. Seeing the changes in my city has made me realize the power of tactical urbanism. I encourage you to talk a stroll through your city’s streets and notice how the public space has been transformed. 


Lara Washington is a third-year UCLA undergraduate student studying Communications and graduating this spring. Aside from blogging for the BEWell pod, she also works for an academic journal and likes cycling. She is from and currently in Vancouver, Canada.

utility box with painting of bees

A Closer Look on Utility Box Art

More and more utility boxes are being transformed into colorful displays of art on our streets.

Southern California has become a hotspot for utility box mural programs with districts like Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale, Long Beach, etc. all having initiated programs in their area. Here at UCLA, we are also starting our own project for “Our Environment, Our Health.”

There are 14 traffic signal cabinets all around campus that are currently a part of our built environment, but essentially invisible. It is important to acknowledge the products of our human impact, whether it is good or bad. This project takes initiative to bring attention to these mundane traffic signal cabinets to promote awareness of climate change, health, and well-being.

It is easy to take the space we occupy throughout our daily routine for granted. Sometimes we are too busy to pay attention to what surrounds us, and the more familiar we are with our environment, the less we notice it. Through introducing public art to our built environment, this project aims to activate both the space and our attention.

Many utility boxes are painted but for this project, the designs will be printed onto vinyl as it is more durable than paint. Vinyl is more resistant to UV rays and has lower risks of chipping or scratching than paint, providing a longer shelf life for the art it displays. Additionally, using vinyl gives more options for artists who use different mediums such as photography, graphic design, and new media.

Cities like Sacramento have chosen vinyl over paint, taking advantage of the lower cost to cover more utility boxes in the area. Their first box was completed in January 2014, marking the start to fulfilling their goal of beautifying the city and promoting local artists.

Utility boxes with art

In recent years, other SoCal cities have initiated their own programs calling for artists to decorate the unnoticed utility boxes. Councilmember David Ryu developed the project for District 4 in November 2017 with the same objective as Sacramento.

These calls are attractive for local artists because these utility boxes provide accessibility and visibility to a large audience. The boxes are a canvas for whatever message they want to convey and it will reach the public. Some artists portray a personal motif relevant to the area of the box they decorate and others focus on the aesthetic of their design. This project provides artistic freedom for local artists as well as an attractive budget from $750 to $1000 per box depending on the program, covering supplies and a stipend for the artist.

Utility box with art of men playing music

All of these aspects make the utility box program highly attractive for artists and positive for the public who get to enjoy the refreshed environment. For our BEWell program, selected artists will receive a $75 gift card and the pride of seeing your work in the environment you occupy every day. Submissions are due March 26, 2020!


Lara Washington is a second-year Communications major at UCLA. In addition to blogging for the BEWell pod, Lara is a co-chair for E3’s Earth Month and a member of UCLA Radio’s marketing and digital press department.

Plant species found in Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden

Refresher on the Botanical Garden

There are so many resources on the UCLA campus, but the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden is by far the most intriguing and lively to explore. If you’ve never visited the garden, here’s everything you need to know to make the most out of your visit. If you’re a regular there, I bet there are still some things you don’t know.

Where did the garden come from?

We know that 2019 is UCLA’s centennial, but it’s also the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden’s 90th anniversary. Where are the posters for that milestone? In 1929, the garden found its place along an arroyo on the east side of the University’s new Westwood campus. For us normal folks, arroyo means there’s a flat stream channel with steep-sided hills on either side. If you’ve been to the garden, that’s exactly what it looks like. Fun fact: the Botanical Garden is the only place on UCLA campus that preserved its original geology; the rest had its arroyos filled in and leveled.

The first plants were obtained largely by donations from other botanical gardens in the LA area and some good-willed nurseries. By 1947, the garden rallied around 1500 species and varieties of plants. Now, there are too many plants to count, but Plant Manager Dr. Sophie Katz is working on a live catalog of the Garden.

Going beyond native plants in the original landscape, the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden is now a living museum filled with plants from around the world. There are over 650 trees! Here’s a map of all the Garden’s collections.

What’s going on at the garden?

Befitting its location on a university campus, the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden is research-focused. If you’ve taken the Life Sciences series, you’ve probably visited the garden to collect data. The abundance of animal activity from squirrels, birds, and turtles at the garden makes it a great source for animal behavior and population studies, or just for fun. Unlike many other botanical gardens, the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden does not feature a rose garden, which serves a purely decorative purpose. The garden’s mission features a heavy focus on plant evolutionary history and the global plant biodiversity.

Turtles are one of the many animals that reside in the garden.

If you want to learn more about these things, the garden offers free drop-in tours on the first Saturday of every month from 1-2 pm. They also host a variety of other events like the Plant Worlds Ethnobotany Seminar Series that is running until spring.

Schedule of Ethnobotany seminars

How can I get involved with the garden?

There are many volunteer opportunities at the garden for you to get involved. I have just completed the volunteer docent training to give tours for anyone that wants one. It was honestly a blast because I got to learn so much about the cool plants in the garden and be surrounded by plants. Sometimes, we all just need to take some time to unwind and it certainly doesn’t hurt to be productive by volunteering and just to be in a beautiful, natural environment.

If you’re too busy to volunteer, it’s okay. I suggest being more mindful of your everyday environment. UCLA is a beautiful campus and it was designed to be a “college in a garden.” When you’re walking around, instead of looking at your phone or the pavement, take a moment to look around you and notice all the plants! Here’s a list of all the plants around campus for when you find a particularly cool species.


Lara Washington is a second-year Communications major at UCLA. In addition to blogging for the BEWell pod, Lara is a co-chair for E3’s Earth Month and a member of UCLA Radio’s marketing and digital press department.

Flyer for Bike Recycling Day

Bike Recycling Day 2019

If you’ve ever wanted a bike, here’s a chance you can get it for free! On October 27, 2019, UCLA Transportation hosted Bike Recycling Day where the UCLA community had the opportunity to receive a used bike or bike parts for free. If you’re upset that you missed it this year, don’t worry.


Since it first started in 2011, Bike Recycling Day occurs annually each fall quarter. UCLA students, staff, and faculty are eligible to participate and the event was inspired by other universities who hold bike auctions. Often, purchasing a brand new bike is not feasible with more basic-needs items taking priority in the budget. Having access to a second-hand bike, or bike parts can help kickstart your journey on the road. For UCLA, the goal is to take abandoned bikes from around campus and give them back to our community to start a new life. This year, over 100 people attended Bike Recycling Day and approximately 75 bikes found new homes.


Every year, the number of available bikes range from 100-150 as the supply fluctuates. A majority of the bikes are abandoned and impounded throughout campus by UCLA Transportation in the summer and winter quarters. They are held for 90 days to give the owner a chance to claim the bike and after that, they’re fair game for Bike Recycling Day.

bikes at Bike Recycling Day

This event is held in collaboration with the UCLA Bike Shop, where staff members are on-site throughout the day to help you with choosing a bike or bike parts. They can answer questions regarding bike sizing, repairs, and maintenance, all crucial aspects to make the most out of your new find. The Bike Shop is a great resource for all UCLA bike owners as they are a Do-It-Yourself-Workshop located right at the Wooden Center. They provide new parts for purchase as well as collected used parts for free.


If you’re interested in biking around campus, but are still unfamiliar with the bike routes, here are some guides that the Bike Shop has put together, as well as a UCLA bike map. Even if you don’t have a bike, you can get to know the UCLA Built Environment a little bit better and keep your eyes peeled for next year’s Bike Recycling Day.


Lara Washington is a second-year Communications major at UCLA. In addition to blogging for the BEWell pod, Lara is a co-chair for E3’s Earth Month and a member of UCLA Radio’s marketing and digital press department.


BEWell Policy Corner: Street Vending in LA

From fresh fruit, tacos, and even Tupperware, all kinds of items are sold by 50,000 street vendors around Los Angeles. Until recently however, most of this activity was considered illegal. On September 18 of 2018, governor Jerry Brown enacted SB 946, Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, which puts the authority to regulate street vendors in the hands of local city governments. The bill goes into effect in January 2019 and effectively legalizes street vending. In response, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed its own bill on November 28 to create a permit system vendors can apply through to reserve their own spaces and sell goods. This is the first regulatory measure of its kind in Los Angeles, despite many other cities already having one.


Photo from Ricardo Lara’s Instagram

Although they work all over the city generating $504 million a year collectively, street vendors have been forced to operate under a shadow of doubt. They’ve also been historically overlooked by planners when designing city streets. For example, LADOT’s Complete Streets plan in 2015 seemed to include every factor in relation to smart growth except for vendors. Most of the controversy surrounding street vending stems from its effect on surrounding businesses. Many businesses complain that street vendors unfairly saturate the market because they don’t have to pay taxes or rent. However, street vendors actually benefit local communities in three main ways:

1. Economic Benefits

Street vending is largely a response by those who are excluded by the formal sector, often immigrants and people of color, to earn an income. This is one of the reasons items sold by them are usually cheaper. There is great potential for growth, however, when circulating this income throughout the local economy. As vendors sell more and more food and goods, their demand for supplies will increase as well. If they choose to purchase these goods locally, then those suppliers can also benefit from the increased demand.


Glodavina Lopez, center right, sell fruits and helps her mother Lili Lopez, right, a street vendor for the past 17 years, in the Fashion District in Los Angeles. (Marcus Yam / Caption and Photo from the Los Angeles Times)

2. Activation of Public Space

Aside from providing financial benefits, street vendors also have the potential to activate public spaces. Before massive developments, street markets dominated city landscapes and lives of people who lived in them. According to Ethan Kent, Vice President of the Project for Public Spaces, “when supported and showcased, street vendors, and the life they support, can help create iconic places that are cultural drivers that define cities.” Food has proven to be a great tool for human bonding, so vendors who sell these items are especially helpful to public spaces in cities.

3. Food Security

Food vendors not only activate public spaces, but also help feed underserved communities, especially in food deserts. Food deserts are areas without accessible supermarkets within a 1 mile radius. Typically, these landscapes are dominated by fast food restaurants. As a result, people living in these areas are more likely to be afflicted by public health issues like obesity and heart disease. Vendors, on the other hand, can help fill the void in these areas, especially since there are no current policies encouraging grocery store development and limiting the proliferation of fast food restaurants.


 Photo by Nate Gray

My personal favorite street vendors are fruit stands. They provide healthy options with a local twist. Being from a different part of the county, I had never tried fruit with spices or lime juice on top. Eating at fruit stands also helps me connect with people in my community that I might otherwise not come in contact with. In Westwood I recommend stopping by El Jefe Fresh Fruit usually on Westwood Blvd. and Ashton Ave. or Westwood Blvd. and Le Conte Ave. By supporting street vendors, we help revitalize the local economy, activate public spaces, and increase access to healthy food – in Westwood and beyond.


What’s Neat About Open Streets?

Between the honks, screeching brakes, and sea of headlights, anyone walking around Los Angeles can tell its streets are dominated by car travel. Some residents may not even realize there is an alternative. Ever since the automobile boom in the 1950’s, LA’s infrastructure has been increasingly designed for cars, limiting the ability of pedestrians to navigate their own city. To make matters worse, according to the City of Los Angeles complete Streets Design Guide, “[w]hen streets are continually widened to accommodate more vehicular volume, they create an induced demand for car travel that only encourages future traffic congestion.”

One way cities have responded to the saturation of cars is by temporarily closing their streets to vehicles while opening them to pedestrians. This is commonly known as an open street project, a term popularized by an organization of the same name. Aside from reducing traffic, open streets create many other benefits for city residents. First, public health improves because open street events allow residents to walk, bike, and participate in other physical activities where they otherwise couldn’t. Additionally, air quality can improve even from the temporary reduction in cars on the closed road. Cities like Paris and Beijing have seen an improvement in air quality after their “Odd-Even” car ban which only allows people with odd or even numbered license plates to drive on certain days. In these cities, public transit and bike ridership also increased as a result.

Street closures can also be a useful tool to highlight local amenities and businesses. The Open Streets Project suggests working with local businesses when planning and promoting an event because increased foot and bike traffic can enable them to reach more customers. In Los Angeles, businesses involved in an open street program saw a 57% increase in sales.

Lastly, open street events promote social wellbeing by utilizing public spaces for human connection rather than bumper to bumper traffic which keeps people in close proximity but without the ability to communicate.

Below are 3 examples of open street events in LA that support public health, local businesses, and social cohesion.


Photo by Steve Hymon and Metro-Los Angeles


CicLAvia was inspired by a similar event that occurs in Bogota, Colombia called Ciclovia, which occurs every week. Over a million people have attended CicLAvia events over the years, making it the biggest open street festival in the country. As a result of its success, CicLAvia has helped reduce ultrafine particles concentration in the air by 20 percent along closed streets. CicLAvia also received increased funding from the city in order to promote the Eric Garcetti’s Vision Zero policy. The plan was adopted in 2015 as a response to LA having the highest rate of traffic pedestrian fatalities of any major U.S. city. However, traffic deaths still increased the following year so more must be done. CicLAvia has had 3 events thus far in 2018 with a final one coming up on December 2 from 9 AM to 3 PM in the Heart of LA.

william short photography

Photo by William Short


COAST is Santa Monica’s annual open street event highlighting the city’s sustainability goals while providing a platform for art and community engagement. COAST is set up on a closed two mile stretch of Ocean Boulevard and Main Street. The Santa Monica Public Works division, including Resource Recovery & Recycling and Water Management, set up booths to educate residents walking or biking by about sustainable practices. COAST receives a lot of support from local businesses, as well, who hold promotions motivating people to buy locally.

Open Streets 3

Photo attributed to Westwood Village

Westwood Farmers Market

The Westwood Farmer’s Market occurs every Thursday on a closed portion of Broxton Avenue in between Weyburn and Kinross avenues. In 2017, Farmer Mark and his organization joined with the Westwood Village Improvement Association to expand vendor participation. Their main goal has been to make the event equally accommodating for customers and the famers who bring their food to sell. The Westwood Farmer’s market also provides an activity for families in the area, as well as an opportunity for UCLA students to connect with their community. Food on campus can be expensive, so a farmer’s market provides great incentive to save money while meeting new people and learning about other happenings in Westwood.




Teddy Tollin is a fourth year Geography major and Geographical Information Systems minor at UCLA. Besides working at his position as the BEWell blogger, Teddy is a member of the Transfer Student video team, Co-Chair of the Built Environment Public Health Coalition, and is passionate about Urban Planning.


How to get involved in creating healthier neighborhoods

A transformation is underway in Los Angeles. People are lifting their voices in support of healthy neighborhoods. These voices are shaping land use decisions, influencing infrastructure investments, and changing how neighborhoods look and feel.

Part of what makes Los Angeles such a dynamic county is its diversity in race, ethnicity,  culture, and economics. We see this diversity reflected in the art, music, histories, languages, and stories that flourish here.  Even as Los Angeles changes, it can still be a home for people at all levels of income and provide meaningful opportunities that allow people to sustain families and meet more than just their basic needs. Los Angeles can be a place where people fulfill their hopes and dreams.    

As two alumnae of UCLA’s School of Public Health, we are proud to see UCLA students, faculty, and alumni working throughout the County to help ensure that everyone has the resources and opportunities they need to achieve optimal health and wellbeing.  Often, this requires us to nudge institutions, change policies, and shift resources so things are more fair and efficient for people of color and low income people. These groups most frequently experience unfair and unjust exposures in the environment, lack access to safe, habitable and affordable housing and quality jobs, live in neighborhoods with fewer high quality parks, stores, schools and sidewalks, and are more burdened with stores selling unhealthy products, and community violence. At the same time, these neighborhoods are rich in love, creativity, and a sense of belonging and culture. These are the values we can encourage and uplift even as we create healthier neighborhoods with spaces and places for all people.

Although we have many challenges to take on, Los Angeles is full of skilled people working in amazing organizations to solve tough issues.  The Durfee Foundation is just one of LA’s philanthropic organizations committed to supporting individuals and organizations addressing LA’s big challenges with big solutions.  The organization we work for, Prevention Institute, brings on interns every year to support our work. One of our efforts, the Healthy Equitable Active Land Use (HEALU) Network (supported by the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation and The California Endowment) was born out of our passion for creating healthy neighborhoods that are inclusive and create conditions for people of color and low income people to thrive.

The HEALU Network includes some of the organizations mentioned in Manal Aboelata’s TEDxUCLA Salon talk on April 24th. These groups work on a range of issues including active transportation, parks, affordable housing, safe routes to school, environmental law, and public health. The groups use diverse approaches including grassroots organizing, community development, and strategic policy and advocacy.  

For everyone who expressed interest in getting involved, here’s a short list of some of the organizations that we admire that might be a great place for you to volunteer, support a current campaign, or just learn more about what’s happening in the County!

If you’d like to be involved in the movement to create healthy neighborhoods, we encourage you to learn more about LA’s rich tapestry of organizations and the work they do. Each organization and each campaign is at a different stage. Involvement may look like grassroots outreach, volunteering, writing a letter of support to decision makers, or even supporting their efforts on social media.

We couldn’t mention everything these organizations do, so you will have to “do your homework” to learn more, but a few project highlights are listed below by organization.

Community Intelligence*

  • The Making Connections Network

Los Angeles Food Policy Council*

  • LA Street Vendor Campaign
  • Good Food Purchasing Program

East LA Community Corporation*

  • LA Street Vendor Campaign
  • Affordable Housing
  • Transit Oriented Development
  • Planning

Esperanza Community Housing Corporation

  • Healthy Homes
  • Promotoras de salud
  • Mercado la Paloma


LA Trust for Children’s Health

  • School Wellness Centers
  • Oral Health

Natural Resources Defense Council*

Prevention Institute*

  • LA County Community Prevention & Population Health Taskforce
  • Healthy Equitable, Active Land Use Network

Occidental College*

Pacoima Beautiful*

The Nature Conservancy*

Investing in Place*

  • Los Angeles Sidewalk Campaign
  • Measure M Implementation

Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition*

  • Metro Rail First/Last Mile

Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust*

  • Building Urban Parks and Gardens

* Indicates a member of the HEALU Network


This blog post was written by Manal J Aboelata, MPH, UCLA School of Public Health (’01), managing director at Prevention Institute & TEDxUCLA Salon Speaker and Ana Bonilla, MURP UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, MPH UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.


Inside view of Mamava lactation pod.

How Can the Built Environment at UCLA Better Support Breastfeeding Women?

Now in its third project year, Creating Space, a graduate student led project, continues to research and advocate for improved services, policies, and support for breastfeeding and pumping students and staff at UCLA. Founded from the grassroots advocacy of the Mothers of Color in Academia de UCLA (MOCA) and funded by the Healthy Campus Initiative, the pursuit of accessible, appropriate lactation space at UCLA has been central to the Creating Space mission since its inception.

To document the status of UCLA lactation rooms, Creating Space undertook a comprehensive assessment of 13 UCLA lactation rooms in spring 2017 based on standards set by the American Institute of Architects, California state legal standards, and documented community needs. Creating Space also completed a needs assessment to document the experiences of breastfeeding and pumping mothers at UCLA that included two focus groups with student and staff mothers and an online questionnaire open to student, staff, and faculty mothers.

Mothers who took part in the focus groups consistently cited lack of access to comfortable and appropriate spaces and the lack of spaces across the UCLA campus as being major barriers to maintaining consistent breastfeeding. Focus group participants highlighted the need for improved campus lactation accommodations, as one participant noted, “I think there should be a room in every building. It is not insignificant to have to carry your pump across campus or across the street even to go pump. You have to get all your supplies together, you got to go leave your milk somewhere and go back again, and go get milk again. It is a nightmare.”

During lactation room assessments, the Creating Space research team found that no UCLA room met all California state legal standards. Nearly three-quarters of rooms were deemed not up to standard in regards to security and 64% of rooms did not meet accessibility standards. Respondents to the online questionnaire confirmed the issues of lactation room accessibility. Over a quarter of respondents cited having no private place to pump as a barrier restricting their ability to pump, and more than half of respondents reported having been unable to pump as desired because they could not find or access a lactation room on campus.

UCLA lactation room in the Student Activities Center (SAC), B- level.

UCLA lactation room in the Student Activities Center (SAC), B- level.

Utilizing funds from Creating Space’s Healthy Campus Initiative grant award, the Creating Space team is currently arranging lactation room improvements across campus to address some of these issues. Creating Space is coordinating these improvements by working with room managers and purchasing amenities for the rooms such as bulletin boards for educational materials, workstations for mothers to use while pumping, and mini-fridges for milk storage.

Creating Space hopes to create greater institutional changes to the management of lactation spaces at UCLA. Access to lactation rooms on campus varies widely and can be a barrier to mothers needing to pump. Some rooms require the individual to call a third party to learn how to gain access to a room or require women to retrieve a key from another location, while others are easily accessible and open to anyone. Ideally, all lactation-use-only rooms on campus would be equipped with a universal coded locked door to facilitate easy and consistent accessibility and limit use of the rooms to the intended population only.

UC Davis–a model campus for breastfeeding policy– successfully implemented the universal lock system as part of their Breastfeeding Support Program. Any breastfeeding student or employee can register online for the Breastfeeding Support Program and are then provided with a map and access codes to all lactation rooms. An additional benefit is that room usage can be tracked through the coded lock. In addition to the Breastfeeding Support Program, UC Davis has close to 50 lactation sites on campus as well as 12 sites at the UC Davis Medical Center available to all university affiliates.

Care Connect Center 2. Community Health Sciences 33-337 3. Community Health Sciences 17-311 4. School of Dentistry Women’s Restroom 53-079 5. Reagan Medical Center B-706 6. Student Activities Center 7. Doris Stein Pediatrics Department, Mother’s Room 8. Rehabilitation Building A-376 9. Murphy Hall A-272 10. Franz Hall 2nd Building 1268 11. Jules Stein Eye Institute 13-245 12. Geffen Hall 204

Care Connect Center 2. Community Health Sciences 33-337 3. Community Health Sciences 17-311 4. School of Dentistry Women’s Restroom 53-079 5. Reagan Medical Center B-706 6. Student Activities Center 7. Doris Stein Pediatrics Department, Mother’s Room 8. Rehabilitation Building A-376 9. Murphy Hall A-272 10. Franz Hall 2nd Building 1268 11. Jules Stein Eye Institute 13-245 12. Geffen Hall 204

In contrast, UCLA has only 10 official lactation spaces for the entire campus community, the majority of which are on south campus. The lack of lactation rooms forces mothers to walk long distances to pump in between classes or during tight work schedules. Creating Space recommends a two-fold approach to addressing the campus need for more lactation rooms:

  1. All building renovations and new building construction should prioritize adding a designated lactation room, particularly buildings in north campus.
  2. Due to the long timeline of construction and renovation, to address this problem for current and prospective students and employees, UCLA should invest in modular lactation pods. Mamava lactation pods are mobile lactation suites that are designed for private offices and public spaces. The suites come with a multifunctional keypad lock, power outlet, fold down table, and a bench. These mobile lactation suites would provide a temporary solution to the lack of spaces on campus, and would have a major impact on the experiences of breastfeeding and pumping mothers at UCLA.

As a world renowned public research university committed to excellence, innovation, and inclusiveness, UCLA has the opportunity to be a leader in breastfeeding support and to create a positive impact on women’s health. Creating Space, in partnership with campus stakeholders and community mothers, will continue to advocate for improved breastfeeding accommodations, providing a model for other universities and community organizers to create a supportive breastfeeding climate for students and staff. 

Mamava lactation pod

Mamava lactation pod

Inside view of Mamava lactation pod.

Inside view of Mamava lactation pod.

Written by: Cristina Hunter, MPH Student; Emily Bell, MPH Student