JUNE 06, 2017
Athletic fields for a private prep school and a dog park, but not veterans
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to for information regarding an agreement to turn a VA campus in Los Angeles into permanent housing for homeless veterans. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (No. 1:17-cv-00994)).
The lawsuit was filed after the VA failed to respond to an April 7, 2017, FOIA request concerning the Veterans’ Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS):
- All records of communications between VAGLAHS and the 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation known as “Vets Advocacy, Inc.” relating to implementation of the “Principles for a Partnership and Framework for Settlement” entered by and between the U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs and representatives of the plaintiffs in Valentini v. McDonald, Case No. 2:11-cv-04846-SJO-MRW (C.D. Calif.) on or about January 28, 2015.
- All records relating to Vets Advocacy, Inc.’s work regarding VAGLAHS or homeless veterans, including but not limited to any actions, activities, or advocacy, by Vets Advocacy, Inc. to (i) improve or revitalize the VAGLAHS campus; (ii) address homelessness in Los Angeles’ veterans community; or (iii) improve the well-being of veterans generally.
- All records concerning work performed by Vets Advocacy, Inc. consultant Jonathan E. Sherin, M.D., Ph.D.
The property at issue was deeded to the federal government in 1888 for the specific purpose of caring for disabled veterans. It includes a veterans’ home, but, over time, came to include facilities for entirely unrelated uses such as a stadium for UCLA’s baseball team, an athletic complex for a nearby private prep school, a golf course, laundry facilities for a nearby Marriott hotel, storage and maintenance facilities for 20th Century Fox Television’s production sets, the Brentwood Theatre, soccer practice and match fields for a private girls’ soccer club, dog park, and a farmer’s market.
Veterans sued the VA to restore the 388-acre site to its proper use, and some of the non-veteran related uses have been terminated. In October 2015, former VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald and attorneys representing homeless veterans reached a settlement, vowing that the campus would be dedicated to serving and housing veterans in need, particularly those who were female, aging or disabled. A new organization, Vets Advocacy Inc., was established to administer the plan.
On May 29, 2017, The Los Angeles Times reported:
It’s understandable that this project will take years to complete — that’s calculated into the master plan. It is a colossal undertaking to remake a 388-acre campus. The VA did not even receive the necessary congressional authority to enter into leases with developers and service providers until September.
The problem is, there really is no new development yet. And now the VA says the first phase of 480 units will take four years to install, not 2½.
[T]he VA didn’t hire consultants to implement the master plan and conduct a lengthy environmental study until almost a year after the plan was adopted. The study is expected to take two years. Until it’s done, construction can’t begin on the 150 units planned for MacArthur Field.
“We’ve had since 1888 to figure out something constructive to do with this property for veterans,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The inadequate answer so far has been a dog park and a soccer field. Shouldn’t our finest and bravest be treated better?”