Judicial Watch has taken the lead in trying to highlight the government’s misconduct and misuse of a 388-acre parcel of land in Los Angeles, originally intended to serve the needs of veterans.
In fact, we just filed a second Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for information regarding non-veteran use of this prime real estate in West Los Angeles, which was set aside nearly 130 years ago to serve as a home for disabled veterans. We filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (No. 1:17-cv- 01078)).
We sued after the VA failed to respond to our April 14, 2017, FOIA request for:
- Any and all lease, land-sharing, enhanced-use, or other land use agreements currently in effect for the West Los Angeles/Greater Los Angeles Campus (“GLA Campus”), including but not limited to agreements with the Regents of the University of California, the Brentwood School, the Veterans Park Conservancy, and the City of Los Angeles.
- Any and all records concerning or relating to the review of all lease, land-sharing, enhanced-use, or other land use agreements at the GLA Campus, as referenced in Appendix H of the GLA Campus Draft Master Plan, issued January 28, 2016.
- Any and all notifications of the Secretary’s intent to enter into or renew any lease, land-sharing, enhanced-use, or other land use agreement for the GLA Campus, as required by Section 2(j)(1) of the West Los Angeles Leasing Act of 2016, 114 Pub. Law 226:
(i) The Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. Senate;
(ii) The Committee on Veterans’ Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives;
(iii) The Committee on Appropriations of the U.S. Senate; The Committee on Appropriations of the U.S. House of Representatives;
(v) U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein;
(vi) U.S. Senator Kamala Harris; and
(vii) U.S. Representative Ted Lieu.
The property at issue was deeded to the federal government in 1888 for the specific purpose of providing a home 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, a dog park, and a farmer’s market. (We filed our first FOIA lawsuit on this issue in May.)
Veterans sued the VA to restore the 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 are female, aging or disabled.
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.
The misuse of this Los Angeles veterans’ facility is a symbol of how the VA mistreats the people they are meant to serve. Our new lawsuit aims to hold the VA accountable to the rule of law and to the veterans.