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County Acts to Halt Shift in VA Land Use

Development: Officials will fight plan to allow commercial and medical firms on open space.

July 04, 2001|NICHOLAS RICCARDI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pledging to use the full weight of its political and legal power, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday moved to block the conversion of 7.2 million square feet of Veterans Affairs land in Westwood to commercial and medical space.

Supervisors unanimously voted to urge congressional leaders and veterans officials to scrap the land-use plan that local VA administrators approved for the 388 acres of open space. They also directed their attorneys and planning agencies to "represent the county's interest in precluding future commercial development," even if it means filing a lawsuit.

"It's nuts, it's nonsense," Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said of the VA plan. The supervisor, whose district includes the enormous parcel, added that "our planning department and our legal department has to be let loose."

Yaroslavsky and other critics say the plan would overdevelop an already congested area. Proponents argue that it is an appropriate use of land that has long been promised to veterans, who would benefit from money that comes to the Department of Veterans Affairs through commercial leases on the site.

The supervisors will send letters urging the scrapping of the plan to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi, California's two U.S. senators--Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein--and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), who represents the area. They also asked the lawmakers to carry legislation that would restrict development on the space spanning Wilshire Boulevard west of the San Diego Freeway.

Yaroslavsky and numerous neighborhood activists complained that the process by which the land-use plan was drafted was fatally flawed, ignoring public input.

Thomas Hanson, a veteran who was on the panel that gave input on the plan, urged supervisors not to act. "The veterans have this owed to them," he said.

But several other veterans said the commercial buildings that would sprout on the land--what activists contend are the equivalent of two Century Cities--would not do anything to help veterans.

Vietnam veteran Frank Juarez asked the board to defeat the plan.

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