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Group Targets VA Plans for Use of Land

At a hearing, federal officials will be asked to allow local input on the West L.A. parcel.

September 29, 2003|Julie Tamaki | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles delegation will urge federal officials at a hearing today to allow local input into any land-use decisions made for the sprawling Veterans Affairs hospital grounds in West Los Angeles.

The latest chapter in the ongoing saga over the future of what many claim is the most valuable open parcel in Los Angeles involves a proposal to establish a land-use planning committee of six VA administrators to make recommendations on uses for excess VA property in Southern California and Nevada. The proposal is part of a larger process by the VA to determine the best way to meet veterans' needs through 2022.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said he would press federal officials to ditch plans for the committee, which he said could be used to develop a portion of the 388-acre site without community input -- a point of contention with local VA administrators.

VA officials insist that there are no plans for commercial development at the site. But community skepticism persists.

"This would be like taking a piece of Central Park in New York City and saying, 'Developers, come in and tell us what you'll pay,' " Yaroslavksy said.

"How could you propose a six-person land-use committee that includes no veterans, no elected officials and no community members?" asked Flora Gil Krisiloff, chairwoman of the Brentwood Community Council. "It's incredible they're even proposing it."

"It may be federal land, but it's at the intersection of the 405 and Wilshire Boulevard," said Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss. "It is madness to contemplate putting another couple of Century Cities at that location."

Weiss was referring to a previous land-use guide prepared by local VA administrators that called for 7.2 million square feet of commercial and medical-related development on the site, which spans Wilshire Boulevard west of the San Diego Freeway. Federal officials shelved the plan after it failed to gain widespread community support.

The new VA proposal for a land-use planning committee would help determine what to do with the region's 818,000 square feet of excess space, located primarily in West Los Angeles, Long Beach and North Hills, said Charles Dorman, acting director for the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, which serves about 80,000 veterans.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, Weiss and Yaroslavsky, however, fired off a letter to Washington earlier this month requesting, among other changes, that a new master plan be prepared to guide any development on the West L.A. site.

Dorman said that a master plan is unnecessary. "Our position is that, since we don't have any plans for commercial development at the site, why do we need a long-term land-use plan?" he said.

He said the only projects in the works for the site serve veterans. They include establishing a nursing home and relocating a veterans' benefits office to the campus.

Community activists and local lawmakers said they planned to take issue with the planning committee proposal at today's public hearing in Long Beach by the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services Commission, which was established by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi.

Catherine Barrier, a preservation advocate for the Los Angeles Conservancy, said her group also wanted a master plan because of the number of historically significant buildings on the site, including the Wadsworth Theatre.

The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System, 5901 E. 7th St., Long Beach.

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