Some commercial tenants to stay on revamped veterans campus in Westwood

VA Secretary Bob McDonald speaks at final Master Plan announcement on the Westwood veterans campus.
VA Secretary Bob McDonald speaks at final Master Plan announcement on the Westwood veterans campus.
KPCC/John Ismay
VA Secretary Bob McDonald speaks at final Master Plan announcement on the Westwood veterans campus.
Attendees inspect new models depicting possible upcoming renovations to the 388-acre Westwood veterans campus.
KPCC/John Ismay

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Details of the final Master Plan for the V.A.'s overhaul of its Westwood campus emerged Thursday--including the fact that some commercial tenants will likely be allowed to stay.

The final plan — which is expected to come out sometime next week — comes after months of public comments on what should be done with the campus. A summary of the V.A.'s proposal,  provided to KPCC, provides for 1,200 units of permanent supportive housing for veterans, along with associated services.

The plan "represents a commitment to restore and improve the site to play the role for which it was historically established," the V.A. said in the summary.

But despite past assurances from the V.A. that private leaseholders that did not serve veterans would be evicted from the campus, the final plan apparently will call for UCLA and the Brentwood School to stay.

"Obviously our partners will be there, UCLA, Brentwood, the other folks who will be providing great benefits," V.A. Secretary Bob McDonald told a crowd gathered at the campus on Thursday. 

UCLA officials confirmed that they will be allowed to keep their 7-acre baseball stadium facility on the site because the university provides an array of services to the V.A. campus and area veterans.  

Previously, the school paid $60,000 per year for its leased seven acres — that will be raised to $300,000 per year for the next 10 years. 

U.C. Acting Chancellor Emeritus Norman Abrams said that was "fair market rate" for the property, but declined to discuss details of how the rate was determined.

"We had an appraisal done, and then negotiated with the V.A., and that was the amount we arrived at," Abrams said.

The Brentwood School is also "in negotiations" to keep their 22-acres of athletic facilities on the campus — providing they meet certain conditions. 

The school did not respond to a request for comment.

In the past, it looked like the tenants may have to move on as the campus transformed into a refuge for homeless veterans.

 The V.A. settled a lawsuit last year after accusations it mismanaged the 388-acre campus, mainly by renting large swaths of it out to commercial tenants. 

A group of veterans represented by the ACLU argued that the campus did not serve veterans, its original purpose when it was donated to the federal government in 1888.

When the V.A. agreed to overhaul the campus, it said any remaining tenants on the campus would need to be "veteran focused."

The summary plan, however, defines veteran-focused "through market value rent to the V.A. and services directly benefitting Veterans and their families."

Returning the campus to an oasis for veterans could be a slow process. The V.A. cannot yet break ground on constructing new housing for homeless vets until Congress approves. In additional to housing, the department plans to build a new hospital on the site.