With free grounds passes, concert tickets and refreshments at the “Patriots’ Outpost,” veterans and their families could expect a grand time at the PGA’s
But after the Department of Veterans Affairs, in the midst of a legal dispute, canceled event parking at its West Los Angeles campus, tournament officials asked the agency to return 2,000 tickets it had donated for veterans.
"They're saying, 'I'm going to take my marbles and go home,'" said veterans activist Robert Rosebrock. "The tournament was a very big thing, veterans really looked forward to it."
The dispute stems from long-running litigation over how the 387-acre property is used. Veterans advocates say existing structures should be renovated to house the thousands of ex-service members living in the streets of Los Angeles.
The federal agency says veterans don't want to be grouped together on the parcel, but after years of prodding, it has begun to develop limited residential facilities.
A federal judge in 2013 ruled the agency had illegally leased parts of the campus to a television studio, private school, hotel laundry and parking service, but said the businesses could remain while the government appealed the decision.
More recently, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero stopped construction of an amphitheater on the property, apparently triggering new restrictions, including the parking cancellation. A Veterans Affairs spokeswoman did not respond to questions, and issued a statement Friday saying the department is dedicated to ending veteran homelessness.
Satellite parking for the Northern Trust Open, Feb. 18 to 22 at Riviera Country Club, had been available on the veterans affairs' campus for years. Neal said the tournament expects to announce an alternate parking arrangement with the city of Santa Monica.
The tournament will honor 800 tickets the veterans agency had already handed out, and veterans can download online vouchers that will admit them to the tournament, Neal said. The vouchers are for veterans and their immediate families only, while the tickets can be shared with friends.
"We are strong in our support of the military across the tour," she said.
Rosebrock said Veterans Affairs should have given the tournament more notice of the parking cancellation. "But I don't think they should take it out on veterans," he said.