UCLA will appeal to save its stadium lease on veterans land
UCLA will appeal a decision that could force it to give up its baseball stadium on land leased from the U.S. veterans’ agency.
U.S. District Judge S. James Otero rejected a bid by the university and the Brentwood School to overturn his August ruling striking down commercial leases on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ sprawling West Los Angeles campus. But he said the schools, which were not involved in the original litigation, could appeal the August decision.
Otero’s ruling Monday ruling means UCLA’s national championship team will stay at Jackie Robinson Stadium, where it has played for nearly 50 years, through the 2014 baseball season and perhaps beyond.
“We are ... confident that our baseball team will be able to play its upcoming season in Jackie Robinson Stadium,” UCLA spokesman Steve Ritea said Tuesday.
The development came in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of four homeless veterans that seeks to invalidate leases on the 387-acre property, which had been used for veterans’ housing until the 1980s. Otero ruled the land could be used only for healthcare for veterans.
The Veterans Affairs is renovating one of several derelict buildings on the site for housing, but advocates who have battled with the VA for decades hoped the decision striking down UCLA’s lease would spur negotiations for more extensive rebuilding.
UCLA has paid $600,000 over the last 10 years to rent what it describes as a small corner of the property for the stadium, which underwent $5.3 million in improvements, a spokesman said. The university has been on a month-to-month lease since 2011.
The private Brentwood School, whose lease runs through 2019, said it has paid $4.5 million to lease 20 acres for its tennis courts, fields, gyms and aquatic center, and $15 million for improvements.
Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel for the ACLU of Southern California, which represented the veterans, said he hoped the university would use its influence to lobby the federal government to provide housing and medical care for Los Angeles’ 6,000 homeless veterans.
“The hope is ... that it be more concerned that Los Angeles is No. 1 in the nation in veteran homelessness than that its baseball team is No. 1 in college rankings,” Rosenbaum said.
UCLA said the ruling provided an opportunity for the university “to help craft a resolution that helps veterans by building upon our longstanding relationship with the VA and our strong commitment to veterans.”
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