The Brentwood School and a Los Angeles city park can remain on prime West Los Angeles land deeded for veterans’ care under an interim agreement announced Wednesday by federal officials.
The fate of a controversial dog park at the site remains up in the air, however, and the private school’s offer of “in-kind” services, including veteran access to its sports facilities, has yet to be fully fleshed out.
“The vast majority of veterans have supported these changes,” said Vince Kane, special assistant to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald.
But advocates said veterans were excluded from the negotiations.
“Because the veterans weren’t involved, there is no guarantee any veterans want to use the services they are planning, ”’ U.S. Navy veteran Seth Smith said.
“The provisions of in-kind resources are by no means final,” said Dan Garcia, chief executive of a veterans advocacy group. “Is it enough? We’re looking at it very hard, and we’ll see.”
The lease negotiations have been a sticking point in the VA’s plans to develop its long-neglected 387-acre campus, the largest open parcel on the Westside, to house homeless, disabled and female veterans. The plan, reached as part of a settlement of litigation over substandard care of homeless veterans, is contingent on Congress approving a bill to restore leasing authority to campus officials.
Under the deals announced Wednesday, the Brentwood School will make annual lease payments of $850,000 — double its previous rate — to keep its 22-acre athletic complex on the VA property. The in-kind services, also valued at $850,000, will include scholarships and educational and vocational courses for veterans, although the details are still being worked out.
The city has operated the 12-acre Barrington Park on VA property in Brentwood rent-free since 1991; the dog park was added in 2002. The city now has pledged to spend $200,000 on parks jobs for veterans, to rename the park Veterans Barrington Park and to build a veterans memorial at the site.
The city also promised to work to move the dog park off the land, but the VA did not set a deadline, said Kane, adding that “it may not be going away.”
If an alternate site is not found, veterans will share the park with the community, he added. The VA is also considering teaching veterans to train service animals or run a kennel at the site.
The park parking lot will be operated by veterans. The VA has not reached an agreement with the operator of a separate parking lot in Brentwood Village used by customers and employees, Kane said.
Kane and Ann Brown, director of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, said the deals are part of overall improvements at the campus, which serves the largest number of veterans in the country. Los Angeles County has long been the homeless veteran capital of the country, with 3,071 counted last January.
Through an aggressive rent voucher program, the VA has housed 4,000 veterans over the last year, Kane said. The campus master plan calls for construction of 1,200 housing units.