The following statement is attributed to Mark Rosenbaum and David Sapp of the ACLU of Southern California, Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, Arnold & Porter LLP, Inner City Law Center, Gary Blasi, a UCLA Law Professor and Massey & Gail LLP
We have closely reviewed the VA’s latest press release and publication, as required by congressional mandate, of its final Master Plan for the West Los Angeles campus. The release is virtually identical to a press release from the same office dated August 2007. There is nothing new in the VA’s newly released plan. And it remains merely a plan, with no firm commitments for any project. Indeed, the only progress the VA made in four years is to change the stamp on the paper plan from “draft” to “final.”
The new release and finalized Master Plan, while constituting a frank acknowledgment of the core claims of our case that the VA is doing nothing to relieve homelessness of severely mentally disabled homeless veterans, makes no commitment to adding permanent supportive housing on the campus, despite the availability and underutilization of existing buildings that could be readily converted to permanent supportive housing for at least some of the 2500 chronically homeless vets in Los Angeles, the homeless veterans capital of our nation.
To the contrary, the document contains an express commitment to no commitment to assist veterans. At page 10, it reads: “The Master Plan is a flexible plan to guide development and it is not an implementation plan. It does not commit to any specific project, construction schedule, or funding priority. Each development proposal must be approved individually by the GLAHS [Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System] Director, the Network Director, and national VA officials as required by VA regulation governing the specific project.”
Equally disturbing, the VA has also provided no answers about why this land given for vets is being leased to private corporations like Marriott and Tumbleweed buses. In fact, the only commitment the Plan makes is to maintain all existing leases to private corporations and entities on the campus. The press release and final Master Plan continue the cover-up of these land deals, withholding from public scrutiny the facts behind the negotiations of these deals and any information as to the monies procured and where that money has gone. Additionally, this announcement pointedly leaves a number of unanswered questions about the current use of the land, including:
- Why is this land being leased to private entities?
- Where has the money from the current lease agreements with private commercial enterprises gone?
- Why isn’t the funding generated from these leases sufficient to fund the needed renovations of the three buildings on the campus available for permanent supportive housing?
- Why does the Master Plan not provide for accommodation of chronically homeless veterans or commit to a schedule for providing permanent supportive housing?
We, along with thousands of homeless veterans living on the streets of Los Angeles, are still waiting for the housing they need to get the other care to which they are entitled by reason of their service. The announcement does not provide a timeline or firm commitments for when the buildings will be renovated, raising a critical question: Is the VA willing to commit to concrete plans that will result in shovels hitting dirt at a date certain? The answer from the VA remains no. Sadly, there appear to be individuals within the VA who clearly are more intent on covering the VA than providing shelter for our wounded vets.