The West L.A. Veterans Administration (VA) campus is planning for a major overhaul to provide much needed supportive housing for veterans. Officials want your input in shaping the plans.
Officials will hold a public meeting in the east wing of Santa Monica’s City Auditorium (1855 Main St) this Wednesday, December 2 from 7 to 8 p.m. to get feedback on the plans to transform the 387-acre campus in Westwood, about a mile east of Santa Monica, into a community designed to serve veterans, especially those experiencing homelessness and mental illness.
The draft master plan, the subject of Wednesday’s community meeting, is designed to “advance the vision and objectives to transform the campus into a Veteran-focused, safe and welcoming community where Veterans can access housing and supportive services as needed,” according to the VA’s website.
In order to accomplish that vision, the plan calls for “the development of compact, walkable neighborhoods to organize the campus into manageable zones while supporting future growth,” a network of interconnected community centers, and a greenway to “enhance connectivity and community among Veterans, both on campus and within the broader community,” according to the website.
Los Angeles County is home to the largest homeless population in the country and while the exact number of homeless vets are unknown, estimates range between 6,000 to 8,000.
The master plan is a culmination of a years-long fight that included a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that alleged the West L.A. VA had illegally leased nearly a quarter of its campus for commercial purposes that did not directly benefit veterans. According to the ACLU, that was an improper use of the land because it had been deeded to the federal agency in 1888 specifically with the stipulation that it be used to house vets.
In 2013, a federal court ruled in favor of the ACLU. Santa Monica officials, including then-City Councilmember Bobby Shriver, took an active role in advocating for the West L.A. VA to provide supportive housing.
Santa Monica was a first-adopter of the “housing first” strategy to address homelessness, a strategy that is called out specifically as a best practice in the proposed draft master plan for the campus.
The Housing First model means that officials prioritize getting people experiencing homeless into housing and then connect them to whatever services they may need.
For more information about the West L.A. VA draft master plan, visit www.losangeles.va.gov.