Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day Post,0,6742126.story?track=rss#axzz2k0Yy8Dj

Hello Everyone:

For those of you in the United States, I hope you're having a nice Veteran's Days and for those of you in U.K, a pleasant, albeit belated, Remembrance Day to you.  It's on days like this that I always get sentimental about the country I live in and what it stands for.  More importantly, I think about the men and women who chose to put on a uniform and serve in this country's military.  They swore an oath to defend the United States against all foreign enemies and the nation's freedoms written into the Constitution.  I also think about my uncles: two (now deceased) served in World War II and a third who served in the Korean Conflict.  They served, I believe, not only because they were called, they served because of their immigrant parents that came to the United States in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century looking for opportunities.  If you haven't done so already, please remember to thank a person in a military uniform.  However, the United States Veteran's Administration has not been so kind to its historic property.

Los Angeles Veteran's Administration Building
According to a recent study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (, there are hundreds of Veteran's Administration buildings across the United States that are in danger of being demolished or completely abandoned due to lack of maintenance and the agency's failure to comply with with federal historic building protection laws.  The VA owns more than 2,000 historic properties throughout the country, including a number on the eleven campus built in Ohio, Tennessee and elsewhere that were built following the American Civil War (1861-65).  In West Los Angeles, the massive campus has approximately three dozen historically designated properties or structures, deeming the site eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.  One of the more prominent historic structures on the sprawling campus is a Victorian-era chapel, visible on Wilshire Boulevard.

West Los Angeles VA Chapel
The study released last Wednesday by the NTHP reported that abut half of the historic buildings were unoccupied and at risk of deterioration.  This is a sad state of affairs as the VA finds itself in growing need for real estate to accommodate of veterans from Viet Nam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  In the last thirteen years the number of soldiers and sailors receiving VA-provided health care has jumped from 3.4 million in 2000 to nearly 6 million in 2013.  Rather than rehabilitate the older buildings, the agency has embarked on a new construction spree.  Does this sound like the highest and best use of existing resources?  The report went on to say that the VA has new replacement medical facilities planned or under construction at a cost of $10 billion.  I think that this princely sum could be used to update the facilities and provide much needed care for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress.

Garden view of VA Building
Typical of a federal government agency, the VA has ignored its own analysis indicating that it would be more cost effective to rehabilitate the older buildings then undertake $10 billion worth of new construction. According to Leslie Barras, an attorney and preservation expert, "There's a perspective that we can't adapt old buildings, especially for medical facilities."  In a written response, the agency stated that it "takes very seriously its responsibility to care for historic buildings in its custody" and plans to use historic buildings in the fight against homelessness among veterans.  The VA promised to review the NTHP report recommendations.  Yes, of course, the VA has a plan to combat the problem of homeless veterans.

West Los Angeles VA Building in reflection
The need for Veteran's Administration facilities is especially acute in Los Angeles where there are an estimated 6,000 chronically homeless former soldiers and sailors.  It took the agency several years to approve $20 million to convert a little used building on the West Los Angeles campus into therapeutic housing for the chronically homeless veterans.  While work is under way on this project, two other buildings slated for housing conversion await funding.  According to Adrian Scott Fine, the director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy (, "The report illustrates the challenges in terms of how the VA has maybe looked at these buildings as a liability rather than assets."  Believe it or not the National Historic Preservation Act (1966) and the National Environmental Policy Act (1970) do not forbid the destruction of historic properties.  So much for that myth.  Nevertheless, they do require the VA and other federal agencies to consider alternatives to demolition and involve the community in the decision-making process.  Not doing so leaves the VA open to lawsuits.

Exterior corridor at the West LA VA Building
Member of Congress, Representative Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) has indicated in an interview that a public-private partnership would be an ideal way to cover the costs of rehabilitating the decrepit structures.  Rep. Waxman cites the Wadsworth Chapel, just north of Wilshire Boulevard as a good beneficiary of nonprofit fund raising efforts.  In 2007, the VA estimated it would cost $11.5 million to rehabilitate the Victorian-era chapel.  In its defense, a VA spokesperson said that in the past decade, the agency has entered into public-private partnerships to renovate 5 mill square feet of structures for housing.  Yet, it still wants to build $10 billion worth of new facilities.  If the VA has entered into public-private partnerships to rehabilitate older buildings for homeless veteran's housing, why not do the same for medical facilities? Think about it for a second, some of the 6,000 chronically homeless veterans also have very serious physical and mental health issues so providing state of the art treatment facilities would be a natural extension of housing projects.  Makes sense doesn't it?

Speaking of buildings that could definitely benefit from a public-private partnership, Tower Records still needs your help.  Please go to and sign the online petition.  Also email Council Member Stephanie Reich at to let her know why this building should not be demolished to make way for another high-end mixed used development.

Like me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter and on Pinterest
Google+ and Instagram

No comments:

Post a Comment