Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles Healthcare Center
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is currently undertaking a multi-year effort to develop a new master plan for its 400-acre West Los Angeles campus.
The plan would help the VA establish and pursue the most effective uses of the campus for the veteran community, prioritizing care for underserved veterans who are homeless, aging, female, and/or disabled.
The West L.A. campus is home to a rich collection of historic resources, including the National Register-listed West Los Angeles VA Historic District and the individually listed Streetcar Depot and Wadsworth Chapel. The non-profit organization 1887 Fund has recently been established to advocate for the restoration of the VA campus’s historic structures and landscapes.
In 2015, the VA completed a pilot rehabilitation of the Homeless Veterans Transitional Housing building, formerly known as Building 209. The project is a strong model for the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of other historic buildings on the West L.A. campus, earning it a 2016 Conservancy Preservation Award.
As currently defined, the proposed master plan would balance the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of historic buildings with sensitive new construction. Two district contributors would be relocated to nearby receiver sites, and one non-contributing property would be demolished.
The Conservancy submitted comments on the draft master plan, which was released in October 2015. The environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) is now underway.
In January 2015, the VA announced that it would reinvest in its long-neglected West Los Angeles campus as part of a settlement with a local group of disabled veterans and the American Civil Liberties Union.
In recent decades, the center had strayed from its original purpose of caring for and housing veterans as a result of lease agreements with private companies and organizations. A number of buildings, including the Wadsworth Chapel, are currently vacant and have deteriorated significantly.
Los Angeles has the largest population of homeless veterans in the United States, with approximately 4,000 veterans living on the streets. The proposed master plan would provide transitional and permanent supportive housing on the West L.A. campus, along with new healthcare services and recreational facilities.
The VA previously approved $20 million in funding to rehabilitate and adaptively reuse Building 209 as housing for chronically homeless veterans. Originally constructed in 1945 in the Mission Revival style, the building underwent a seismic retrofit and sensitive rehabilitation in 2014. Now known as the Homeless Veterans Transitional Housing, the project received a 2016 Conservancy Preservation Award.
The Conservancy appreciates the VA's pursuit of a holistic master plan with a strong historic preservation component and submitted comments on the draft master plan in December 2015. The plan proposes to revitalize the campus while retaining its historic resources and enhancing its existing neighborhood character, which would create new opportunities for serving the veteran community.
While we believe the plan is heading in the right direction, we raised several questions and concerns over the potential impacts to historic resources, including the current environmental review process. We strongly encouraged the VA to initiate the formal review process as soon as possible in order to be in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
We recommended the preparation of a detailed historic preservation plan to guide the rehabilitation and reuse of historic buildings and the establishment of clear design standards for new construction.
We also pressed for the immediate stabilization of the Wadsworth Chapel, which is not currently secure and has been rapidly deteriorating for a number of years.