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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 28, 2021
Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise to speak in support of the ``West Los Angeles VA Campus Improvement Act,'' which I introduced today. Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) is introducing companion legislation in the House. Background on the West Los Angeles VA Campus

In 1888, the 388-acre campus that is now home to the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center was deeded to the federal government by Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker and Senator John P. Jones in order to establish a home for disabled Civil War Veterans.

Until the 1970s, the land served primarily to house Veterans, and the campus long represented the largest Veteran housing development in the nation.

Unfortunately, in 1972, 2,800 Veterans living on the West LA VA campus were displaced after the Sylmar Earthquake caused major damage on campus. Rather than repair the housing units, the VA eventually leased portions of the property to non-VA tenants.

Forty years later, homeless Veterans and advocates sued the VA for illegally leasing facilities on campus and for failing to use the property to support Veterans, as required by the original deed.

A U.S. District Court subsequently ruled that many leases on campus were illegal under the terms of the original deed, and in 2015, the VA agreed to facilitate the development of 1,200 housing units for homeless Veterans on campus.

In 2016, Congress enacted legislation that I introduced with Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Ted Lieu, entitled the ``West Los Angeles Leasing Act of 2016,'' to set up an oversight framework for the housing development and to ensure that lease revenues from ongoing leases stayed on campus. Need for Legislation

In 2018, the VA selected a ``Principal Developer'' to complete housing renovation and construction projects on campus, allowing for a more streamlined and efficient building process.

However, the VA has determined that current law restricts it from using on-campus lease revenues for housing construction, maintenance, or services. The VA has determined that clarifying language is needed to ensure that funds generated on campus can be used for these purposes.

Giving VA the flexibility to use locally-generated revenue in this way could significantly reduce the time it takes to get homeless Veterans into housing. Bill Summary

The ``West LA VA Campus Improvement Act'' would explicitly authorize the VA to use any funds collected pursuant to leases, easements or other use agreements at the West LA VA for the development of supportive housing and services on campus.

The bill would also increase the time period for enhanced use leases on the campus from 75 to 99 years. Increasing the length of the leases would align with other leasing terms the VA has, and help reduce the financing costs for new housing. Conclusion

Last year, the regional homelessness count reported that more than 3,900 Veterans are experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. It is long past time for this land to be returned to its intended purpose: to serve as a home where Veterans can receive the care and treatment they deserve.

This bill will help move us closer to that reality.

I hope my colleagues will join me in support of this bill. ______

By Mr. REED (for himself, Mr. Whitehouse, Mr. Wyden, and Mr. Sanders):

S. 127. A bill to support library infrastructure; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.