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Monday, Jul 22, 2024

Touting Job Creation, Groups Push Housing for Veterans

Developers of a proposed affordable housing complex for military veterans recently hit a ?onfusing?roadblock when the City of Los Angeles declined to issue a variance for the project. New Directions Inc, a non-profit that provides services for veterans, and A Community of Friends, a non-profit developer of affordable housing, want to rehabilitate two structures at the Sepulveda VA complex in North Hills. The project would overhaul buildings 4 and 5 on the VA property to create 147 studio apartment units, community rooms, dining halls, and recreation space and classroom space for homeless and disabled veterans. The non-profits requested a variance to be able to use the buildings for residential rather than public purposes. But the City of Los Angeles declined to issue a variance, stating that it has no jurisdiction over federally owned property, say the groups. ?ur attorneys are mulling it through, because it? kind of a confusing response,?says Toni Reinis, executive director of New Directions, adding the groups assumed the city had a say on land-use issues. The VA issued a 75-year lease to New Directions and A Community of Friends for the two buildings. The groups say a 2008 report by the National Veterans Foundation identifies jobs and affordable housing as among veterans?top needs. Each structure is approximately 65,000 square feet. They are currently vacant and require asbestos removal, lead-based paint remediation, new plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems, seismic upgrades, roofing and windows. Both structures were damaged in the 1994 earthquake. If approved, construction will last 14-16 months and employ about 200 workers. Costs are estimated to be $20 million per building, and funding will come from a variety of federal, private and state sources, according to A Community of Friends. The development will provide services for veterans such as case management, counseling and mental health services, literacy and educational programs, vocational training and job placement, and assistance in managing personal finances. ?e?e helping veterans who can? pay market value rent,?says Dora Gallo, CEO of A Community of Friends. ?f you?e been disabled it? a lot harder to obtain and maintain employment.? The development has met with plenty of opposition. Some opponents say the 75-year lease does not guarantee the property will only be used to house veterans. Others say it? a ?ober living?facility and will likely increase crime in the area. ?he North Hills West Neighborhood Council is opposed to the variance, so this (ruling) doesn? change anything for us,?says David Hyman, board member of the neighborhood group. New Directions and A Community of Friends have until May 28 to appeal the decision. Reinis says the ruling may not delay the project. ?t? something we simply haven? had a chance to vet yet,?she says, adding in the meanwhile the groups will continue to address concerns raised by community groups.

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