Wilshire Federal Building (1970) Charles Luckman

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Wilshire Federal Building (1970) Charles Luckman

Postby nichols » Tue Feb 01, 2005 11:36 am


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Postby Vavala » Wed Sep 14, 2005 9:49 am

Cause for concern for everyone on the Westside is the federally commissioned summary report that was unveiled Monday (Sept. 12) outlining development options for the 300+ acre VA grounds in Brentwood/Westwood that many see as controversial.

Cited in the Times article was a mention of the federal government's own plan to build a nearly 1-million-square-foot FBI headquarters next to the Federal Building in Westwood.

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Neighbors Fear VA Plans for Westwood
A consultant's report seems to allow major development, say some who have seen it.
By Martha Groves
Times Staff Writer

September 13, 2005

The federal government's vision for the sprawling Veterans Affairs complex in Westwood left nearby residents fretting Monday that it was fraught with loopholes and could lead to major development in an already congested corridor.

Several people who saw a report prepared by consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers said the government seemed to be opening the door to extensive development on the site by listing such options as "medical research" and mixed-use residential areas that presumably would include retail or office space.

Such uses, critics said, would abandon the pledge of a past VA secretary that the property would not be commercially developed.

Proposals to redevelop the 387-acre VA campus have sparked heated debate for decades.

Nearby residents and veterans want the site, which straddles the busy roadway between the 405 Freeway and San Vicente Boulevard, to retain as much open space as possible and to benefit veterans directly, as was called for when the property was deeded to the government in 1888 for use as a home for Civil War veterans.

Opponents of development there point out that the Westside is already a chokepoint. Traffic and population are poised to increase, given extensive construction in Century City, the possibility that Santa Monica Place will be redeveloped and the federal government's own plan to build a nearly 1-million-square-foot FBI headquarters next to the Federal Building in Westwood.

Residents and local officials have repeatedly called for a land-use master plan for the VA property that would take into account other development in the area. A plan presented in 2001 proposed more than 7 million square feet of commercial and medical-related development and, residents realized by reading the fine print, attempted to eliminate congressional protection of open space at the campus. It generated fierce opposition and was scuttled.

Critics said Monday that the government appeared to be using similar semantics in a 23-page summary report.

Acknowledging a commitment made by Anthony J. Principi, who stepped down as VA secretary in December, not to allow commercial development, the report noted that "certain reuses of the property for commercial purposes" were not considered. The report defined "commercial" as retail operations providing products and services exclusively for sale to the general public.

That definition, the report said, ruled out shopping malls, movie theaters, convenience stores, fast-food outlets and industrial-manufacturing activities. It said the definition would allow institutional and office uses that supported or complemented the needs of veterans, such as assisted living, transitional housing and recreational research. But the report also called for possible mixed-use residential development, without specifying a connection to veterans.

Many of the options do, however, offer improvements for veterans, including renovating the existing hospital.

Contrary to government assurances that the "reuse/redevelopment options" would be posted on a website Monday, the report instead was presented Monday morning to only a few congressional staff members. After those briefings, consultants decided to make some changes in the report, which now may appear today at http://www.va.gov/cares .

The VA's failure to post the eight options Monday as promised left residents, veterans and even local elected officials scrambling to glean whatever information they could.

Staff members for U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) and U.S. Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-El Monte) attended the Monday briefing.

Throughout the day, they, in turn, shared information with Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and others.

An outraged Yaroslavsky — whose district includes the VA site — sounded off about the proposals after viewing a 50-page PowerPoint presentation and the 23-page summary report.

"What's missing is a land-use plan," he said in an interview. "What we've been calling for for several years is a land-use plan.

"We're generally skeptical and nervous about this because bureaucrats and administration officials sitting back in Washington look at this West Los Angeles property and say, 'Oh, my God. Outside of Central Park, this is the most valuable real estate in the U.S. and we could make some money off this.' "

He wondered what the government might mean by "medical research," one of many suggested options: "Does that mean a long-term lease with a biotech concern out of Silicon Valley right here, where it already takes an hour to get from Brentwood to Westwood?"

Flora Gil Krisiloff, a community activist who has fought past proposals to build an NFL stadium and a 24-hour mail-order pharmaceutical facility at the site, expressed concern that the VA might advocate putting mixed-use residential structures on acreage that is protected against such development.

In the 1980s, after the government said it planned to sell part of the VA property, Alan Cranston, then a Democratic U.S. senator from California, secured legislation that preserved 109 acres as open space.

In its summary report, PricewaterhouseCoopers took note of the Cranston Act but then also listed mixed-use residential as a potential option for the parcels that make up the protected acreage.

"The Cranston Act prohibits any commercial development," Krisiloff said, "and mixed use has a commercial component. We should not be talking about [even] one pocket of mixed-use until we honestly look at the unmet needs of veterans."

The primary use of the West Los Angeles campus is the 800-bed VA hospital and its immediate outpatient treatment facilities. The VA, veterans and residents generally agree that the campus is underused. But when it comes to ideas about how to make better use of the site, their views diverge.

"The spirit of the deed is to preserve and protect the property for the direct use of veterans," said Francisco Juarez, president of Citizens for Veterans Rights, which he described as an ad-hoc committee of concerned veterans and residents.

In its report, PricewaterhouseCoopers said the government planned to honor a previous agreement to build a state veterans home on 12 acres at the complex. California, the report noted, has committed $14 million to the project and has spent $4 million on design work. To change now would cost more and delay that and other state veterans homes.

The public will have a chance to comment on the options at a Sept. 22 meeting at noon at the Wadsworth Theater at the VA complex.

Two other public meetings will be scheduled later. Separately, Yaroslavsky and others plan to attend a community meeting Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at University High School to discuss the VA situation.

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Postby Vavala » Mon Apr 24, 2006 1:19 pm

In today's LA Times, an article about another section of this federal property contains a sentence regarding the Wilshire Federal Building:

"...the General Services Administration is in the environmental review stage for a new 1-million-square-foot FBI headquarters on the Federal Building site."

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Postby Vavala » Mon Apr 24, 2006 1:51 pm


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Postby Vavala » Tue Apr 10, 2007 8:58 am

Federal building may be demolished

Two towers would be built on the Westwood site to become the L.A. headquarters for the FBI. Some oppose the idea.
By Martha Groves
Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Times
April 10, 2007

The federal government is close to a decision to demolish the 17-story Federal Building at 11000 Wilshire Boulevard and replace it with two new towers that would become the Los Angeles headquarters for the FBI.

After looking at 35 sites throughout the region, the General Services Administration has determined that the Westwood site, at Veteran Avenue, is "actually the best," said Gene Gibson, the San Francisco-based regional public affairs officer for the GSA. The GSA oversees land purchases, construction and other basics of managing the federal government's businesses.

But politicians and community activists continue to take issue with the plan. In a Jan. 31 letter to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) said the GSA had failed to perform "a meaningful alternative site evaluation." He added that it appeared that the FBI's criteria appeared "to preordain the current site as the only suitable one."

Laura Lake, a longtime Westwood activist, said the new towers would constitute "a huge target next to the elevated freeway." She also said community members' research indicated that the Federal Building property was initially part of what became known as the National Soldiers Home campus, now the Veterans Affairs campus, which is north of Wilshire Boulevard and just west of the Federal Building, and therefore should be used for operations that serve veterans.

The FBI proposed the new headquarters several years ago because of increasing demands on its Los Angeles staff and a projected rapid rate of expansion after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The bureau has hundreds of agents and support staff scattered throughout the region and said it hoped to consolidate many of those operations. The FBI now occupies nine floors of the Federal Building, which also houses offices of a number of other federal agencies.

In 2004, the GSA notified public officials and community groups that it was studying the potential effects that building a 937,000-square-foot FBI office building next to the existing Federal Building would have on the already heavily congested area.

Elected officials and neighborhood groups decried the proposal, contending that the project would worsen traffic and create a target for terrorists.

The GSA said razing the existing building would help to address some of the community's concerns. The current building has about 561,500 square feet, whereas the two new towers combined would have about 732,000 square feet, Gibson said.

The GSA's Gibson said the new buildings, as well as the existing post office, which would remain, would accommodate about 1,780 workers. The current building has about 2,070 workers.

In late April, the GSA is expected to release its final environmental impact statement on the project. Even if all went smoothly, Gibson said, construction would not begin for many years.

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Postby Futura Girl » Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:03 am

arg!!!!!

this building should be landmarked!
it is architecturally and culturally significant to Los Angeles.

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Postby Perks » Tue Apr 10, 2007 10:39 am

Now that would be a shame. I can see the Federal Building right now from my desk at work: from afar it's a rather bland building, but once you're actually on the grounds it's clear that the building is an excellent, well-preserved example of 1960s planning and design. L.A. has very few of these buildings left.

If the FBI takes over the space, where the heck will everyone in the Westwide gather to protest about anything/everything? :?
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Postby Vavala » Fri Apr 13, 2007 1:37 pm

City to join foes of new FBI building
By Martha Groves
Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Times
April 13, 2007

The city of Los Angeles is preparing to join a coalition of veterans and Westside residents and business groups challenging the federal government's plan to tear down the Federal Building in Westwood and erect a new FBI headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard.

City Councilmen Jack Weiss and Bill Rosendahl said Thursday they planned to introduce a measure asking that the city attorney outline what steps the city would have to take to participate in an expected lawsuit.

The measure would also renew the city's request for a master plan for all federal properties in the area, including the Federal Building property and the Veterans Affairs campus.

The council probably will approve the measure in a few weeks.

No suit has been filed, but the Coalition for Veterans' Land, citing concerns about traffic and terrorism, said it expected to take its battle to federal court after the government filed its final environmental impact statement on the project.

That report is slated for release this month.

"We are going to fight and we are going to stop this federal proposal," Weiss said at a news conference at Wilshire and Veteran Avenue, where stiff winds whipped the multiple American flags on tall poles at the property. Weiss added that he strongly supported the FBI but had serious concerns about the potential for additional traffic in the already congested area, which is sliced by the 405 Freeway.

Rosendahl also addressed traffic fears, saying that "we cannot afford on the Westside any more gridlock."

"We have had it. No more expansion," he said.

Longtime Westside activist Laura Lake called the councilmen's action "historic," saying she could not "remember when the city stood with a coalition of community groups."

The General Services Administration has said that it reviewed 35 sites but determined that the Federal Building property best suited the FBI's needs. The GSA, which oversees land purchases and construction for federal government agencies, said it planned to tear down the existing 17-story building and build two towers that combined would have 732,000 square feet. That is 170,000 square feet larger than the current building, which is about 40 years old.

Rosendahl and Weiss said the FBI office should be downtown, close to city and county offices and law enforcement. According to coalition members, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's business development team offered sites downtown, but the GSA would not budge.

Rosendahl created a stir when he said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also supported the coalition's cause.

However, Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the governor, said later: "We've not taken a position on this."

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Postby Vavala » Fri Apr 27, 2007 8:19 am

FBI drops plan for new complex in Westwood
The agency acts in the face of strong opposition from residents, city officials, Sen. Feinstein.

By Martha Groves
Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Times
April 27, 2007

In a significant victory for Westside activists, the FBI revealed late Thursday that it has decided not to build a new Los Angeles headquarters at the Federal Building site on Wilshire Boulevard.

"In response to community concerns, the FBI has requested that the General Services Administration … search for alternative sites for the FBI's Los Angeles field office," the agency said in a brief statement. "The FBI has requested that the GSA not expand the Wilshire Boulevard site" for its office.

Community leaders and elected officials gave much of the credit for the FBI's change of heart to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who had been urging the FBI and GSA to pursue locations other than the parcel that lies in a high-traffic area next to the San Diego Freeway.

Last week, Feinstein sent a letter to the GSA and FBI asking them to drop the project and explore alternatives.

"This is good news," Feinstein said in a statement released late Thursday. "There was an insurmountable amount of neighborhood opposition in a corridor of major traffic congestion." She added that she would be "very happy to help the FBI find a new location."

Councilman Jack Weiss, who represents the area, agreed. "There's no question that when the FBI gets a new headquarters in Los Angeles, that will also be a great victory for L.A.," he said. "We'll locate that building, I hope, in a more central location that makes more sense in terms of law enforcement, access to the rest of government and traffic."

Downtown Los Angeles, Weiss added, best meets that description, but he said he would be open to other suggestions.

Neighborhood opposition erupted three years ago when federal officials revealed plans for a massive FBI structure that would be built next to the existing Federal Building.

Community leaders and their elected representatives complained that the project would make the area a bull's-eye for terrorists and push more cars into an already congested area.

In addition to Feinstein and Weiss, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) and Councilman Bill Rosendahl had backed the community's effort. Two weeks ago, Weiss and Rosendahl announced that the city would join any lawsuit filed by community opponents to challenge the project.

This month, the GSA, which is responsible for managing such government construction projects, said it was close to a decision to raze the 17-story Federal Building and replace it with two towers that would become the Los Angeles headquarters for the FBI.

At the time, the GSA said the Westwood site, on Veteran Avenue, was "actually the best" of 35 sites the agency had studied.

The FBI has asked that the GSA expand its "delineated area" and search for other possible sites.

"We're thrilled," said Laura Lake, a founder of the Coalition for Veterans' Land, an organization of property owners, veterans and businesses that had mounted a high-profile campaign against the project.

But she added that "we're not done with the GSA. We still have the issue … of whose land this is."

The coalition recently announced that after an exhaustive search of records, it had concluded that the Federal Building site was still part of the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus and thus should be used for veterans services.

Lake said the FBI's decision showed "the importance of unity and the power of the coalition that we've put together."

Feinstein has also pushed the government to prepare a master plan for the federal properties in the area, including the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus, the Federal Building and an Army Reserve site just south of Wilshire.

"We intend to keep [the coalition] going," Lake said, "until we return the land to veterans services and get a master plan. We're not done."

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Postby nichols » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:57 pm

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Los Angeles' Federal Building to be renovated for the FBI
After dropping plans for a large new building in Westwood, the federal government confirms its new approach.
By Martha Groves, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 13, 2008
Seventeen months after dropping plans for a new FBI complex in Westwood in the face of strong opposition from residents and Los Angeles elected officials, the federal government confirmed this week that it has decided to renovate the existing Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard and use it primarily as an FBI field office...

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/crime ... 6531.story


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