GENERAL

The Veterans Collective (TVC), also called the principal developer, is a competitively selected, locally rooted and mission-driven team of three organizations, comprising Century Housing, Thomas Safran & Associates and U.S.VETS. Together, these organizations have a long history of Veteran-specific housing development and service provision. Two of them are led by U.S. military Veterans—Ron Griffith, president and CEO of Century Housing (U.S. Marine Corps and recipient of the Combat Infantry Badge and Purple Heart), and Steve Peck, president and CEO of U.S.VETS (U.S. Marine Corps and recipient of the Navy Commendation Medal). TVC’s goal is to transform the West Los Angeles VA North Campus into America’s largest supportive housing community for homeless and at-risk Veterans. The $1.1 billion project represents a critical step forward in accelerating the development of much-needed housing and services for vulnerable Veterans in the greater Los Angeles area. The team is deeply committed to successfully housing and caring for military Veterans and their families by developing a vibrant neighborhood that promotes recovery, wellness and a more hopeful future.

The concept of a principal developer is considered a best practice to develop and maintain a cohesive community. Simply put, having fewer land and programming developers increases the ability to optimally coordinate the North Campus in working toward the same vision of a neighborhood complete with quality housing, amenities and a comprehensive services model. Utilizing a principal developer holistically integrates multiple functions of the community, translating to the best quality of life for veterans and families living within the new community as well as those being served regionally.

Rather than continuing with individual enhanced use leases (EUL) as initially employed, the VA utilized a request for quote process to competitively select the organizations that make up The Veterans Collective, or principal developer, to expedite the delivery of supportive housing on campus and to work with the VA to guide and facilitate the community’s development.

Century Housing, Thomas Safran Associates and U.S.VETS are sharing responsibility for the development, management and operation of the community. Together, these veteran-led and veteran-focused organizations possess the experience, capabilities, financial means and relationships to successfully achieve VA’s goals for the West LA campus. All three organizations have a history of successfully constructing low-income housing in the greater Los Angeles area. TSA headquarters is located within a quarter mile of the West Los Angeles VA campus, and Century Housing and U.S.VETS have developed and managed the largest and most successful Veteran supportive community in California at Century Villages at Cabrillo in Long Beach.

The VA competitively selected TVC as principal developer to help guide and facilitate the community’s development with shared oversight of infrastructure and collaboration in community planning and service structure. Campus housing and services will be planned jointly to help ensure a safe, dignified community environment that will function independently, but in coordination with VA care and services across the West LA campus and the surrounding community. TVC will be responsible for working with the VA to coordinate and ensure delivery of supportive services to North Campus residents through available VA and other funding or housing resources.

MASTER PLAN

As part of the VA’s commitment to ending Veteran homelessness, the VA’s Master Plan 2022 is an update of the original 2016 Draft Master Plan. The document outlines in explicit detail the VA’s plan for campus redevelopment, including TVC’s proposed vision for the North Campus that draws on its considerable expertise in housing development. Working in concert with experts, designers and urban planners, the plan has been developed from research, prior planning efforts including the draft master plan, necessary plan updates and extensive veteran and community input. The department periodically reevaluates and updates the master plan to ensure it meets the standards of care for Veterans and reflects changing demand over time. It is also anticipated that as various elements of the master plan are implemented and the infrastructure needs change, the plan will also be revised accordingly.

Leveraging the 2016 VA Draft Master Plan, The Veterans Collective was tasked with community planning to support and guide the development of at least 900 additional units of supportive housing for homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families on the North Campus to reach the wider VA Master Plan’s broader goal of at least 1,200 homes. In addition to housing, this includes planning supportive services across a spectrum of Veteran, family and certified caretaker needs (both within housing and in the region), as well as urban planning to incorporate components such as enterprise and opportunities, plus the creation of a community structure with administrative oversight and consideration of resident and regional needs.

CURRENT PROGRESS

The Veterans Collective is making great progress on the North Campus, including opening its first renovated building (207) in February 2023, which currently houses senior Veterans. In June 2023, TVC, along with VA and The Core Companies, broke ground on five new buildings—404, 402, 156, 157 and 401—which together will create 306 new apartments for unhoused Veterans. This milestone marked the midway point. More than half the 1,200 planned units are finished or under construction. At the start of 2024, 617 units of housing are under construction or slated for completion in the next three years, including 237 that have been built.

Separate from The Veterans Collective, Buildings 205 and 208—which accommodate 122 Veterans—were completed in 2023 by Shangri-La Construction and Step Up on Second. Building 209 opened in 2017 with 54 units of permanent supportive housing.

Building 210, which will house women Veterans and their families, and Building 158 are slated to break ground in June 2024, followed by Building 300 by the end of the year. TVC also anticipates Buildings 404 and 402 will open in 2024.

The development of housing on this scale will take 10 years to complete.

The creation of a thriving community on the North Campus will require a long-term vision and years of effort. Development will be phased over time to minimize impacts, leverage infrastructure investment and concentrate the residents around available services. Each individual housing development will be designed, financed and constructed independently but coordinated within the broader community on campus. The development of supportive housing is subject to many constraints. This includes the availability of highly competitive public financing (local, state and federal) and private philanthropy. TVC must raise the funding needed to complete the multi-phased project and ensure it is sustainable for years to come.

Numerous other factors have impacted development timelines as well, including time spent implementing critical infrastructure upgrades that meet current housing codes—from utility trunklines (including sewer, water, gas, electrical, storm drain and telecommunications) to environmental clearances. Significant preparation must be conducted with each parcel of land to be developed or existing building, whether it be relocation of existing operations, addressing seismic needs or relocating utilities that may conflict with development plans. To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, VA also had to complete extensive studies of the possible environmental, historic and socioeconomic impacts of the proposed redevelopment and alternatives.

HOUSING

Veterans of all backgrounds and service eras will be housed to include specialized supportive housing for subpopulations at increased risk of homelessness such as senior Veterans, women Veterans, LGBTQ Veterans, Veteran families, single-parent Veteran families, Iraq/Afghanistan-era Veterans, chronically homeless Veterans, disabled Veterans and Veterans who experienced military sexual trauma and other injuries. Working with the VA and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, data regarding current community needs will be reviewed yearly, and services for specific populations will be incorporated accordingly.

Any woman Veteran referred or presenting with a housing need will be assessed for housing on the West Los Angeles VA’s North Campus. Building 210 will include women Veterans transitional programming, serving women Veterans (including their children) who may have experienced military sexual trauma or other residual challenges after service. Women Veteran-specific housing units with corresponding services are also envisioned. Additionally, U.S.VETS, TVC’s lead service provider, will refer women Veterans from its women’s ADVANCE transitional housing program in Long Beach and its Women Vets On Point support program.

Yes. Veterans and their family members, including children, will live on campus. Carefully planned, family-focused supportive services will be offered for families and children.

If a Veteran is the head of the household and a full-time student, and to the extent the unit is financed with low-income housing tax credits, a Veteran will not be eligible for housing based on need. There are legislative efforts afoot to create opportunities for the inclusion of full-time Veteran students in low-income tax credit housing.

TVC’s community plan allows for approximately 1,700 homes on the North Campus that will accommodate more than 3,000 Veterans once fully built out. We hope the North Campus will be a community of choice for our Veterans and support a significant reduction in the incidence of Veterans experiencing homelessness across the greater Los Angeles area.

Tenants are selected based on their housing needs and other specific criteria, such as income level and disability status. Our overarching goal is to create a community of support where tenants with various needs and those with and without families are intermixed. One exception is our women Veterans-specific housing and programming in Building 210, which will house only women Veterans who desire a non-integrated living space.

No. Non-Veterans cannot move in and will never have the ability to per the original intent of the 1887 land grant to VA, which stipulates the campus will only be utilized for the care and housing of Veterans. The only exception is family members and/ or caregivers of Veterans who are on the lease.

No. The housing is intended for Veterans who qualify for low-income permanent supportive housing. All housing created will be rental housing.

The land beneath the housing will always belong to VA as the agency that was entrusted with the original land grant of 1887 for the care and housing of Veterans. VA is entering into enhanced use leases for the land with each housing developer which will own the buildings during the term of the ground lease.

SERVICES & AMENITIES

The North Campus will offer a continuum of services, both for campus residents as well as Veterans and families who are living in the surrounding community. Each individual building will have HUD/VASH case management onsite in addition to dedicated services, such as mental health counseling and treatment, career programs and other supportive services and activities provided by U.S.VETS that create a safe and caring, multigenerational space for Veterans and families. Building 300 and Building 13 will also support the wider regional service needs.

Building 300 will serve as the supportive service and well-being hub of the North Campus, centrally located near hundreds of supportive homes on the North Campus. This building is central to most of the housing, which is north of the CalVet home. Community planning has designated 15,000 square feet of the building as support service space for a wide variety of services and amenities, including case managers, clinical services, VA professional staff, women Veteran services, non-clinical human services classes and groups, a career initiative center, transportation coordination, resources, a food bank, legal clinic, peer navigators from the County of Los Angeles, activities and events coordination, telehealth spaces and more.

Additional space will be allocated to computers, a barber and beauty salon, and an exercise room, as well as a coffee shop in the main lobby. Plans include a blended “one-stop” model for services, including those provided by U.S.VETS, non-profit partners, VA staff and county services. Building 300 will also contain 44 permanent supportive housing units.

Veterans Plaza is envisioned to be the heart and soul of the supportive housing community on the North Campus. These four acres are modeled after the town square concept to be a symbol of unity and a gathering place. The term is reminiscent of a simpler time when planners fashioned streets to converge on a community’s focal point. Ours is imagined as a town hall (Building 13) surrounded by a town green in a beautiful, welcoming space where residents and visitors alike can socialize and meet up with friends, grab a quick bite, attend outdoor concerts and celebrations, bike around the property or make plans for seeing a movie at one of the campus theaters. In addition to the 90,000 square feet of commercial space that will provide Veteran-serving amenities, recreation, arts spaces and vocational training, the vision also includes four residential buildings comprising more than 300 supportive homes and a wellness center (Building 300), all punctuated by a charming, pedestrian-friendly Main Street. The idea for Veterans Plaza was borne out of significant input from Veterans gathered during more than three years of outreach and engagement.

COMMUNITY STRUCTURE & OPERATIONS

The North Campus will consist of individual housing developments, supported by a 501(c)(3) “backbone” association. The backbone will have administrative oversight for community coordination and common areas. Each housing development will be responsible for its own property management; however, the backbone will help coordinate joint property management standards, whole-campus safety protocols, community-wide programming and community upkeep in shared spaces. Utilizing a “collective impact” model, the backbone will also convene campus stakeholders and service providers around the needs of the community through an expanded campus Veteran and community stakeholder alliance (currently the Services Collaborative).

North Campus safety will be a joint effort among individual housing development property managers, the backbone organization, private security, VA Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles County Fire Department. A Resident Council will also be established and hold regular community town hall meetings to assist residents and gather feedback on campus safety.

On-campus housing and services will be collaboratively planned to help ensure a safe, dignified community environment that will function independently, but in coordination with the other VA and partnered care and services provided on both the North and South areas of the West LA campus and in coordination with the surrounding community. The development of this cohesive and vibrant community on the West LA VA campus provides a tremendous opportunity to address Veteran homelessness on a large scale and to co-locate medically fragile Veterans with the health care and supportive services they need. It affords the West LA VA an opportunity to create a “gold standard” community for Veterans and Veteran families both on campus and in the wider region. The Veterans Collective and its teams will be responsible for working with VA to coordinate and ensure delivery of supportive services to North Campus residents through available VA and other project-specific or third-party funding sources.

At any point where it is possible, it is our goal to hire Veterans and support Veteran vocational training. We have made good-faith commitments to award a percentage of building trade and non-building trade subcontracts to Veteran and service-disabled Veteran-owned small businesses. In addition, we’ve committed to a best-efforts local hire policy, a pre-apprenticeship scholarship program for local Veteran residents, and transitional job and YouthBuild opportunities.

FUNDING

This is the largest undertaking to build homes for Veterans in the United States, requiring more than $1.1 billion to bring it to physical operation.

Yes. In certain cases, this could be cheaper, but many of the buildings feature contributing elements to the historic district and cannot be torn down. We are taking care to retain historic buildings as required by California and federal law.

The entire housing development is being financed through a combination of highly competitive public housing funding, tax dollars, bonds, grants and private philanthropy. The VA is paying for several elements, including contributing the land/improvements, funding extraordinary infrastructure costs and preparing the land parcels for TVC.

The Veterans Collective and its partners have leveraged more than $851 million in financing commitments from public and private sources, including tax credits and bonds, from the federal government, state of California, Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles. Support includes more than $371 million in allocated tax credits and bonds from the State of California, which funded phase one of the project. Additional funding includes more than $27 million from Los Angeles County and more than $31 million from the city of Los Angeles. Federal representatives played instrumental roles as well, helping to secure direct appropriations and funding for campus upgrades through the West LA Improvement Act and PACT Act. The Department of Veteran Affairs has spent or committed to spend more than $260 million to update utility infrastructure, remediate dilapidated structures and address structural seismic deficiencies.

Through the Veterans Promise Campaign, The Veterans Collective has secured more than $92 million in private funding for pre-development, construction of Veteran housing, service buildings and community spaces, and campus operations. Along with building homes for Veterans and their families, through our partnership with Tunnel to Towers Foundation, the $188-million Veterans Promise Campaign will provide for supportive services, including career, mental health and homeless prevention programs, and community wellness spaces. Funds are also being raised in partnership with 1887 Fund to restore the iconic Wadsworth Chapel and create a cutting-edge center for moral injury recovery.

VA has contributed the land and its preparation, in addition to funding significant upgrades to aging infrastructure, including over $70 million in 2021 and 2022, and another $70 million in 2023 toward ongoing utility infrastructure, renovation and relocation projects that support permanent supportive housing. VA also expects to receive an anticipated $381 million through 2036 from the PACT Act, a new law that expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances, that will go toward the delivery of Veteran housing on campus.

Thomas Safran and Associates is a well-known for-profit developer of housing units in Southern California. During its 40-year history, it has developed over 6,000 units of housing including affordable housing. Affordable housing developers assume the financial, construction and operations risk of creating and managing affordable housing. In exchange, both not-for-profit and for-profit affordable housing developers earn a developer fee, which is prescribed and limited by the public funding agencies involved in each transaction (potentially including the city, county and state).

COMMUNITY PLANNING & ENGAGEMENT

Since its selection as the principal developer, The Veterans Collective has connected on a regular basis with Veterans and community stakeholders to integrate the feedback and suggestions we have gathered during countless hours of outreach to inform our planning. We have communicated with individuals, groups and wider constituencies, in addition to keeping legislators up to date about our community planning and progress as part of the wider VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System West Los Angeles Master Plan.

Outreach Efforts

  • Informational listening sessions about the community plan with Veterans groups, Veteran service organizations and all local, state and federal representatives
  • Presentations about The Veterans Collective, community planning and our progress
  • Feedback from stakeholder groups both in person and online
  • VA campus “in-reach” to leadership and individual VA sections
  • Quarterly VA town hall presentations
  • Ongoing participation in the monthly West LA VA Services Council (now VAGLAHS Community Partner Collective)
  • Quarterly county Veterans homelessness policy meetings
  • Federal Veterans Community Oversight and Engagement Board (VCOEB)
  • Veteran Peer Access Network (VPAN)
  • Community Veteran Engagement Board (CVEB)
  • A. Veterans Collaborative (LAVC)
  • Mayor’s Veterans Advisory Council (MVAC)
  • Veteran and family service providers
  • Housing agencies and alliances
  • Neighborhood and homeowners associations
  • Chambers of Commerce

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