REAL HOT PROPERTY
“The long and the short of it is that I can’t find that vegetation right now because it was plowed under,” Hirsch continued. “The problem is that we were unable to identify the locations for the tests to occur. Braude and Beilenson, who were not happy with us at all for having raised these issues because they were getting in the way of the park they wanted built, said ‘go ahead and build the park.’”
CBG had played its last hand. “CBG was effectively spent – the political process had sucked the air out of any possibility of stopping the park,” said former CBG staffer Ramberg. “Regrettably, there was nothing left to do.”
By December 1982, the LA City Department of Recreation and Parks had concluded that the twelve-acre park would “pose no conceivable health risk to the public.” On June 16, 1983, the parks commission approved the project on a 3-1 vote despite protests from the newly formed Brentwood Citizens for a Safe Park, a group that was made up of about 300 apartment and condo dwellers on Barrington Avenue.
“I believe in being careful,” Braude told the Los Angeles Times on June 30, 1983. “I believe in public hearings. I believe in participatory democracy. But when all the evidence is in and all the hearings have been held, one must have the courage to move forward and I’m delighted we did.”
The West LA VA’s Radiation Safety Officer at the time, L.W. Wetterau, went even further in his glowing appraisal of the land. “I’ll give you my opinion if you print it exactly as I say it,” Wetterau told the LA Weekly in a July 29, 1983 article on the dump. “Environmentally, that site is as safe as any on the globe. I would love to live on that site. I would build on it and live on it.”
In early May of the next year, the city signed off on the $1,044,000 project and the park was built and opened on May 27, 1985. Braude and Beilenson threw out the first balls on a newly create baseball diamond that stretched over the nuclear waste dump in deep centerfield.
But the park soon faced a new danger. In February 1986, the VA declared 109 acres of the Brentwood facility to be excess federal land as part of the Reagan Administration’s long-range goal of reducing the federal deficit. Even though that acreage for possible sale was later shrunk to 80, it still included the new park. Eventually, the proposal to sell off the land was dropped after vociferous protests by Braude, Beilenson and the Brentwood community that helped result in passage of the Cranston Act of 1988 which protects the northeastern 109 acres of the VA from commercial build out.
In 2001, Rep. James T. Walsh (R-NY) tried but failed to implement an April 2001 initiative entitled “Plan for the Development of a 25-Year General Use Plan for Department of Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles Healthcare Center” as part of the 2002 fiscal year VA-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill. The most controversial aspect of the plan was repeal of the Cranston Act. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), in whose district the West LA VA lies, succeeded in nixing the measure with an amendment that prohibited funding of the plan.