REAL HOT PROPERTY
The Brentwood School is one of the most prestigious private schools in the nation and is the institution of choice for many of Hollywood’s elite. Tuition tops out at $24,800 for seniors. The school’s athletic fields served as the training grounds for Joanna Hayes, 2004 U.S. Gold Medalist in the 110-meter hurdles and have been the home of the Special Olympics since 2003 when Brentwood resident, and now Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger presided over the opening ceremonies. A 20-year enhanced sharing land use agreement between the school and the VA expires June 2020.
These PricewaterhouseCoopers disclosures have resulted in a flurry of government denials, distortions and
mischaracterizations of the thirteen radionuclides known to be present in the waste site. Unraveling the mysteries of this forgotten dump has been encumbered every step of the way by a recalcitrant Veterans Administration not above stalling, obscuring and outright fabrications in its attempt to characterize their own contractors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, as inept and to paint the dump as benign. By savaging the work of “Team PwC,” which cost taxpayers nearly $10 million, the VA inadvertently calls into question the company’s entire analysis of the West LA VA and the other 17 VA sites targeted by CARES.
The picture painted for this reporter, after five years of investigation, is of an inept Department of Veteran Affairs blithely unaware of the dangers deep in the dirt of Brentwood. Or perhaps worse, the VA knows precisely what’s buried in the dump and but is doggedly determined to build out one of the most valuable expanses of underdeveloped federal land in the nation.
In 1888, early Angelino settlers Arcadia Bandini de Baker and John P. Jones deeded the VA land to the government “to establish, construct and permanently maintain” a National Home for Disabled Volunteer from the Civil War. By the early 1930s, the Veterans Administration had formed. Parts of the original grant have been used to contain the Los Angeles National Cemetery, the West Los Angeles Federal Building and Post Office, and Department of Defense facilities. Even with the San Diego Freeway bisecting the old land grant, 91 structures ranging in age from 3 to 106 years still sit on the remaining 387-acre site with 2,807,039 square feet of space.
The VA is bisected by Wilshire Boulevard with the north side of the facility referred to as the Brentwood campus, home to many of the buildings used to provide domiciliary care for veterans. Much of the property today seems to exist in a time warp preceding World War II. Vast tracts appear deserted and others are covered in palm trees. Forty two buildings on the property built before 1950 are considered ‘historic’ including the Governor’s Mansion and the Wadsworth Theatre. The charming and historic building was constructed in 1939 in the Spanish Colonial/Mission Revival architectural style with a stucco finish and red clay tile roofing. A renovation of the building was completed in 2002 and includes restoration of its original Art Deco interior. The Wadsworth has played host to numerous Broadway shows, movie premieres, concerts and community meetings.
On Sept. 22 a raucous CARES community meeting took place where hundreds of residents and veterans decried commercial development of the VA. Just one of the dozens of speakers, many of them decorated veterans from World War II and the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, said anything about the nuclear and chemical dump on the property. Nor did anyone say anything about the facility being part of ground zero in America’s Cold War nuclear research that resulted in the radioactive waste in the first place. It was clear that this controversial past has faded away.