Proposed VA Facility Meets Opposition From Neighbors

New Facility Would Be Located At Old Thomas Jefferson School of Law Building In Old Town

Plans for a veterans' rehabilitation facility in Old Town San Diego are running into opposition from some of facility's prospective new neighbors.

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The residential rehabilitation facility would be for men and women veterans who need help returning to civilian life. The facility would have 40 beds in single rooms with medical and psychiatric care in-house. The average expected stay would be from one to six months.

The facility would be at the building that used to house the Thomas Jefferson School of Law. It takes up half a block on San Diego Avenue and is located across the street from Old Town Academy Charter School.

Tia Ross of the Veteran Women Association of America told 10News, "It's a beautiful place. The location's excellent because of transportation. It's close to downtown [and] close to other resources they may need."

Longtime Old Town resident Janet Houts disagreed.

"For the vets, I don't think it's a suitable place," she said. "They need wide open spaces. They shouldn't be in a residential neighborhood."

Another neighbor, Lisa Mortensen, told 10News, "We are a very good neighborhood and have openly embraced the Vietnam Veterans center and their two expansions."

Both women cited nearby bars, liquor stores, heavy traffic and train noise as not being helpful to veterans who are in rehab.

"These all could be very impactful to somebody recovering from post-traumatic stress," Mortensen added.

Retired Marine Lance Cpl. Armando Telles said there is a stigma associated with veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder.

"They are somehow categorized as a group that has become a threat here in the United States. We welcome them… wave our flags in support of military [and] in support of veterans, however, it's conditional," he said. "We served and that's all that matters. We're coming home and we need the community’s help."

Retired Navy E5 Tara Wise added, "So many of us served and to come back and see our community not want us to be part of it is very [dis]heartening. It just is. It makes you feel like your service was for nothing because the people at home don't appreciate you."

Houts does not see it that way.

"We have been called unpatriotic," she said. "We're anything but that. We have a VA facility down the street. We have a mental facility on Rosecrans nearby and I just think it's been kind of forced upon us."

The Vietnam Veterans Village of San Diego is actually buffered from the neighborhood by Interstate 5.

San Diego City Council will vote on the facility in a few months.

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