Veterans Affairs officials will set aside their 387-acre West Los Angeles campus as living space for homeless veterans, a move that could help thousands of destitute veterans in the region.
The announcement also ends an ongoing lawsuit over use of the land and comes as department officials approach their announced deadline of ending veterans homelessness by December.
VA Secretary Bob McDonald announced the plan at the on Wednesday afternoon. He called the move "a historic opportunity to build new community relationships in Los Angeles and continue the work needed to end veteran homelessness here."
National estimates put the number of homeless veterans around 50,000, with more than 4,000 in the Los Angeles area alone. VA officials say that national figure is down more than one-third since 2010, when the department made solving the problem one of its top priorities.
The new agreement includes plans to develop a general plan to deal with homeless veterans issues over the next three weeks, and a specific plan by this fall for constructing short-term and permanent housing on the campus.
McDonald will also appoint a special assistant reporting directly to him on the project, to make sure efforts stay on schedule.
The move comes after a nearly four-year lawsuit filed by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, which charged the department has improperly used the land for decades for activities that provided little or no benefit to veterans.
Current tenants on the land include several businesses and the UCLA baseball stadium. Officials said developing the new plans for the land will include "an exit strategy for third-party land use agreements that do not comply with applicable laws."
In a statement, Ron Olson -- a counsel for the organizations behind the lawsuit -- said the new agreement would "provide needed medical care and services, and make concrete our commitment to those who served our nation's highest calling."
Wednesday was also the annual point-in-time count for homeless advocates, the yearly survey of individuals living on the streets across the country. VA officials have been heavily involved in that effort in recent years, helping to canvas major cities to determine where more resources are needed.