Residents Oppose Planned San Diego Vet Center

December 21, 2011 (Stars and Stripes) -A proposed rehabilitation facility for veterans in San Diego is garnering opposition from local residents who say they support the troops — just not in their backyard.

The head of one Washington-based veterans advocacy group called their opposition “shameful.”

“President Obama and the VA along with states are finally starting to do the right things to help veterans. It is shameful that someone would stand in the way,” Patrick Bellon, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, told Stars and Stripes. “They just may not want to come face to face with the consequences of the wars from which they have been so insulated, but our veterans  who fought in those wars need help nonetheless. It seems wrong that 1 percent would bear the brunt of these conflicts and a community would just scoff at an opportunity to repay that sacrifice.”

The building is a half-block long, on San Diego Avenue in the city’s Old Town neighborhood,  and sits vacant. It was formerly used by the Thomas Jefferson School of Law. According to the website of the local ABC affiliate,, the San Diego City Council will vote on whether to allow it in the coming months.

The proposed 40-bed center, with single rooms, would be intended for veterans who need a place to live for one to six months. The facility would also have in-house medical and psychiatric care.

Neighbors say they don’t want it, and they insist that they’re mostly against it for the vets’ own good.

“For the vets, I don’t think it’s a suitable place. They need wide open spaces. They shouldn’t be in a residential neighborhood,” said Janet Houts, whom the website described as “a longtime Old Town resident.”

Neighbors also said they think the fact that there are bars, liquor stores and loud noise in the neighborhood.

“These all could be very impactful to somebody recovering from post-traumatic stress,” resident Lisa Mortensen said.

“We have been called unpatriotic,” Houts said. “We’re anything but that. We have a VA facility down the street. We have a mental facility [on a nearby street].”

Local veterans don’t buy it. The news report points out that the building Houts refers to, apparently the Vietnam Veterans Village of San Diego, is separated from the neighborhood by Interstate 5.

“So many of us served, and to come back and see our community not want us to be part of it is very [disheartening],” said Navy retiree Tara Wise. “It makes you feel like your service was for nothing.”

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