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Planning commission OK's VA clinic for Bakersfield, but the going is slow

The City Planning Commission approved a project for a new VA clinic in Northwest Bakersfield at a recent meeting, but Bakersfield's veterans doubt it'll be open for them anytime soon.
bakersfield veteran
Posted at 9:46 PM, Sep 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-08 00:46:16-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — A new outpatient Veterans Affairs clinic slated for Northwest Bakersfield is one step closer to reality today. The Bakersfield Planning Commission approved the project's environmental impact report at its meeting Thursday night.

Congress authorized the construction of the clinic back in 2010, set to be built at the intersection of Knudson and Olive Drives, just west of Highway 99. The project has been subject to multiple delays, including in 2018 when San Diego-based developer SASD was awarded the $40 million contract by the VA.

At that time, the owners of Bakersfield's existing VA clinic objected, filing appeals and a lawsuit via the Beverly Hills-based organization Progress for Bakersfield Veterans, LLC. That protest was denied in part and dismissed in part by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The veterans who attended Thursday's planning commission meeting voiced gratitude that things are finally starting to move forward with the new clinic, but they're also not holding their breath that it will be finished anytime soon.

"It was the outcome we expected," said Larry Walker, Department Service Officer for Disabled American Veterans. "We know that this county is behind us as veterans. They did their due diligence. Unfortunately, this corporation seems to think they have a better answer, and they're gonna challenge it again, I bet."

Walker expressed frustration with the sense that everyone involved is talking about what's best for veterans, but they don't seem to be listening to the veterans who've been telling them what veterans need.

"We need a single voice, all of us, against the old clinic and with the new clinic. Get out of our way and let us have our clinic," said Walker.

The project will now head to the Bakersfield City Council for final approval, but there's no word yet on when the council will take up the issue.

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