(138) Gotta Have a Plan (Part IV of “Gimme Back my Land” Saga)

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

This is the final part of the saga Miss Molly shares with her readers about a land grab for prime acreage in Los Angeles donated for the care of “old soldiers” with disabilities. In Part I (135), Miss Molly wrote about the generous donation of Arcadia de Baker in 1888, donating nearly 400 acres for the housing and care of wounded warriors. In this story, Miss Molly lauded those who brought a lawsuit against the Department of Veteran Affairs for leasing out the land and attempts to sell off portions of the land even though it was donated for the long-term care and housing of disabled Veterans.

In Part II (136) the Molly Blog explored the demise of the property as a place for homeless Veterans.

In Part III (137), the saga continued with discussion of the glory days when the land was used for its intended purpose and how those uses eroded with challenges to land use led by a neighboring Home Owners Association.

Today, Miss Molly concludes the saga with optimism for the future that the land will one day again be a haven of safety and care for those who fought for our country and lost nearly everything in serving.

It Starts with a Plan

This historic agreement, forged through the leadership of Secretary McDonald, creates a partnership that will be invaluable to help end veteran homelessness in Los Angeles, provide needed medical care and services, and make concrete our commitment to those who served our nation’s highest calling.

Ron Olson, Legal Counsel for Munger, Tolles & Olson

Upon settlement of the lawsuit against the VA, the court ordered and the parties agreed to create a Master Plan for the property that focused upon the original intent of the de Baker donation. The VA expedited the planning process and issued a call for proposals, which were due October 15, 2015. (Copies of the submitted proposals are available on the VA website. For ease in access to these proposals, the links are attached for the PDF version under “Sources cited” at the end of the blog.)

The 2015 Master Plan is not the first time the property was master planned. The court documents reference no less than ten previous Master Plans. So, what is different than before? We do not know yet, as it is too early in the planning process. What can be said is that the court is overseeing the process; there are stronger advocates for the Veterans, as seen in the pro bono work for the lawsuit; and, Secretary MacDonald promises to ensure that Veterans and Veterans organizations are actively involved in the planning—something that did not happen previously.

The Proposals

When the VA entered into the existing leases, Veterans were guaranteed special access. Over time, however, Veterans were banned from at least 110 acres and restricted access to some of the operations kept Veterans from entering the program grounds. In flipping through pages of proposals, many of the same uses are proposed by current lease holders with a new twist or maybe an old twist—with the promise that Veterans really will benefit this time.

In the case of the existing parking lot, where Veteran property is used for parking throughout Brentwood Village for local businesses, the 136-142 SB Limited Partnership suggests that without use of the Veteran’s property for the general public, “Brentwood Village would become a ghost town” where even Veterans will be negatively impacted. The partnership suggests that because the parking lot is at a higher grade than the rest of the West Los Angeles campus, it will be difficult to redevelop. (Say what? Miss Molly’s doghouse is at 7,000 feet elevation on a hillside with plenty of development up and down the mountain!) In other cases of existing uses, proposers promise Veterans special access alongside the general public. Docent tours and educational materials are offered so the public will understand the plight of the disabled Veteran and the historic value of the land.

A proposal by the Bandini Foundation includes a golf course with special focus on serving the Veteran. This can confuse the most educated reader, as a golf course already exists on the property that once promised special access for the Veteran. One article stated that the golf course is closed down while an investigation into the embezzlement of user fees occurs. While the Veteran reportedly had no special access or reduction in golf fees when the golf course was open, the lease was entered into by the VA with a guarantee that Veterans would benefit. (Twair)

These are just a few examples of the proposals submitted to the VA for inclusion in the Master Plan.

What’s to Come?

VA Secretary MacDonald intends to appoint an assistant to oversee the project with the necessary resources and support. He is fast-tracking the project. MacDonald plans to provide bridge housing and permanent supportive housing for Veterans. The Master Plan will include an exit strategy for existing uses that do not support Veterans.

The VA just released its 888-page Preliminary Draft of the Final Master Plan. The deadline for public comments is December 7, 2015.

Given the complexity of the project, the VA certainly has an onerous task ahead in weeding through the proposals and separating the necessary uses from those that are politically motivated with limited benefit to Veterans. The Molly Blog team certainly hopes that whatever the VA permits, the lease holders are held accountable to fulfill promises offered to Veterans with stiff penalties and termination for non-compliance uses.

Even Miss Molly knows this is going to be a difficult task for the VA—but one that is critical to helping and caring for our most severely disabled Veterans in the homeless capital of the US. Miss Molly commented, “It will be a ruff road but one we must travel. We owe it to our Veterans.”

Post your Comments:

Have you participated or offered testimony in a Master Plan process? If so, what challenges do you believe Veterans or Veteran organizations will have in participating in this one? Please reply below.

Sources cited:

  • Twair, Pat McDonnell. “This Space for Rent: Leasing Veterans’ Land in West L.A.,” in the VVA Veteran, January/February 2015.
  • Valentini v Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Amended Complaint and Injunctive, Declaratory, Mandamus, and Accounting Relief, Case No.: CV-11-04846 SJO (MRWx) filed on August 12, 2011; case filed with the United States District Court Central District of California, as retrieved on October 19, 2015, at http://www.publiccounsel.org/tools/assets/files/0577.pdf.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs. “US Department of Veterans Affairs reaches historic Breakthrough Agreement.” January 28, 2015 as retrieved on October 25, 2015 at www.va.gov/​opa/​pressrel/​pressrelease.cfm?id=2674.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs. Preliminary Draft Final Master Plan for the VA West Los Angeles Campus and Proposals for use of the Veterans West Los Angeles (Bandini de Baker) property:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=VA-2015-VACO-0001-0251

http://www.losangeles.va.gov/documents/VAWLADraftMasterPlan-SectionGAppendix_Part4.pdf

http://www.losangeles.va.gov/documents/VAWLADraftMasterPlan-SectionGAppendix_Part5.pdf

http://www.losangeles.va.gov/documents/VAWLADraftMasterPlan-SectionGAppendix_Part6.pdf

http://www.losangeles.va.gov/documents/VAWLADraftMasterPlan-SectionGAppendix_Part7.pdf

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.