(162) Running Backwards: Part V of “Gimme Me Back My Land”

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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) 

A Quick Re-Run 

Miss Molly promised an update on the land grab talked about in Blogs 135, 136, 137, and 138. The land grab referred to stolen portions of 600 acres in Los Angeles, California, donated as early as 1881 for the sole use of homeless Veterans and those with serious disabilities from war. Some of the land was grabbed for the 405 Freeway and the Los Angeles Federal Building. In the past 40 years, the remaining property left for Veterans was whittled down with leases entered into by the VA that excluded Veterans, leaving only the property used for Veterans with the Greater Los Angeles VA Medical Center (GLA). Given the location of the land in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the US (Bel-Air to the north, UCLA and Westwood to the east, and Brentwood to the west), others snatched entitlements to the Veteran’s property through long-term leases that not only failed to serve Veterans but barred their entry.

Over 11 percent of the total homeless Veteran population in the US purportedly lives on the streets of Los Angeles, which accounts for approximately 20,000 homeless Veterans. The donated property with over 100 outbuildings once housed “old soldiers” and those Veterans with special medical needs. Today, most of those buildings litter the remaining acreage since falling into disrepair and abandoned.

In a lawsuit brought against the VA on behalf of Veterans needing housing, a four-year battle resulted in void of nine leases and direction to the VA to return uses to the Veterans. The process began with a new Master Plan for 388 acres, which is all that remains of the 600.

These leases were voided by the US District Court for being illegal under the conditions for donation to Veterans:

  • Brentwood School
  • Sodexho Marriott Laundry Services
  • UCLA Regents (Baseball Stadium)
  • 20th Century Fox TV
  • Veterans Park Conservancy
  • Westside Breakers Soccer Club
  • Westside Services Parking
  • TCM Farmer’s Market
  • Filming Agreement

Running in Place 

As a caregiver for my Veteran husband, I found that running in place is the best way to get exercise. I do this while I cook, clean, read, and spend time with him. He laughs because “It’s a lot of running without going anywhere.” Miss Molly is okay with it because I can scratch her ears while running in place and making dinner.

For those of us outside the land grab issue, preparing an 888-page Preliminary Draft of the Final Master Plan for use of land dedicated for Veterans since 1881 might seem a lot like running in place and going nowhere. The VA even hastened their pace by expediting the deadline for public comment on the document to 60 days.

Apparently, others run in place just as fast, as the VA received 1,732 comments to the draft Final Master Plan and now work on responding to every comment on the plan. It should be noted that 730 comments had nothing to do with the plan but must still be responded to by the VA. The VA categorized the comments with 397 comments made on the Land Use Agreements and 341 comments made on Veteran Access, as the two most popular categories. Other categories receiving more than 100 comments each covered Clinical, Connectivity, Housing/Campus Restoration, Parking, Transparency and Accountability, and General Support.

No timeline was offered about how long the response phase of the Draft Master Plan will take. Legislation is pending to help fund projects within the Final Master Plan and to permanently secure title to the land for Veterans.

Running While Facing Backwards 

Positive outcomes from the Master Plan process are bound to occur. The VA promises the following:

  • “The update plan now includes a proposal for the Transit Authority to have a station stop on the campus that will have passenger portals with access to the medical section of the campus . . . .”
  • “The services must be strength-based, holistic, and aimed at helping the Veteran and the Veteran’s family beyond the traditional medical models.”
  • “The Draft Master Plan focuses on making the campus a destination for all Veterans.”
  • “The area that is currently designated as the Veteran’s parking lot servicing Brentwood Village, can be utilized by Veteran-owned businesses and still provide parking to the neighboring community. Central to this concept of public access is that it is Veteran-owned and Veteran controlled and the public is welcome to share it by invitation.”
  • “While working to achieve this vision for the campus, VA will evaluate existing and future land use agreements to ensure they are ‘Veteran focused’. . . .Going forward, VA’s efforts to revitalize the campus will only include ‘Veteran focused’ agreements, or agreements that result in additional healthcare, benefits, services, or resources being provided directly to Veterans and/or their families on the GLA campus.”

All along this is what was required by the original land donations so you can understand why the title of this section is, “Running While Facing Backwards.”

Not Running at All Molly licking her chops by the treadmill

I am not fast enough to run with Molly and William struggles with balance issues. Where does that leave Molly’s exercise program? –Not running at all. We tried the treadmill but had to tease her with treats. She has since learned to keep pace with the treadmill by standing on the side and snagging treats as they wiz by. 

Post your Comments: 

If you could design the perfect campus for homeless Veterans, what would it include and where would it be located? Please reply below.

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

Source cited:

  • VA (Department of Veteran Affairs). “West Los Angeles VA Medical Center; Draft Master Plan; FR Doc No: 2016-01940 posted February 2, 2016.

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.