Called to order by Club President, the man, the myth, the legend, PP Chris Gaynor. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by one of our Club members. Don’t ask me which one. I didn’t write it down. Oy vey. Our “Thought For The Day” was offered by PP Mark Rogo, giving all of us famous one-liners from famous personalities throughout history. Our Club song was led by The Maestro himself, PP Ed Gauld. “You are my Sunshine”. Listening to the chorus, it reminded me how we should all keep our day jobs. Oy vey.
PP Chris asked for guests and for visiting Rotarians. VP Ben Fisher introduced Dr Yang Shein and wife Jiayi. PP Mark Rogo introduced Meir Nemetsky as “special guest” at his second meeting.
The Westwood Village Rotary Club was honored to induct as its newest member, Dr. Yang Shein. Dr. Yang Shein made some introductory remarks, with VP Ben assuring everyone that his craft talk was sure to be a memorable one, scheduled for June 8th.
Our Guest Speaker was Bruce Rosen, President of the Bandini Foundation, which played an important role in the history of Westwood and Brentwood. Bruce was a UCLA graduate, and then pursued a career in finance. Now retired as an investment advisor, he co-founded the Westside food bank in 1990. In 2004 the Bandini Foundation received a license for ten years to operate the Heroes golf course where Bruce maintains an office.
Story of the VA property in Westwood/Brentwood - It all started in 1825, when Arcadia was born in Mexico. The family arrived shortly afterwards by boat. California was Mexican territory until 1848. When California entered the Union, the U.S. government honored all Mexican land grants. She met Able in 1840, married him and moved to Los Angeles. Only about 40,000 people lived in California and half were Indians. Most Anglo’s lived up north near San Francisco. In 1850 the world changed with the “gold rush” and about 1,000,000 people came in over the next two decades. California became a state in 1850.Arcadia’s second husband, Col. John Baker, found gold and silver deposits and with a partner became entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. Their businesses included the Hotel Arcadia near Loews in Santa Monica. His partner found the largest silver strike in United States and heirs are still receiving royalties today.
In 1872 Arcadia and John bought 32,000 acres from the Sepulveda family, who owned it from a Mexican land grant, extending from Beverly Hills to the beach, and the foothills to what is Pico Blvd today. She later donated the land for the Palisades Park to the city. In 1877 she donated enough land for the first national soldiers home west of Mississippi, as an irrevocable grant in perpetuity to solely benefit veterans. It began as a housing community, which peaked after WWI. About 6,000 veterans lived there. In 1930 the Government did not consider homelessness their responsibility. The Reagan administration tried to sell the veterans land, resulting in the original family heirs filing suit. In the end, the Government lost the case. The ACLU entered the picture and came into the lawsuit and represented ten homeless veterans. The Government lost and appealed. The Obama administration decided to settle. In 2010 UCLA and Brentwood School were identified as the most responsible for misusing the property.
Today, the entire campus is being rebuilt. The Federal Government is obligated under a settlement to build 2,000 housing units for homeless and at-risk veterans. The first building is already done. The new leases from Brentwood School and UCLA are replaced by revocable licenses. Bruce says, “In this country that it took us this long is just a disgrace.” The ultimate goal is for 5,000 units to house about 12,000 people (vets and their families.). The whole campus will hopefully be connected to doctors, therapists, geriatrics and other services. The original hospital was built in the 1960s It’s now a five star hospital. Bruce adds, “Remarkable testament to what we can do and what we should do.”
The Veterans Golf Course is now also a recreation center, with a club house. Bruce is looking to add on a game room. The golf course is open to the public seven days a week. There are nominal green fees for non-veterans. Fees collected pay for maintenance of course and services.
Private golf clubs in the area teach maintenance and support the VA course. Some private clubs have even hired some of the homeless vets after training. Hillcrest Country Club provided the funds and in 1946 built the course.
Also on the VA campus are 140 Tiny housing units for about 200 people. All of them were donated by past governor Schwartzeneger and others. They cost about $10,000 each and include heating, air conditioning, Wi-Fi and, are partially furnished. The VA provides communal bathrooms and showers.
The greatest concentration on campus are the Vietnam vets. One vet, Larry, is 94 and a WWII vet. Depression, suicide, and PTSD are all problems addressed there. Thank you, Bruce, for a wonderful presentation.