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Council Votes to Fund Title Search for 1888 Deed to Veterans

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By Jorge Casuso

July 7, 2022 -- The old handwritten deed -- authorized on March 3, 1888 by Santa Monica benefactress Arcadia Bandini -- is specific in its details.

In 18 tightly worded lines, it locates the beachfront land near the end of Montana Avenue "commencing at a point one hundred (100) feet Southwesterly and at right angles from the Northeasterly line of Ocean Avenue."

And it specifies the purpose "of erecting thereon a pavilion and bath-house" for disabled veterans who would be housed on the VA grounds in West Los Angeles she also deeded that day.

Purpose of site in deed
Purpose of site in 1888 deed

On June 28, the City Council unanimously approved spending $10,000 to complete what City Attorney Doug Sloan called "a clear and accurate history of the title."

If the 134-year-old deed is valid, the future of the City-run parking lot next door to the exclusive Jonathan Club would be in the hands of the Federal Government ("Council to Explore Use of Premium Beachfront Property for War Veterans," June 27, 2022).

"This an opportunity," said Oscar de la Torre, who sponsored the agenda item, for "doing the right thing right. I think the time is now, and it's an opportunity to be on the right side of history."

De la Torre's sentiment was echoed by a handful of veterans who showed up to the Council meeting urging the Council to act.

"It's absolutely disgusting to think that people who've served our country are sleeping and dying all over our streets," said Rob Reynolds, an activist for veterans rights. "We have to take care of our own."

One of those who has slept on the streets is Ann King, a Marine Corps veteran who said she was homeless along with her young sun for a year and a half starting in 2016.

"I've lost friends, family members, brothers and sisters on sidewalks," said King, an "army brat" born in Fort Riley an army installation in north central Kansas.

"We are here asking to please have some compassion," she said. "We'd love a home where we can heal together."

Location of site in 1888 deed
Location of site specified in deed.

Councilmember Glean Davis, whose son is "a future disabled veteran," supported de la Torre's agenda item but cautioned that Santa Monica would not control the future use of the land.

"It's not a grant to the City of Santa Monica but to the United States of America," Davis said. "If in fact the deed is valid, we don't get to decide what to do with the land.

"I just don't want to get people's hopes up that we can build a home for disabled veterans on land that belongs to the United States of America."

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