Several residents in Castellammare were surprised to see Terrance Burney in a video announcing that his nonprofit, “We See Greatness in You,” had acquired two vacant properties on Porto Marina Way in Pacific Palisades.
He wrote on his video feed, “My nonprofit WE SEE GREATNESS IN YOU put in for two vacant properties in #santamonica to be donated from the state. If they gift them to a nonprofit then they don’t have to pay taxes on them. So I took a chance and put in for them and got BOTH!! 5.6 million in property off the beach for the new GREATNESS center!! One 6 bedroom mansion will be converted to a mental wellness facility and the other will be the new GREATNESS center. I PRAYED FOR THIS AND LOOK AT GOD!!! . . .Move in 6 months!”
Just a small problem: There’s a person living at one of the “vacant” properties on Porto Marina. He’s 100 years old, has two caretakers and was unaware that Burney intended to move into the residence in six months. The caretakers said they would alert the resident’s son, who is a lawyer.
Another resident told Circling the News, “Since 1995, 17909 [Porto Marina] and other nearby lots were possessed (reverse condemnation) by the government, but some owners received special dispensation to remain and lease the property until their deaths.”
Yet another resident wrote that this section of Porto Marina “would take millions to stabilize just the land alone — much less remodel or build new structures — on any of the lots mentioned in the video. And it seems unlikely that any new construction could be undertaken on these lots when other, actively inhabited homes in the area are hampered by LA City from additional development due to instability of the hill.”
A 1993 L.A. Times story (“Big Trouble in Paradise: Homes Gone: For Some, the Lush Life Has Slid Out of Sight, as Wrecked Homes Inspire Grief and Lawsuits”) stated that “No Westside neighborhood has been hit harder by the winter storms than a steep hillside section of Pacific Palisades known as Castellammare.”
The story provided a house-by-house report on the damage on Castellammare Drive and Porto Marina Way. “Castellammare Drive: 17884: Evacuated; extensive side damage; city condemnation process begun. 17885: Some settling and cracking. 17901: Already abandoned as a result of the 1983 and 1989 slides. 17908: Evacuated; severe slide damage; condemnation process begun. 17912: Evacuated; severe slide damage; condemnation process begun. Porto Marina: 17909 and 17919: Threatened by sliding from above; residents ordered to evacuate; condemnation process begun. 17945: Separating from foundation; condemnation process begun; residents ordered to evacuate.
The home at 17919 Porto Marina belonged to actor Alan Napier, who played the butler in the television series “Batman.” According to Wikipedia, after he died in 1988, at the age of 85, he was cremated and “his ashes were scattered in the garden of his home at 17919 Porto Marina Way in Pacific Palisades.”
The L.A. Times story also noted “Other Damage: Porto Marina Way: Broken bulkhead, broken guardrail and extensive slide damage to road in front of 17909 and 17919; a vacant lot across the street from 17919 has essentially vanished; sliding down the hill into the brush and trees above Pacific Coast Highway.”
On the City’s Surplus Real Estate site, lots listed include 17637 and 17908 Castellammare and 17945, 17863, 179191, 17924, 17916, 17910, and 17857 Porto Marina. There are structures listed on the City’s surplus property site at 17853 and 17909 Porto Marina.
Could Burney have bid on the lots at an auction? The last City auction of properties, according to the website, was 2018.
However, the site also notes that “The City has the authority to sell surplus property on a direct or ‘sole source’ basis, with justification of the public benefits derived from such a sale. If you are interested in a specific property, you may contact the respective Council Office or the Mayor’s Office for assistance.”
Several Castellammare residents contacted Councilman Mike Bonin’s office and were told that “there is nothing on the L.A. City Books about any recently-gifted land.”
CTN also contacted the City Real Estate Division and if a call is returned, we will add that information to this story.
If you are contacted by “We See Greatness in You” or any nonprofits that would like donations, check Guidestar or other charity navigators, to see if it is listed (this one is not) and the amount of money the nonprofit donates to causes.