Be.group protest

Twelve Oaks Lodge residents Bill Hughes, 93, John Meilan, 90, and Jim Davidson, 91, march in front of the be.group in Glendale, protesting the company's closing of their La Crescenta residence on Wednesday, October 2, 2013. The company recently responded to a lawsuit filed by the Glendale chapter of the National Charity League. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / February 6, 2014)

A senior-facility operator wants a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to let it collect money from a future sale of Twelve Oaks Lodge — the surprise closure of which caused controversy late last year — according to court documents filed last Friday.

But a philanthropic group with deep ties to the La Crescenta elderly-care facility, which sued the senior-facility operator in October, believes Twelve Oaks Lodge shouldn’t have been closed at all nor should the operator, be.group, reap any reward if it is sold.

Be.group’s judicial request was filed on Jan. 31 in response to a lawsuit filed in October by the Glendale chapter of National Charity League, which asked a judge to halt the closure and appoint a receiver to control the property.

Despite the lawsuit, be.group still closed Twelve Oaks Lodge, forcing 50 seniors to move out of their homes, where many of the seniors thought they would live for the rest of their lives. A proposed sale to a Santa Monica real estate developer fell through amidst community backlash.

National Charity League operated Twelve Oaks Lodge at 2820 Sycamore Ave. until 2002, when the organization asked be.group, which runs 33 senior facilities, to take over day-to-day management of operations.

No money was exchanged at the time, though, and National Charity League continued to be involved at Twelve Oaks Lodge, sending volunteers to spend time with the seniors, hosting events there and donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to the facility that operated for more than 80 years.

Before the league had control of the 5-acre woodsy campus, the original owner, a wealthy philanthropist, created a charitable trust, known as the Twelve Oaks Foundation, so her property would operate as an affordable home for seniors.

League members were shocked to see Twelve Oaks residents get notices in August that they had to move. Members of the group that fosters mother-daughter relationships through volunteerism even hosted a 100-person protest against the closure and tried to get the city involved to stop it, but to no avail.

Be.group officials have said they had to close the facility because it became too expensive to operate and it would be impossible to make capital improvements to increase efficiencies because of strict city zoning rules.

In court documents, be.group’s attorneys state that the nonprofit organization had put more than $1.5 million into Twelve Oaks over 12 years and continued to operate it at a loss so it should get reimbursed for that and its operating losses.

National Charity League, however, contends that be.group violated terms of the charitable trust that set rent at Twelve Oaks at a “nominal charge” by increasing room-and-board costs and charging the foundation a management fee that ballooned from $11,000 in 2002 to $130,373 in 2003 and incurred non-charitable marketing expenses, according to the league’s lawsuit.

Be.group lawyers, though, said in court documents that the organization did not misuse revenues and assets in violation of the charitable trust.

The attorneys also laid out several other factors on which the two sides disagreed and need a judge to decide, such as whether it is possible to operate Twelve Oaks Lodge as a residential care facility for the elderly in Glendale at a nominal charge and whether National Charity League should have four of its members serve on the foundation’s board. The board is currently made up of be.group officials.

“We are pleased that be.group has acknowledged in its answer [to our lawsuit] that the parties have important differences that will require determination in court, and we look forward to having the issues resolved in a way that will allow the Twelve Oaks Foundation to fulfill its founding mission,” said Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha, an attorney for National Charity League.

He added in an email that be.group abandoned the Twelve Oaks facility, which had for years prior “carried out the wishes of its benefactors to provide a pleasant, affordable home for senior residents in the Glendale/La Crescenta area.”

Attorneys working for the Twelve Oaks Foundation on behalf of be.group would not comment on the filing.

The two sides are continuing to meet to discuss a possible resolution to their fight outside of court.

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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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