While City Hall can't legally put the brakes on a nonprofit's plan to close and sell a senior living facility, there could be other options that might thwart the move, some of which officials suggested be taken up by private citizens.
“I do think legally it's next to impossible for us to put together any moratorium that is going to stand up,” said Councilman Frank Quintero at a Tuesday City Council meeting. “This is a very difficult position we're put in, and when I say we, I mean the community.”
After be.group told roughly 50 seniors of its plan in August to close and sell their home, Twelve Oaks Lodge, volunteers and neighbors have rallied to keep the assisted senior living facility open. Last week, about 100 people protested in front of the operator's Glendale headquarters against the closure. Be.group officials, however, said it's not financially feasible for them to continue operating Twelve Oaks.
While community members and senior residents have been reviewing their legal options, last month Councilwoman Laura Friedman, on the recommendation of Assemblyman Mike Gatto, asked city officials to look into a state law that allows a City Council to adopt an urgency ordinance prohibiting certain types of development for roughly 10 months.
But City Atty. Mike Garcia advised against adopting an urgency ordinance because the law can't be used to prevent the closure of the facility. Instead, it can only control the types of development in the area if they are contrary to city land use plans, which they're not.
A buyer would likely convert the woodsy campus into a maximum of 30 single-family homes, which would match the rest of the neighborhood in the 2800 block of Sycamore Avenue. Additionally, Community Development Director Hassan Haghan said the issue should not be solved through zoning.
Instead of adopting an urgency ordinance, council members recommended city officials look into purchasing the property to turn it into city-sponsored affordable housing for seniors. The council also asked for a criminal investigation into the operator, be.group, which they say signed leases with some seniors just a few months before sending them closure notices. About a dozen seniors remain at the facility and all must leave by Nov. 1.
Deputy Housing Director Peter Zovak said the city may not be able to operate an assisted living facility with affordable housing funds, but it has used those funds for independent senior living projects. He plans to come back to the council next week with more information.
City Manager Scott Ochoa suggested community members, especially the Glendale chapter of the National Charity League, which has been volunteering at the facility for decades, request that the District Attorney's office investigate a fraud claim, noting that he'd rather the city not get involved on their behalf.
Rose Chan, president of the chapter, said all options are on the table, but the group is up against the clock.
“Anything that can slow this down … would very much help,” she said.
The Glendale chapter of the National Charity League has also tried to halt the closure through the state Attorney General's office. The chapter has asked the Attorney General's charitable trust division to investigate whether be.group can lawfully sell the property for use as a non-charitable entity since it operates under a charitable trust.
The original owners of the land gifted it to a defunct nonprofit to operate senior housing. In the 1970s, the Glendale chapter became the operator, and a decade ago it handed over the property to be.group, but no money changed hands.
Be.group, which didn't attend the meeting, had planned to sell Twelve Oaks to Santa Monica developer New Urban West, which pulled out amid the community backlash. Twelve Oaks is still eyeing new buyers.
Grant Michals, president of Montrose-Verdugo City-Sparr Heights Neighborhood Assn., said while everyone's looking for options, one that would fix the current situation hasn't been revealed yet. He added that as most people are moving out, stopping the evictions is somewhat irrelevant.
“Yes, we are concerned about the evictions, the speed at which it happened, but we're more concerned what will happen into the future,” he said.