John Neilan at Twelve Oaks Lodge

John Neilan, one of the residents at Twelve Oaks who is being forced to leave, makes his way into his apartment at the facility on Tuesday, August 27, 2013. (Roger Wilson / Staff Photographer / August 26, 2013)

A Santa Monica developer that had planned to purchase a La Crescenta senior-assisted living facility and displace about 50 residents has pulled out of the deal. 

“We were in talks with the [property owner]. Unfortunately, we’re no longer in touch,” said Ryan Bean, director of acquisitions and entitlements of New Urban West, on Wednesday. “Things didn’t work out.” 

But just because the prospective buyer pulled out, the property owner, the be.group, still plans to shutter Twelve Oaks Lodge, forcing the seniors to move out by the end of the month. 

“We’ll go back to the drawing board and work with our broker to find interested buyers,” said Dan Hutson, vice president of communications for be.group, formerly known as Southern California Presbyterian Homes.

The planned closure has rallied residents in La Crescenta, La Cañada Flintridge and surrounding communities to search for ways to prevent the seniors from being evicted. 

The Glendale chapter of the National Charity League has been especially vocal because the nonprofit organization is deeply involved with volunteering at the facility, which the league used to operate. 

“I’m encouraged by the news,” said Rose Chan, president of the chapter, adding that opponents of the closure are still hopeful that it can be stopped somehow. 

New Urban West pulled out as city officials prepared to review whether Glendale can tap a state provision to postpone the sale of Twelve Oaks Lodge. 

But Bean said the company’s decision to step away from the deal was not connected to the current controversy over closing the senior facility. 

“We were doing our due diligence,” he said, which includes examining the physical condition of the property as well as the political landscape. 

The planned review was prompted by a letter sent to the City Council on Monday by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) urging its members to use a state law that permits cities to pass an urgency ordinance halting “detrimental uses” of property for up to one year.

During that one-year period, the city could conduct a study of affordable senior housing in the area and review whether the proposed change, which is expected to be from senior housing to single-family homes, violates any city ordinances.

“I’m very concerned about the residents,” Councilwoman Laura Friedman said Tuesday before directing city staff to review Gatto’s proposal at a City Council meeting.

While Hutson said he welcomed the city’s examination of the provision, he noted that be.group has already done a legal analysis of the proposed sale of the property at 2820 Sycamore Ave. 

“There’s nothing that we’re aware of at this time that would be out of conformance with any law,” Hutson said.

Be.group must close Twelve Oaks Lodge, one of its 30 affordable housing and assisted-living facilities, because it’s too costly to maintain and upgrade, Hutson said.

Although the council directed city staff to review options to halt the sale, City Manager Scott Ochoa said he was uncertain whether such a moratorium was the appropriate step to take, adding that the property is already zoned for low-density residential use.

“There would probably be some significant legal implications,” said City Atty. Mike Garcia.

Mayor Dave Weaver said he opposed Friedman’s proposal, calling it premature. Councilman Frank Quintero cautiously supported reviewing the moratorium option. 

“I don’t want to give any false hope,” Quintero said. 

Gatto also sent his letter to state Attorney General Kamala Harris asking that her office quickly investigate the situation after the local chapter of the National Charity League sent an inquiry to Harris’ office last week.

A chapter representative asked the agency’s charitable trust division to review whether Twelve Oaks Lodge, which was originally established as a nonprofit trust, could be sold to a private developer. The nonprofit league believes selling the property violates the trust’s original intent.

A philanthropist entrusted Twelve Oaks Lodge as an affordable elder-care facility in the 1930s to the Verdugo Hills Sunshine Society, a charitable organization. In 1976, the Verdugo Hills Sunshine Society gave the trust to the National Charity League chapter. Roughly a decade ago, the National Charity League handed over control of the trust's board and the facility to be.group. No money was exchanged. 

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