It started with a disturbing notice two years ago given to residents of Twelve Oaks Lodge, a local senior assisted living facility, to vacate the property, and ended with an agreement that brings everything back home.
By Mary O’KEEFE
wo years after senior residents left their homes at Twelve Oaks Lodge and after a lengthy legal battle, the management and control of Twelve Oaks Lodge has been transferred from the be.group to the Twelve Oaks Foundation. The Foundation will be monitored and advised by the National Charity League Glendale Chapter.
“We are done,” said Dan Hutson, VP Communications and Marketing for be.group. “Its [ownership] will be transferred to the Twelve Oaks Foundation [whose] membership will be determined by the NCL.”
“It feels incredible,” said Paris Cohen, chair of the Twelve Oaks Defense Committee, of the decision for transfer. “It was a two year battle with truly outstanding results.”
The transfer is expected to close by Aug. 14. After that the Twelve Oaks Foundation will sit down and discuss how the facility will move forward.
Cohen added she understood the concern of the neighbors and the community and wanted them to know that Twelve Oaks will go back to what it was originally intended to do.
“[Twelve Oaks] will always provide senior living at reasonable prices,” Cohen said.
The opening of Twelve Oaks will not be immediate, however, as the Foundation will have to evaluate the facility for any maintenance that needs to be completed and will have to meet to discuss how they will proceed. They would also like to build their Foundation membership from the current four or five members. None of this will be dealt with until the transfer is completed.
The Twelve Oaks Foundation, an independent foundation, will be in charge of the facility’s future but there will be NCL involvement, Cohen said.
Cohen added that although the legal process was difficult it was made easier because of their law firm.
“NCL Glendale is eternally grateful to the law firm of White & Case for the thousands of pro bono hours worked to achieve this result,” Cohen said. “The legal team was led by Fernando Aenlle-Rocha, a resident of La Cañada.”
“I am delighted,” said Julia Leeper, a neighbor and captain of the Neighborhood Watch in the Twelve Oaks area. Leeper was one of the strong community voices in opposition to the closing of Twelve Oaks. She wasn’t completely surprised by the result after noticing in March of this year the be.group sign was taken away from the property.
The fight over Twelve Oaks Lodge began on Aug. 23, 2013 when residents at the assisted living facility received a notice they were to vacate their home within two months. The notice came from the be.group, the management company at the time.
The be.group, a non-profit organization, assumed the management of Twelve Oaks Lodge in 2002, (be.group was then known as the Southern California Presbyterian Homes – the name was changed in 2011) from the National Charity League Glendale Chapter. Two years later be.group assumed ownership of the property.
In August 2013 the be.group decided to sell the property stating the facility was not up to the be.group standards. It did not notify the NCL of this decision and members were caught by surprise. For 80 years Twelve Oaks had been a senior assisted living facility and that is what NCL had assumed the be.group would continue to support.
Leeper was first made aware of the closure when a neighbor asked why the company and the city were conducting a survey of the area. The close-knit neighborhood reached out to the city of Glendale and discovered be.group was looking to sell the property.
There were protests to save Twelve Oaks that included many of the residents, some in wheel chairs, working to save their home. There were four World War II veterans, Jim Davidson, John Neilan, Bill Hughes and Victor Freymouth, who had formed a great friendship at Twelve Oaks and didn’t want to be separated, but in the end they were separated and relocated.
Twelve Oaks sits on 4.5 oak tree filled acres interspersed with cabins and buildings. It looks more like a cabin resort than an assisted living facility. From the start it was obvious development would be difficult for the area due to the restrictive oak tree protective ordinances. That coupled with the growing opposition from neighbors, former residents and the community made selling the property troublesome.
The be.group did find a possible developer in early September 2013 but after due diligence the company decided against the purchase.
The NCL members had continued to voice their protest against the closing and sale of the facility and in October 2013 the NCL Glendale Chapter filed a lawsuit against be.group challenging its ownership.
Residents were concerned the property would fall to disrepair during the lawsuit battle but be.group maintained the facility, even posting a caretaker.
“I am pleased they maintained the property,” Leeper said.
Leeper takes a morning run through Twelve Oaks every day.
“I had noticed there was a coffee cup left on the table when they closed it down and it is still on the table … It’s like Twelve Oaks has been frozen in time,” she said.
Leeper hopes that the future will see the return of the residents and their caregivers who were displaced and that neighbors will be reunited.
“For 20 years my husband and I, and my kids, would go to [Twelve Oaks] at Christmas time to go caroling. The first year there were six of us and the last time we went before the closing there were 75 of us,” Leeper said. “I can’t tell you how many people tell me it doesn’t feel like Christmas without going there … [The seniors] were family.”
Regarding the future of Twelve Oaks, Cohen has a message:
“Trust that we are going to preserve the property.”