After 80 years, a community icon prepares to close.
By Ted AYALA, Brandon HENSLEY, Jason KUROSU, Mary O’KEEFE and
The 50 residents of Twelve Oaks Lodge assisted living facility woke up to shocking news on Friday morning that they had two months to vacate the site.
The lodge, located at Sycamore and La Crescenta avenues in La Crescenta, is facing closure after nearly 80 years of operation as a home for the elderly. The non-profit be.group, which owns Twelve Oaks and eight other licensed retirement communities, will be selling the property according to Dan Hutson, VP of Communications and Marketing for be.group.
“Our objective has been to bring Twelve Oaks up to be.group standards,” said Hutson. “But after an exhaustive review, the cost of renovation would simply be too much to properly meet our safety standards.”
Arriving at the decision to sell was not an easy one; however, it is the only solution the be.group felt it could make.
“If you see the layout of the campus, it is not a campus designed for assisted living,” said Hutson.
The be.group once managed Twelve Oaks. The company was then known as the Southern California Presbyterian Homes. (The name change was made in 2011.) The be.group became owners of the property about 10 years ago.
Closing an elderly facility is not a simple task. According to the federal regulations that govern nursing homes, administrators must notify residents at least 60 days prior to a closure. Additionally, residents of a closing facility may not be discharged or transferred to another facility for a minimum of 30 days. An exception is made for residents whose needs cannot be met in the closing facility, or when the resident’s health or safety is put into danger.
Federal law also stipulates that administrators of a closing facility must plan for the relocation of all the facility’s residents by a deadline specified by the state. The transfer must offer assurances that the new facility is adequately similar in terms of location, quality, and services provided and the needs of each resident must be taken into consideration.
A closing facility must also meet certain federal guidelines designed to minimize the possibility of “transfer trauma” as a result of the relocation. The staff must take all necessary steps to avoid anxiety or depression over the course of the transfer, which most often occur when a resident feels a lack of control over their discharge.
Edward Henry, 91, has lived in the area since he was 5. He has spent the last 11 years living at Twelve Oaks. He said he was surprised and disappointed when he heard the news that he had to leave the park-like setting of Twelve Oaks.
Henry said he has already been arranged to move to nearby Mountview Senior Living, but added, “I’ll miss the coffee socials with Pam Small, the activity director.”
The property has not changed much in the past 80 years. The oak trees, hills and homes are pretty much the way they where when the facility first opened and when be.group acquired it. The difference is not so much the buildings but the present and future residents of the facility that has spurred the selling of the property, Hutson said.
“What we have seen in our [assisted living] industry is that [residents] used to come in their late 60s and early 70s, but the population is getting older,” he said.
He added that now seniors are staying home longer and, when they do come to an assisted living home, they need more care.
“Ten years ago what we got were more independent [seniors] and today those people are not coming in. What we are getting is [seniors who need] assisted living,” he said.
That translates into a facility that is more compatible to those seniors who need help walking or find it more difficult to traverse the topography of the facility. Hutson said the ideal renovation would necessitate the increase of the property’s density and residents. The increase in density would lead to a much larger facility than at present, which Hutson said, “would not be in keeping with the surrounding, single family home community.”
The increase in size would naturally lead to a need for more residents to fill spaces, something that has already proven difficult.
“We’ve already been providing rates that are affordable, though unaffordable from our perspective,” Hutson said.
To bring the facility up to the requirements of the older residents it would take “deep pockets,” said Hutson, and even if it were brought to that level it would be difficult for Twelve Oaks to be financially successful.
In 2012, the Standard & Poors Rating Service lowered the be.group’s long-term rating to ‘BBB-’ from ‘BBB.’ The rating was maintained this year, not lowered or raised. The management, according to a report from Standard & Poors, needed to deliver improved operating results.
“That is certainly a factor,” Hutson said. “But most important is the quality of life for our residents.”
The company has reached out to the residents of Twelve Oaks and offered to help them move to another be.group assisted living facility.
“We will move [them] into one of our other community [facilities]. We will help pay for the move and hold their [payments] at the rate of Twelve Oaks even though some of the facilities are more expensive.”
Claire McLiam’s father Jim Davidson has lived at Twelve Oaks for over two years. McLiam said he was looking for a place to be active and have a sense of community. She said Davidson, 91, goes to the Verdugo Hills YMCA three times a week, and still drives himself there.
McLiam said Twelve Oaks has given him the freedom to do those activities, but some of his favorites times of the week are when he plays cards after dinner with his group of friends on campus.
“He has the stimulation he needs intellectually,” she said.
Davidson is a retired elementary school music teacher. His friends are people who used to be servicemen, doctors and fellow teachers.
“They’re people that aren’t going to give up,” McLiam said. “I just hope this organization [be.group] that has come to this decision can interview these people and understand this isn’t just an old age home. It’s unique to the area.”
Sycamore Avenue neighbor Julie Leeper agrees.
“Most of the people have lived here their whole lives,” she said. “A large percentage raised their family in this community.”
Leeper annually heads up a group that sings Christmas carols to the seniors. She’s been doing it for 25 years. The first year, there were only a handful of carolers with her. Now she said she gets around 80 people, including children to join in a sing.
“They love the grandkids, and we spend time with them after,” Leeper said. “We give out candy canes, so it’s been a tradition.”
Leeper coordinates the Neighborhood Watch on the street, and said Twelve Oaks has been the meet-up spot in case of a big emergency. She also works with lodge administrator Richard Rockwood to hold the neighborhood’s annual National Night Out, a cause that fights community crime.
“It’s really been a central place in our community,” Leeper said. “We’re all just devastated this is happening.”
McLiam is upset and concerned for the rest of the neighborhood if the spot is torn down and renovated into high-end homes.
“I just don’t see it as a benefit right now,” she said. “I just feel bad for the people.”
What the future holds for the 6.5-acre property is unsure. Because the transfer of ownership of the property has yet to be finalized, Hutson said he cannot disclose the name of the buyer.
“All that I can tell you at this time is that it’s not a sale that would entail the continuation of Twelve Oaks as a [senior living facility],” he said.