By Jason KUROSU
Thursday night’s Crescenta Valley Community Association meeting drew assuredly the largest crowd for a CVCA meeting yet, a response en masse to the closure of the Twelve Oaks Retirement Lodge after nearly eighty years of operation. The current owners of Twelve Oaks, the be.group, have sought the sale of the property, citing safety concerns as well as insufficient funds as reasons for not continuing ownership. While the meeting suggested that the prospects of preventing the sale of Twelve Oaks were thin (although there appears to be no potential buyer at the moment), the crowd of residents still left the meeting Thursday night with a plan of action: A protest.
“I think we need to make some noise and call it what it is,” said Julia Leeper, a resident of Sycamore Avenue, where Twelve Oaks is located. “Maybe they’ll be shamed out of this horrible decision that they’ve made.”
Former State Assemblyman Anthony Portantino said he would contribute funds for the protest effort, which was set for this Wednesday. Others vowed to call be.group president and CEO John H. Cochrane III, whether he listened or not.
Such were the options left them, it seemed, to keep Twelve Oaks’ senior residents from being displaced.
Justin Hager, representing Assemblyman Mike Gatto, discussed legal options for blocking the sale.
“The Assemblyman is fully aware of the situation,” Hager said. “We have already sent a letter from the Assemblyman to the Attorney General of California making a formal legislative request to investigate the specific language of the trust and determine whether or not a land transfer to a private for-profit organization is even legal in the first place.”
However, should it follow that the be.group has not violated any law regarding land transfers, Hager said there would not be much more the state could do.
“Unfortunately, other than ensuring that there is transparency in the legal process of the transfers and in the closure of the facility and ensuring that the letter of the law is followed, the state cannot force a private organization not to go forward with something if they are following the law,” Hager said.
Patricia Van Dyke, an attorney with Bet Tzedek Legal Services, echoed some of Hager’s points about the Twelve Oaks Foundation’s legal standing.
“It is frustrating. So far, they have followed the law,” Van Dyke said.
Van Dyke was brought into the discussion by the National Charity League to represent some of Twelve Oaks’ residents, who were given a two months notice of the lodge’s closure and their impending relocation.
Van Dyke said they could challenge the sale on a number of fronts.
“We are covering a number of improprieties in the closure procedure. We don’t believe the assessments have been done properly. We don’t believe they’ve been documented properly. We don’t think people are getting appropriate transfer information.”
Van Dyke said there could be an argument that the Twelve Oaks Foundation committed a breach of fiduciary duty, acting not in the best interests of Twelve Oaks’ residents.
But ultimately, Van Dyke said the Twelve Oaks Foundation is acting within the law as they close the property over a sixty-day span.
“That’s the law. If we don’t like it, we have to change the law,” Van Dyke said. “There is an epidemic of seniors not being able to afford housing and they’re getting kicked out. I had to defend three evictions for people in their nineties. It should not be legal to kick somebody out when they’re ninety years old on thirty days’ notice.”
Rose Chan, the president of National Charity League’s Glendale chapter, expressed her disapproval with the state of Twelve Oaks. The National Charity League managed and operated Twelve Oaks for over twenty years before parting with the property, transferring ownership to the be.group, then named Southern California Presbyterian Homes.
Chan explained that new healthcare and retirement home regulations convinced the National Charity League, a volunteer organization, that they should put the homes into more capable hands, in terms of operating a retirement home.
However, Chan said “This came completely out of the blue for us. We find that they have no credibility with the statements they have been making regarding financial conditions. They keep pinning all of the financial issues of the whole group on Twelve Oaks and I find that offensive.
“They’re saying it’s not feasible to run a retirement home on the property. It’s been running fine for eighty years. What they mean is that it’s not profitable to run a retirement home there.”
As the meeting commenced, some shouts rang out from the departing crowd, an impromptu rehearsal for Wednesday planned protest, “Save Twelve Oaks! No evictions!”