By Jason KUROSU
The impending closure of the Twelve Oaks Retirement Lodge has become a topic of controversy among local residents, resulting most recently in a public protest against the group selling the property.
The Montrose/Verdugo City/Sparr Heights Neighborhood Association’s annual meeting took place on the night following the protest. Emotions were mixed, with satisfaction over the general participation and success of the protest on one hand, anger and frustration over what seems an inevitable conclusion for Twelve Oaks on the other hand.
At the Oct. 2 at the Association meeting, La Crescenta resident and town historian Mike Lawler detailed the history of Twelve Oaks from its inception as a low cost housing opportunity for seniors, to the merging of the homes’ ownership between the International Sunshine Society and the National Charity League to the transfer of the property 10 years ago to Southern Californian Presbyterian Homes, now known as the be.group.
The be.group then announced that the property would be sold, citing the high costs necessary to meet standards of safety and quality. Lawler, among others, has arrived at a different assessment of the be.group’s position.
“Even though [the be.group] got it for free, they’ve decided it’s too expensive and they’re going to sell it,” said Lawler.
According to the Association president Grant Michals, there are about 10 seniors left residing at Twelve Oaks, with the Nov. 1 closure date looming. Michals did say that all of the seniors should have a place to stay in the interim, until they are uprooted from Twelve Oaks.
“There are a lot of people who want their loved ones to stay in this community,” said Michals.
Though there was a buyer early on for Twelve Oaks that deal was retracted and no sale is currently pending. Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s office is exploring potential legal infractions the be.group may have made with the sale and transfer of the property.
But, as stated by Gatto representative Justin Hager at a recent Crescenta Valley Community Association meeting, “The state cannot force a private organization not to go forward with something if they are following the law.”
Considering its 80-year history, it was discussed whether or not the homes could be preserved as a historical landmark. But, Lawler noted, that could only be achieved with the approval of the property owner or with unanimous support from all five Glendale City Council members. Many of the residents at the meeting were adamant about bringing the issue to the city council, regardless of the low likelihood that the council would vote to preserve the homes.
Rose Chan, current president of the National Charity League, Glendale Chapter, said that the be.group’s legal counsel has agreed to meet with both the NCL and Patricia Van Dyke, an attorney representing several Twelve Oaks residents. At the CVCA meeting the prior week, Chan expressed the NCL’s disappointment in what has transpired in the years since NCL gave the property to the be.group.
Though Chan didn’t agree with the be.group’s motivations for closing Twelve Oaks, she said she wished they had at least been honest.
“They should have come back to the community and said, ‘We don’t want to do this anymore. It doesn’t fit our current corporate strategy. We’d like to turn it over to the community.’ Then we would have had the chance to work this out.”
From a discussion of one property whose future appears to be in limbo, the Association turned its attention to another such property – Rockhaven, the former sanitarium located on Honolulu Avenue.
In 2008, the city of Glendale purchased the property with hopes of transforming the site one day into a community center, public library or a multitude of other proposed ideas that have been set aside.
However, no changes have been made to the site apparently because of a lack of funding.
Lawler said the city approached the community in the past, explained that there wasn’t any money for Rockhaven, but suggested some revenue could be created from using part of the property to build condominiums.
“We turned it down,” said Lawler. “The bottom line is that we have the city’s attention. They know that the community is interested in Rockhaven and they too are committed to it. But realistically, they don’t have the money to rehabilitate it right now.”
The historical society continues to clean up the site regularly while the Friends of Rockhaven provide walking tours, hoping to generate more interest in the property. Mike Lawler said he hopes the passion the community is exhibiting regarding Twelve Oaks will result in a better conclusion for Rockhaven.
“The best thing about this whole Twelve Oaks brouhaha is that maybe it’ll keep Rockhaven from being sold.”