By Ted AYALA
Supporters of Twelve Oaks residents were dealt a blow on Tuesday when Glendale City Council declared that it would be unable to impede the sale of the retirement community, though other options remain.
Residents of Twelve Oaks and their supporters were hoping that the council could enact a moratorium on the sale of the facility by its current operator be.group. Last week, over 100 people gathered at be.group’s office in downtown Glendale to protest the organization’s decision.
“Community Development staff’s assessment is that the particular need for this [moratorium] is not necessary at this time,” said City Atty. Mike Garcia. Although he expressed sympathy for the residents, Garcia said that the moratorium could not be applied in this case. Twelve Oaks’ sale and conversion to single family homes, he noted, do not run contrary to the property’s zoning use. The proposed moratorium, usually enacted to prevent or restrict land uses that would result in “detrimental” zoning changes, would have delayed the sale by up to 10 months.
The inability to impose a moratorium on the sale drew an outraged response from Councilmember Laura Friedman, who had initially proposed the use of the ordinance after a suggestion by California State Assemblyman Mike Gatto.
“Is there any protection for senior citizens who are being evicted from their residences?,” she asked. “I can’t imagine that there is no protection from that happening.”
In order for the moratorium to be enacted, Garcia said, the city would have to prove that its sale and conversion into single-family residential units would harm public health and safety. Doing so, he added, would be “almost impossible.”
“I’m appalled,” said Councilmember Frank Quintero. “I can’t believe what [be.group] is doing. It’s beyond comprehension that they would move so quickly. I can’t help but wonder whether they’ve actually looked for somebody to step into their shoes to buy and manage that property. But it’s obvious that the quickest way for them to make a buck is to sell [Twelve Oaks] to a single-family home developer.”
Quintero expressed the hope that the National Charity League (NCL), which had formerly operated Twelve Oaks until it transferred it to be.group 10 years ago, would continue the fight. The exchange from NCL involved no money.
“This is a very difficult position [the community] has been put in,” he added.
The speed with which be.group is conducting its closure and sale of Twelve Oaks also elicited concern from Councilmember Zareh Sinanyan, who pointed out that contracts for new residents were being signed up until very shortly before the facility’s sale was announced. But like his colleagues, he couldn’t see how the city could legally challenge or prevent the sale.
Councilmember Ara Najarian, however, suggested that the city take the matter “a notch up” and launch a criminal investigation into the be.group for fraud.
“The [NCL] gifted this property to the be.group with the specific proviso that it be used for senior housing,” he said. “So what we have is a transfer with a representation from the buyer that this is what it’s going to be. We now have a situation where the buyer has reneged on that. [The city] has the ability to go after this be.group for fraud. This is something [the city] should definitely look into.”
It was a suggestion that City Atty. Garcia said he could explore, saying he could return with more information for council next week.
Rose Chan, president of the NCL, said Twelve Oaks supporters are eager to seize on any option that would “slow this [sale] down.”
“We are considering all options,” she said. “The hard this is that we need time. Any kind of ordinance that can slow this down, so the NCL and the city can look at what everyone’s rights are would help. But this is truly heartbreaking.”
She also added that many residents have yet to find homes or housing comparable to what they enjoyed at Twelve Oaks.
“Most of these people are in their nineties,” she said. “Many are so disoriented as to what’s happening. I believe the value of Twelve Oaks to the community far exceeds the $4.1 million asking price for this property. It serves a very unique purpose.”
Representatives from be.group were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
A sale to New Urban West fell through in the wake of the Twelve Oaks controversy, though be.group continues to search for buyers for the property.
“The purpose of [NCL’s] transfer of ownership to be.group was about maintaining affordable senior housing,” Chan said.