The Twelve Oaks Debacle – CV Betrayed!
My column usually concentrates on history, but this one is slightly different as we’re currently seeing history made right before our eyes. We’re seeing corporate greed and chutzpa on a scale the valley has never experienced before. There are many layers of greed to this story, but let me lay out the most egregious example, in case you missed it: Southern California Presbyterian Homes got Twelve Oaks for free – now they’re selling it for a profit! That’s a fact that has gotten lost in the sad stories of the evicted seniors. While the media has concentrated on the very photogenic images of tearful old people evicted under the state minimum of 60 days, they have missed the underlying story of the terrible greed that is driving Southern California Presbyterian Homes to commit this dirty deed.
History shows us that the property was donated in 1935 by a couple who wanted to give back to their community. It was to be an old-folks home where seniors could stay for a nominal sum. They deeded it to the “Sunshine Society,” a group of local volunteers who built the little cabins, and made it their job to provide entertainment for the old folks. Nobody was getting paid and nobody was making a profit. That’s what the Crescenta Valley was all about, and still is – a community of volunteers. In the ‘60s, the Sunshine Society merged with the larger Glendale Charity League that continued to run it on a volunteer basis. Ten years ago the Charity League felt that running Twelve Oaks might be better left to professionals, and handed over Twelve Oaks to Southern California Presbyterian Homes, a larger non-profit that ran some high quality senior homes such as Windsor Manor in Glendale.
I want to emphasize here: Charity League didn’t sell the property; they gave it for free with the trust that Presbyterian Homes would continue to run it. I can’t stress that enough. Presbyterian Homes was given the property. No money changed hands. Last month, Presbyterian Homes, now operating under an alias of “be.group,” secretly tried to sell the property for development. When sharp-eyed neighbors blew the whistle, the developer pulled out, probably fearing the PR nightmare that is currently assailing Presbyterian Homes.
Since then there have been a couple of big community meetings to try to make sense of why Presbyterian Homes would do this. Some of the stories told by attendees have shined a harsh light on the motivations of this so-called non-profit organization. A couple of people said that Presbyterian Homes’ Standard and Poor bond rating (like a credit score) has slipped lately and an infusion of cash, like from selling donated assets, would be a way to raise that credit score. These people also said that Presbyterian Homes’ public tax records show that Twelve Oaks holds almost $5 million in bequeathed donations. Can we assume that when Twelve Oaks closes, that money will be absorbed by Presbyterian Homes? Another attendee said that when he moved his mom from Twelve Oaks to another Presbyterian Home, she was hit with a $55,000 entrance fee for the new facility.
If all this is true, the “non-profit” Southern California Presbytarian Homes is making quite a bit of profit from selling a property they got for free, absorbing the $5 million endowment, and charging the seniors to move to their other facilities, all the while claiming not to have the money to run Twelve Oaks.
It’s hard to believe this is legal, but so far it seems so. It’s completely unethical, but it may be legal.
So what will happen? The state attorney general is looking into the legality of this scheme, and we’ll see what they dig up. Meanwhile, the negative PR storm continues to build. Presbyterian Homes should save what’s left of its reputation and give Twelve Oaks back to the Charity League, who have said they will gladly take it back. We’re a trusting community here in CV – perhaps naive. But we can be loud when we want to, and Presbyterian Homes may drown in their own bad PR.