By Mary O’KEEFE
On Nov. 1 a special community meeting was held that focused on the business U Matter Luxury Resort, which has been permitted as an adult residential facility in the 3000 block of Frances Avenue in La Crescenta. The meeting was held at the La Crescenta Library community room and sponsored by the Crescenta Valley Town Council (CVTC). Members of several Los Angeles County departments were present to answer questions from the standing-room-only crowd. This was the first meeting that hosted the owners and representatives of U Matter Luxury Resort.
After residents realized the business was being planned for their neighborhood the property has been a topic at many CVTC meetings. Discord began with neighbor talking to neighbor about what this business was going to bring to their street. Some residents began searching online and found U Matter Luxury Resort’s website, which at first described itself as a place to detox from alcohol and drugs. This was a red flag to neighbors who feared a drug rehabilitation center was going to be established in their quiet residential neighborhood. Also what was of concern was there was no discussion or warning from the County about the project. Residents began talking on social media and worries grew.
The company’s representatives stated to CVW, and others, that much of this social media backlash about their business was “misinformation;” however, it appears that the fuel for the misinformation actually came from the company itself, which frequently changed its business description on its website. Neighbors, and other concerned community members, took screen shots of the website as the description of the business model changed – sometimes from hour to hour.
The Nov. 1 meeting was a chance to ask questions of the business owners and to get a description of the business, and specifically ask how it will affect the neighbors’ quality of life and their home values. Questions from the residents included traffic increases, who would be attending the “detox” center, security and general information on what type of resources the business would offer. Some residents were hopeful these questions would be answered; however, some who had dealt with the company’s representatives had little hope they would learn anything.
The meeting began with CVTC President Chris Kilpatrick thanking everyone for coming to the library.
“Since the U Matter facility was announced hundreds of community members have come forward with questions and concerns, and that is why we are holding this meeting,” Kilpatrick told the audience.
He added that, in addition to the in-person audience, there was a petition against the facility with hundreds of names of those who were not at the meeting.
Kilpatrick then invited U Matter representatives to make an opening statement.
“We are here today because there has been a lot of confusion of who we are and what we are,” said Prescilla Cardenas, representative of U Matter Luxury Resort. “U Matter Luxury Resort is a naturopathic detox and wellness center that is licensed and supervised by the Dept. of Health Care Services as a full treatment facility. U Matter is a wellness center specializing in non-medical, purely holistic intense detoxification of the body and system with only natural remedies. We are not licensed for and will not provide for any type of medical treatments such as medical detox services, medical withdrawal services or medical intervention services.”
She went on to say the building on Frances holds only six private, furnished rooms intended for the stays of short-term guests. She reiterated that the business will offer non-medical services for individuals who struggle with symptoms of poor diet or unhealthy lifestyle choices as well as those experiencing digestive issues and would like to detox their “systems and minds” from day-to-day toxins.
She ended her comments stating she hoped this would clear up any misinformation.
The question-and-answer period began with a resident who lives a few doors away from the detox center. He stated he was an architect, had looked at the permits and had no objections to U Matter Luxury moving into the neighborhood. But his opinion was not that of the majority.
Many of the questions focused on safety and the vetting of those who would be staying at the facility. Cardenas said there would be staffing at the facility 24/7 for security purposes.
“We do vet anybody who is going to be staying as a guest,” Cardenas said. She added despite rumors the facility would not host drug addicts or sex offenders.
There were some in the audience who were at a point where nothing U Matter said would be listened to; however, for the most part those in the audience were concerned, and shared those concerns, and indicated they really wanted answers.
A middle school student stated she was worried about the inconsistency on the company’s website and was still concerned about who would be staying at the facility as guests.
Kilpatrick asked the representatives to clarify how they would make certain those who were staying with them would be vetted.
Alex Kouchavchili from U Matter stated the business is licensed by the Dept. of Public Health and must follow specific protocols for the intake of patients (Cardenas had stated those who were staying were not patients but guests). Kouchavchili added the process restricts them from taking people with criminal backgrounds or coping with psychological issues. However, later in the meeting he stated he could not conduct background checks on guests, which brought questions as to their “vetting” process.
As far as the website, Cardenas said, the website is always being upgraded and changing. This brought laughter from the audience of residents, most who voiced their concern about the website’s extreme inconsistency.
In explaining why the website was in constant flux Kouchavchili said the business model could be changed at any time for any reason.
The website changes continued to be the focus of questions from the residents including the mention of children being allowed at the facility. The representatives of U Matter stated that children were not allowed at the facility and seemed surprised that their website offered a reservation for children.
“Where did you get this information?” Kouchavchili asked.
“On your website,” answered the audience.
Cardenas admitted that there was the ability to click on “child” as a guest, but said that choice would not work if attempted. The audience loudly disagreed and several stated they could, in fact, register a child when booking a room. Cardenas said that was a mistake.
“We published the website too soon,” Kouchavchili said.
He said the web company that was hired out of Canada had put up generic information and the site was just published too soon. It was published to test it.
It is important to note that most businesses that have websites designed do not go public until the business executives approve any and all changes. However, as U Matter changed its business model frequently these internal changes seemed to be done publicly.
In part 2 CVW will feature an interview with a person who worked on social media marketing with U Matter Luxury Resort.