The existing Sakura ICF (right) and rendering of Pacifica’s proposed multi-family housing.

SACRAMENTO — Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) will introduce legislation to protect seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic by prohibiting licensed senior residential care facilities from terminating, transferring, or significantly altering the conditions of residential care services during California’s COVID-19 state of emergency period.

This bill would prohibit a senior residential care facility from making significant changes to the delivery of residential care services during the COVID-19 state of emergency unless the owner of the facility declares bankruptcy.

Significant changes would include the termination of services as well as the transfer of residents to other facilities unless the resident consents to the termination or transfer.

The bill would also require any and all conditions of sale of assets from a not-for-profit entity to a for-profit entity approved by the California attorney general to remain in effect at least during the duration of the state of emergency.

Finally, the bill would also require the owner of the facility to give at least six months advance notice of any proposed termination of the licensed operation to each and every resident.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi

“Seniors in residential care facilities are among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Muratsuchi. “We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to protect these seniors from eviction or transfer trauma. At the very least, we should allow these seniors and their loved ones the peace of mind knowing that their current homes will not be taken away from them during a pandemic.”

Recently, Pacifica Companies, owner of the Sakura Gardens Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) in Boyle Heights and other senior residential care facilities formerly owned by Keiro, a nonprofit primarily serving the Japanese American community, applied to the City of Los Angeles for approval of the conversion of the 90-bed ICF into apartments.

The for-profit developer Pacifica purchased the ICF from the nonprofit Keiro under conditions of sale approved by the California attorney general in 2016. Those conditions require ICF residential care services to use the Japanese language and cultural amenities for at least a five-year period. That period ends in February 2021.

“I strongly oppose Pacifica’s proposal to convert the Sakura Gardens Intermediate Care Facility into apartments,” said Muratsuchi. “To propose this during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the residents and staff are already struggling to stay safe and healthy, is outrageous. For the Japanese American community, we are talking about the lives and homes of our parents and loved ones, not a real estate investment opportunity.”

The proposal has been rejected by the board of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council and by BHNC’s Planning and Land Use Committee after getting input from the public.

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