With two weeks to go before the conditions-of-sale placed upon Pacifica Companies expire on Feb. 1, Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de Leon has asked California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for an extension.

Kevin de Leon

In 2016, as a condition imposed by then-State Attorney General Kamala Harris, Pacifica agreed as part of the purchase that it would not substantially change the culturally sensitive living environment at the former Keiro facilities, including the Intermediate Care Facility in Boyle Heights, for at least five years.

In September 2020, Pacifica presented a proposal to replace ICF and construct a multi-unit family apartment complex and parking garage during a meeting of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee (BHNC PLUC).

In a Jan. 11 letter, de Leon states: “Following the sale of Sakura Gardens to Pacifica Companies in February 2016, Pacifica was required by the Attorney General’s Office to maintain the services Sakura Gardens’ previous owner provided to the community for five years. As you know, that requirement will sunset in 2021.

“Already, Pacifica is gearing up to close portions of the Sakura Gardens facilities, relocate clients, and convert the intermediate care facilities (ICF) into multi-family residential units. It is unconscionable to force the existing clients out of this viable facility at the height of a global pandemic that continues to devastate aging adults. Forcing so many medical patients to find a comparable standard of care at the height of this pandemic, at a facility not already ravaged by COVID-19, might be nothing short of a death sentence.

“We are pursuing every legal and moral option to prevent these elderly residents from being ripped from the place they call home, but you and your office are the critical decision-makers in this process. I respectfully request that you and your staff take another look at this proposed transition in light of this unprecedented pandemic and extend the current conditions to permit the current residents to continue receiving care with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

On the state level, Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) is introducing legislation that 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.

At a BHNC PLUC meeting held on Thursday, chair David Silvas relayed a letter he received on Jan. 12 from Ryley Webb, land development manager for Pacifica. Webb, who had spoken at a previous meeting, declined to attend this week’s meeting, stating that there was nothing new to update on the project.

Webb says in his letter: “Since the meeting on Sept. 10, 2020 no further steps have been taken with regards to this project. Plans that were submitted to the City of Los Angeles prior to the September meeting are still under review by the city. Upon reception of the city comments, we will begin review of the project taking into consideration the comments and action taken by this group that occurred on Sept. 10.”

Silvas said Sakura Gardens was of ongoing concern due to the possible displacement of senior residents, particularly during a pandemic. BHNC voted in September to oppose the conversion of ICF into multi-family housing.

He also noted that in November, Pacifica filed a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) application to explore an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

“I feel comfortable on behalf of PLUC, and members of PLUC would agree that we have unwavering support for the Japanese community here in Boyle Heights, especially the vulnerable seniors, that reside within the walls at Sakura Gardens and the ICF tower,” Silvas said.

A number of community members expressed support for the elderly residents.

Vinicius Taguchi, a member of the Twin Cities JACL Chapter in Minnesota, said the issue has drawn nationwide concern.

“The Twin Cities JACL Chapter is here to show solidarity with this issue. Various chapters of JACL and the national organization have been circulating the petitions and been trying to figure out what we can do to support this cause,” Taguchi said.

Dr. Ken Hayashida, a member of the Keiro Pacifica Community Advisory Board, said, “What I want to point to is that with COVID presenting a continuing public health emergency, there is a stipulation in Title XI which allows revision of these conditions, and so your continued documentation of diligence on this is helpful for our CAB. We pledge to continue to dialogue with the board to beat the scourge that is COVID-19 that is impacting all of us, all of the hospitals and nursing homes.”

Michael Toji stated, “Thank you for your continued support. My 90-year-old mother lives at Sakura. This has a direct impact on her.”

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