WASHINGTON — The Japanese American Citizens League on Jan. 26 issued the following statement in response to Pacifica’s proposal to convert the former Keiro Intermediate Care Facility in Boyle Heights into multi-family housing.
One of the fights JACL joined in years ago was to highlight the importance of culturally and linguistically appropriate services to Asian and Asian American communities. For individuals with limited English proficiency, health outcomes are proven to be improved when services are received in the preferred language other than English, and diet and activities of daily living are done with sensitivity to the individual’s cultural background.
Originally part of the Keiro organization, Sakura Gardens was part of a comprehensive network of culturally proficient services for aging members of the Japanese American community in Southern California for over 50 years. With the sale of Keiro’s final remaining properties in 2016, Pacifica Companies took ownership and management of Sakura Gardens with the promise of at least five years of continued service to its residents. Unfortunately, that five years is coming to an end and Pacifica is seeking to convert the facility to mixed-use housing for families and a parking garage.
Sakura Gardens is emblematic of a growing problem in the Downtown and East L.A. area and across the nation as ethnic enclaves are being replaced by gentrification. The COVID pandemic has exacerbated the strain on neighborhoods like Little Tokyo and Boyle Heights, as we continue to lose the foundational community businesses and residents that made the communities what they are today. Sakura Gardens has been a key part of that fabric both to the Boyle Heights community and what continues to be our nation’s largest Japanese American community in Southern California for over 50 years.
The threat of the COVID pandemic is felt even greater for the residents of Sakura Gardens as restrictions on programming and shifts in staffing and residents served have applied further stress upon the residents. Now the threat of removal from their homes due to the proposed changes is unconscionable during a pandemic whose impact has been most acutely felt in the senior community served by Sakura Gardens.
We call upon Pacifica Companies to pause and take stock of the dangers of proceeding with the closure to its residents, to whom they remain obligated as caregivers. Pacifica must work with greater transparency with the community that has supported Sakura Gardens for its 50 years of existence to ensure the community’s needs are served.
Sakura Gardens was founded on the mission to honor our community elders. Pacifica should honor that original mission to serve its residents and ensure their safety throughout the ongoing pandemic. We hope that all interested parties recognize the importance of Sakura Gardens to the immediate Boyle Heights neighborhood and the local Japanese American community and find a way to continue to serve our seniors through the established Sakura Gardens model of care.