Supporters of AB 279 hold a demonstration outside Sakura ICF in Boyle Heights. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

SACRAMENTO — AB 279, a bill that would halt evictions and transfers in nursing homes during a pandemic, passed the State Senate on Monday with a decisive bipartisan supermajority ovote of 32-3.

Introduced by Assemblymembers Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), AB 279 would impact the Pacifica Companies, owners of the Sakura Intermediate Care Facility (SICF) in Boyle Heights.

“AB 279 passed in both houses of the Legislature with strong bipartisan support,” said Muratsuchi. “Over two-thirds of senators and assemblymembers voted for a temporary statewide eviction moratorium for nursing home residents during this ongoing COVID pandemic. Now we need to call upon Gov. Newsom to protect our most vulnerable seniors during the pandemic by signing AB 279. I’m disappointed that we were not able to stop Sakura Gardens from evicting their residents, but we can still protect other seniors in nursing homes throughout the state.”

The “Conditions of Sale” will be restored, including the original “safeguards” established by then Attorney General Kamala Harris to ease the transition of the former Keiro ICF to a private, for-profit facility. The conditions directed Pacifica to continue to provide bilingual-bicultural services, not change the levels of care or the numbers of beds, and pay a community benefit fund.

Sakura Gardens ICF, formerly part of the three-campus Keiro Senior Care System, has just completed eviction of all residents. Approximately eight residents have asked for and gained rooms at the Sakura Assisted Living Facility and Memory Care in Boyle Heights.

“We applaud the passing of AB 279 so involuntary transfers will not happen to any other California residents and families of skilled nursing facilities during this very crucial time we are facing,” said Francine Imai, former chair of the Sakura ICF Family Council. “Unfortunately, Pacifica has put heartbreak and a decline in health in many of the former residents by forced evictions at Sakura Gardens ICF in our beloved Boyle Heights neighborhood during the pandemic.

“However, the Sakura ICF Family Council is now trying to expand to include all the family members of those who were evicted to continue to pursue justice.”

“Though the passage of AB 279 today will be too late to keep my mother from being evicted from Sakura ICF by Pacifica, I truly hope that no other family in California will have to experience a similar fate for their elderly loved ones during this pandemic,” said Kensaku Nakayama, chair of the Sakura Gardens ICF Family Council. “I am just filled with gratitude to each of you who fought tirelessly to see this day come true.”

“This is a crucial win for seniors across California under threat of eviction from nursing homes during the pandemic, a huge affirmation of the Save Our Seniors Network (SOSN) campaign, and a crushing blow to Pacifica Companies’ agenda that has already brought great harm to the Japanese American community while further gentrifying Boyle Heights,” stated Dr. David EZ Maldonado, SOS legislative director. 

“Two steps remain before AB 279 becomes law — an Assembly procedural vote on Senate amendments that could come as soon as Thursday, Aug. 26, and a potential governor’s signature within 12 days of reaching his desk,” stated former Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, SOS legislative advisor. “As an urgency measure, if signed, AB 279 would take effect immediately.”

“SOS will be advocating for the strongest possible interpretation of the Conditions of Sale that will provide justice to seniors who have been evicted in the middle of a pandemic,” said David Monkawa, co-chair of SOS. “Pacifica was cited five times in the course of their hurried evictions. Pacifica had failed to uphold the conditions in four of the past five years.

“These seniors have been through enough! They deserve justice for the destruction of their beloved community.”

“With AB279, we believe Attorney General Rob Bonta will enforce the Keiro-Pacifica Conditions of Sale to prioritize the health, safety and welfare of our seniors,” said Traci Imamura, co-chair of SOSN. “He has the opportunity to examine how the private nursing home industry’s ‘built-in incentives are all wrong,’ as he has described the private prison system when he was an assemblymember.”

Contact SOS Network to become involved in securing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature on this bill.

Phone: (626) 999-7528



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