Sakura Gardens, the former Keiro campus in Boyle Heights, has a long history.

The Boyle Heights Community Partners (BHCP) organization has announced efforts to seek historic landmark designation for Sakura Gardens, the senior care facility that has been at the center of controversy ever since it was sold to the for-profit Pacifica Companies in 2016.

In September 2020, the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council discovered that Pacifica filed plans to convert the Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) tower to 45 multi-family residential units. Several community organizations, ICF residents’ family members, elected officials, and other concerned individuals opposed the move.

Although plans to repurpose the ICF appear to be moving forward, BHCP members are taking steps to preserve the ICF tower and other structures on the Sakura Gardens campus.

Recently, BHCP protected the International Institute, built in 1914, from demolition for new office spaces, calling the institute “a cornerstone for the immigrant community.”

Beginning in the 1920s, the institute served as a branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), assisting women and girls arriving from Europe and Asia. One of the institute’s earliest projects was to meet Japanese picture brides at the Los Angeles Harbor to help them resettle into their new lives in Los Angeles.

BHCP has worked to preserve other historic sites such as Otomisan, the only remaining Japanese restaurant from the 1950s, the Max Factor House, and Five Points War Memorial. “Many others … are still in need of protection,” the group added.

Sakura Gardens is the new name for the campus that formerly consisted of Keiro Retirement Home and Keiro Intermediate Care Facility before it was sold to Pacifica. The site began as the Jewish Home for the Aged in 1931.

“Historic places remind us of the people and events that brought us together and made us who we are, they bring character and storytelling to our community, and they serve as important milestones in our evolving history.

“You can save places that honor the local history of Boyle Heights,” the group said in a statement. “But we can’t save them without your help.”

“As an underserved community we will continue providing historic preservation education in addition to landmarking of historic homes and buildings. These are monuments that reflect our history, and to help us understand those who lived in different eras and helped mold Boyle Heights into a cultural community.”

Vivian Escalante is the founder and president of BHCP. For more information, visit Mailing address is 603 N. Breed St., Los Angeles, CA 90033.

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