Save Our Seniors (SOS)!
Fighting to maintain bilingual and bi-cultural care for Japanese American and Japanese senior citizens
Save Our Seniors (SOS) is an all-volunteer network of individuals and organizations that is working to secure the continuation of bilingual and bi-cultural care and services for seniors residing at the facilities formerly known as Keiro Nursing and Retirement homes, a Japanese American institution for nearly fifty years. To this day, due to inequalities in the U.S. public health system, no other such facilities exist. Because of this context, the lives of the remaining residents are endangered by the profit objectives of the owners of these facilities.
Amidst massive opposition from the Japanese American community which had donated over $90 Million to support this community treasure, the 501(c)3 non-profit then in charge of the nursing and retirement homes, Keiro, sold them to an international developer, Pacifica Companies, in February of 2016. In approving the sale to a for-profit entity, then CA Attorney General Kamala Harris mandated that Pacifica Companies remain committed to the original mission of the facilities for at least five years. To oversee compliance with these “13 Conditions of Sale” a Community Advisory Board (CAB) was established. These conditions of sale were to apply to the since-renamed Kei-Ai Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) in Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles, the Kei-Ai SNF in Gardena, and in Boyle Heights, the Sakura Gardens assisted living and Memory Care center and the Sakura Intermediate Care Facility (ICF).
The “Conditions of Sale,” which mandated the continuation of bilingual and bi-cultural services amongst other things of benefit to residents and families, have now expired, despite efforts from multiple parties to have them extended, including efforts from thousands of people via multiple petitions, SOS’ efforts, Koreisha Senior Care Advisory, physicians and several local, state and Federal elected officials.
Challenges Facing Our Communities Today
With the term of these conditions having reached expiration on February 6, 2021, there is no longer any sufficiently strong legal mandate to hold Pacifica Companies accountable to providing the bilingual staffing and bi-cultural services that the senior Japanese American and Japanese residing in the properties require for their health, quality of life and dignity. Particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for public oversight of Pacifica Companies to keep the residents safe is extremely critical. SOS advocates support for the passage of CA Assembly Bill 279, which will make it illegal to evict residents of licensed senior care facilities during the pandemic.
One of the facilities under their control, the Kei-Ai SNF in Lincoln Heights, is now the #1 SNF in LA County for positive COVID cases and deaths. We know that Pacifica is developing plans to convert the Sakura ICF into more lucrative income-generation rental housing and that they are motivated to reduce the numbers of Medi-Cal patients on their rosters. SOS stands with the families of the residents in demanding transparency from Pacifica Companies about why Kei-Ai Los Angeles was designated as a COVID-19 intake center and calls for an immediate cessation of this practice.
Displacement of Communities
When Keiro sold these facilities to Pacifica Companies, it was not only an affront to the entire Japanese American community that had supported them across multiple generations. It also represented an attack on communities such as Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights, which have already been facing tremendous gentrification and displacement pressures from large corporate financial investment (e.g., the Metro “L/Gold” line, the Arts District in East Little Tokyo, 6th Street Bridge project, LA River Beautification project, LA County Biotech corridor running east from the USC County Medical Center).
Japanese Americans were displaced from their homes before during WWII and know the violence of this process too well. SOS understands that this present-day struggle occurs in the context of larger efforts to defend Southern CA communities from cultural and demographic displacement.
Profits vs. People
SOS volunteers seek to unite as many as possible to work towards mitigating the dangers currently faced by the most vulnerable members of the Japanese American community and their families, as the for-profit interests of the Pacifica Companies ownership moves towards improving the only thing that matters to them, their profit margins.
In the middle of a pandemic, Pacifica Companies has been appealing to the City of Los Angeles to approve of plans to convert the ICF in Boyle Heights to high-rent housing, which would require the removal of its current residents who are in their early 80’s to beyond 100 years of age. No plans for relocation have been presented and there exist NO OTHER SUCH COMPARABLE ICF anywhere else in the United States. There should be no evictions, transfers or moving of these seniors without a viable destination where they can receive the same degree of care and services.
SOS stands in support of ALL efforts by other community groups and individuals who are working to keep these elderly safe and properly taken care of in their twilight years.