LITTLE TOKYO, INC.: Bricks ‘n’ Mortar or a Brochure for Keiro? The Results Are In . . .

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jon kajiBy JONATHAN KAJI

Thanks to all the readers of The Rafu plus others who have reached out to me over the past week with your votes and observations on the future of Keiro Senior HealthCare Services. As you have heard, Keiro is now in negotiations to sell the four Keiro facilities to a larger senior health care provider and to segue into dispensing senior healthcare information via seminars and programs.

We’ve received a wide-range of input via calls, emails, fax and mail. As a reminder, the previous article had two choices for the readership:

1. Keiro Senior Health Care Services should build a new, state-of-the-art senior housing complex for Nikkei in the South Bay and Orange County;

2. Keiro Senior Health Care Services should exit the senior housing business and instead create educational healthcare programs for the Nikkei community.

And now (drumroll, please), here are the results of the Keiro poll from the Rafu Shimpo readership:

1. Ninety-five percent (95%) of the respondents voted for new senior housing in the South Bay and Orange County;

2. Two percent (2%) also checked the second choice in addition to the senior housing choice;

3. Three percent (3%) added their own comments.

I found the comments to cover a range of solutions and options. Here are some excerpts:

“There will always be a need for Nikkei senior housing and care…all generations get older and if the appropriate care facilities are there…they will be used with gratitude.”

“For selfish reason, would like to live in Spartan affordable living facility. I see many widowed or single seniors living alone. Within decade many many more will be in same situation.”

“I’ve always thought it would be great if retirement services for the Nikkei community could be in the South Bay. This would make it easier and more convenient for nearby family members to visit.”

“One of the components that built or started the foundation of South Bay Keiro can be seen on the wall — small individual bricks (ceramic) with names of donors — the pioneers of South Bay Keiro. I would not be guessing that your father and mother’s name would be on a brick. So, yes, Keiro has mutual responsibility to build a new state-of-the-art senior housing complex for Nikkei.”

“It is very heart-breaking to hear that the well respected Keiro is up for sale. I am 88 years old and was looking forward to move in within a couple years with wife. We are on the waiting list and paid non-refundable $250.00 deposit. As an individual, we are helpless. We appreciate your assistance.”

“Keiro Svcs should be taken over by community non-profit org to maintain current svcs. Current Keiro svcs for JAs should be maintained since it is the only language & culturally sensitive svcs for the JA elderly. If talk of budget deficit is true, cut back on expenditures & raise funds from community. Recommend takeover by existing community non-profit org or newly created non-profit org.”

“Should remain at the current locations through (1) pressuring the government not to reduce Medi-Medi reimbursements, (2) controlling expenses as needed, (3) further fundraising.”

“A lawsuit should be filed against the Keiro Board for raising funds for a permanent Nikkei retirement home and then deciding to sell out. Keiro should return all the money to everyone who donated money over the years. Keiro tricked us into believing that there would always be a Keiro.”

So, as you can see, there’s tremendous interest in the creation of new senior housing stock in the South Bay and Orange County. Is there a way for Keiro to step away from being a direct provider of health care and use its brand recognition in the community to create both market-rate and affordable senior housing? Can a new business model be created that will ensure a steady stream of revenues from operations, the creation of new jobs within our community with less reliance on fundraising to cover the revenue gap?

We think it’s still an open question and one that will require the Keiro Board to consider senior housing as a viable option. In an environment of high consumer demand coupled with a constraint on new supply, it would seem to be both timely and a wise change of course.

Jonathan Kaji is president of Kaji & Associates, a real estate firm based in Torrance. He served as the director of the State of California Office of Trade and Investment in Tokyo (1993-1999) and serves as a member of the Board of Governors for the Japanese American National Museum and the Little Tokyo Service Center. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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