By NAO NAKANISHI*
Rafu Japanese Staff Writer
According to materials received from the California Department of Justice, the four Keiro facilities will be sold to Pacifica Companies LLC for $41 million. This week, Keiro and Pacifica formally accepted the conditions set forth by the attorney general, and the sale is expected to close escrow early next year.
The conditions of the sale require that, for the next five years, Pacifica continues to operate the facilities as Keiro has done, including preserving the same level of care, number of beds, policies for dealing with insurance, and Japanese culturally sensitive services.
Keiro Senior HealthCare, which will continue to operate as a nonprofit organization after it sells the four facilities, says it plans to use the money from the sale to expand its programs to educate the Japanese American community about aging.
According to California Justice Department documents in which it granted conditional approval of the sale, Keiro is selling its facilities — Keiro Retirement Home and Keiro Intermediate Care Facility in Boyle Heights, Keiro Nursing Home in Lincoln Heights, and South Bay Keiro Nursing Home in Gardena — for a total of $41 million, and the net profit would be about $37 million. Chair of the Keiro Board of Directors Gary Kawaguchi told The Rafu Shimpo that Keiro plans to invest that profit and run its programs using the yearly interest.
Half a century ago, Keiro Senior HealthCare was founded by eight Japanese American community leaders, including Fred Wada and George Aratani. After a great deal of effort, including fundraising in both the U.S. and Japan, and with the support of the community, the four facilities for Nikkei seniors were built and operated by Keiro. Known for its services that value Japanese culture and traditions, such as food and various activities for residents, the combined facilities of Keiro are unique among Japanese American senior homes in California.
As a nonprofit organization, Keiro has been able to receive donations from groups and individuals, support from the State of California, and assistance from many members and volunteers throughout the region. When asked if donors could request a refund in light of the sale, Kawaguchi explained that donations are used in the year they are given. He also said that Keiro has been communicating with donors about the possibility of this sale for about two years, so all donors are informed.
Pacifica Companies is a for-profit real estate company based in San Diego and founded by Indian Americans. According to Carl Knepler, who is in charge of senior housing, Pacifica owns hotels and housing in the U.S., Mexico and India, and operates 55 senior facilities in 14 states, including 22 in California. Pacifica already owns one culturally sensitive senior home, a Jewish facility in Florida.
A woman who lives in the Keiro Retirement Home said, “I was surprised to hear this news for the first time today. Rent is already rising from year to year, and I’m worried that with a for-profit company, they might go up even more.”
Another retirement home resident mentioned that several of his neighbors were beginning to look around for another facility, and that he was planning to do the same.
Cafeteria workers, both Japanese and Latino, also wonder how the sale will affect their lives. One of the workers said, “I just heard the news from management today. I’m worried about what will happen next.”
Clinical psychologist Dr. Keiko Ikeda has worked with elderly patients at both Keiro Intermediate Care Facility and Keiro Nursing Home for more than 20 years. According to her, Hollenbeck Palms, a retirement home neighboring Keiro, is doing well despite being a nonprofit. Because Keiro residents are uncertain about their futures, they have been moving to this other facility, she said.
Makeup artist Kaori Nara Turner has given dance performances as a volunteer at Keiro for over 20 years and has donated more than $50,000 to date. “If a [non-Japanese] American company manages Keiro, I’m worried about whether they’ll be able to keep up the heartfelt care that residents have received up until now,” she said. “There’s nothing to be done about things that have already been decided, but it’s important for community members to make suggestions to Keiro.
“Because we’ve all donated money, I think Keiro should explain precisely and openly how much they sold their facilities for, and what they will do with the money going forward.”
In order to ensure that Pacifica follows the attorney general’s conditions for the next five years, Keiro will establish a Community Advisory Board (CAB) of around ten people. CEO Shawn Miyake said that Keiro will begin putting together the CAB after escrow closes in early 2016. Although specifics have not yet been decided, Miyake is currently open to including residents and community members in this group.
Over the past few years, Miyake said that Keiro has put effort into communicating with the community about the sale, holding meetings around Southern California and publishing information on its website. He believes that Keiro has done everything it could to be transparent throughout the process.
*Mia Nakaji Monnier also contributed to this report.