LITTLE TOKYO, INC.: Broken Promises and Next Steps



(Published Feb. 10, 2016)

Since my last article, written last year on Oct. 1, 2015, much of my focus shifted to the effort to stop the sale of Keiro’s facilities to the Pacifica Companies.

Frankly, the effort was a long-shot from the instant that Attorney General Kamala Harris and her staff issued the conditional approval of the sale.

However, the community at large has learned much about how the parties were able to effectively close the deal beyond the scrutiny of the general public, with the tacit approval of the Attorney General’s Office of Charitable Trusts.

Even on the very last day in Department 86 of the Los Angeles Superior Court, as the attorneys from Keiro and Pacifica faced off with the attorneys from the State Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and the pro bono attorneys from Bet Tzedek and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the attorney general’s staff attorney also stood in front of the judge.

But, instead of choosing to correct their own faulty investigation by supporting the request for a temporary restraining order, the Attorney General’s Office said that they would remain “agnostic” and not oppose the TRO request. To do so would have signaled that an error was committed during the investigation. Thus, the public interest was sacrificed for the attorney general’s institutional ego and reputation.

Even though escrow has closed, there remain many questions that the parties to the sale (Keiro Senior HealthCare, the Pacifica Companies and the attorney general) must answer.

The Ad Hoc Committee to Save Keiro is now in the process of forming a non-profit organization (NPO) tasked with ensuring the welfare and safety of the residents abandoned by Keiro Senior HealthCare, and are committed to exposing the deal terms and back-room maneuvers to public scrutiny.

The Keiro Board replaced its core mission of providing facilities to care for our aging community members with a foundation capitalized with $75 million that will supposedly provide advice to aging Nikkei. Now, the care of the 600-plus residents is in the hands of the Pacifica Companies, whose business model places the interests of its shareholders above those of the residents.

But, let’s think for a moment about the deal terms that Pacifica must now deliver to the residents.

While Pacifica through its proxies (Aspen and Northstar) may be able to serve Japanese-style food and retain most of the staff, what becomes of the thousands of volunteers who previously donated their time and services for the residents?

Since Pacifica is a for-profit corporation, now subject to the attorney general’s conditional approval to guarantee “culturally sensitive” care and make a “seamless transition,” does anyone believe that our community will “volunteer”?

For all of the volunteers in the community, the support groups from the many temples and churches, community centers, schoolchildren, prefectural associations and others, you are now “service providers.” Pacifica can easily pay for everyone’s help since, after all, they have no choice but to provide the same or greater level of care given under Keiro’s management.

Call it “the J-Town tax.” What is the value of the thousands of hours of donated time and service? $5 million annually? What a tremendous revenue source for all of our community organizations! Thanks, Pacifica, for your commitment to honoring and caring for our Nikkei seniors!

And, in the corporation’s pursuit of gaining economies of scale, don’t even think about switching out our medium-grain gohan for long-grain rice. The so-called Community Advisory Board could get very busy handling a myriad of complaints and funneling them to the attorney general for enforcement.

For the time being, I’ll stop here. There’s more to come. Unlike Rafu columnist Wimpy Hiroto, thousands in our community have committed to fight for the residents of the former Keiro and the original vision of the Keiro founders, which included Wimpy’s brother, former Keiro leader Mr. Edwin Hiroto. We won’t forget, and neither should you. The truth is always worth fighting for.

Jon Kaji is president of Kaji & Associates, a real estate firm based in Gardena. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Japanese American National Museum and a member of the Board of Directors of the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.



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