For those of you who have loved ones in any of the former Keiro facilities, now owned by Pacifica, there are solid grounds to feel very vulnerable now that Pacifica has proposed gentrification plans for its Boyle Heights intermediate care facility (ICF).
As the Feb. 5, 2021 deadline for the “Conditions of Sale” nears, community members are joining forces to call upon the state attorney general to extend the deadline for at least one year. The COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated most of the activities that should have been part of the daily elder care, while rent has increased 3%, 5%, and 7% over the last four years. Once the conditions expire, Pacifica is free to do whatever it wants as a for-profit corporation.
In a Sept. 10, 2020 email letter to Pacifica, over 46 individuals and three Little Tokyo organizations signed on to questions and concerns related to the shutting down of the Boyle Heights ICF, and generally for all the facilities, once the Conditions of Sale expire.
• What will happen to current ICF residents receiving Japanese culturally sensitive intermediate care?
• What are your construction plan details? What is the impact to retirement home residents?
• How many ICF employees will lose their jobs? How will you incentivize them to stay?
• Will Pacifica author a Health Care Impact Statement to describe the impact from closing this ICF?
• What are the demographics of the population that will share the property with the retirement home?
• No rent increases after raising it 18.3% over the past three years.
• Due to the COVID-19 crisis, will Pacifica extend the attorney general’s conditions one additional year?
Pacifica neither acknowledged receipt of the letter, nor offered any reply.
Real estate developers like Pacifica find the surging pandemic to be an opportune time to push through their gentrification plans. As courts are clogging up with challenges to election balloting procedures, profiteers are sneaking through regulatory channels to put their development plans into operational-mode. While Pacifica has made money by turning the L.A. Kei-Ai into a COVID-19 facility, without even informing its visiting medical staff of this change, they are moving forward to even more profitable ventures.
Keiro needs to make its voice known to the JA community on the approaching events. Keiro is still the self-appointed expert in elder health care for the Nikkei community. So Keiro needs to take a stand on what happens to the Nikkei residents of its former facilities if they wish to maintain any credibility in caring for our seniors. Or do they really not give a damn for our elders they abandoned to Pacifica?
Dr. Takeshi Matsumoto has made it clear and simple how to turn this fiasco into a good thing: “Buying back the former Keiro facilities is the most expedient and cost-effective means of recommitting to the original mandate of Keiro: to provide healthcare facilities for the Nikkei seniors.”
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that nothing good will come if we all go our separate ways with our separate solutions. It’s time we pull together, uniting our community voice, in order to have an impact on this situation. It’s time to set aside our petty differences, and come together for the care of our Nikkei elders.
So far, it seems that the only thing that will make Keiro budge is a lawsuit. Don’t wait for the lawyers and the court system to gobble up precious funds that we could be giving back to the elders who have given so much, like the gardeners who were looking forward to spending their last years at Keiro.
Right now there is consensus among concerned family and community members to extend the deadline on the attorney general’s conditions. The pandemic has taken away the benefits that the conditions were supposed to insure for our seniors. While just a stop-gap measure, an extension will at least redress the conditions elders have lost due to the pandemic: unable to visit their families, and denied bilingual, bicultural services and recreation.
A virtual Zoom meeting/town hall is being organized for Saturday, Nov. 14, from 2 to 4 p.m. Those interested should email [email protected] with their contact information. If you have other proposals that you would like discussed, please submit them to be included on the agenda. You will be provided with a Zoom link and agenda for the meeting.
On another front, I wish to report and express gratitude for a very successful book launch on Oct. 11 for “Rockin’ the Boat: Flashbacks of the 1970s Asian Movement.”
It was a large virtual gathering and though not as good as seeing folks in person, many shared their faces by turning on their cameras, and a reunion of sorts added to the celebration of “rockin’ the boat” — 50 years later. While I was originally disappointed in not being able to have an in-person event, we just might have reached more people through virtual media.
The panel discussion with Sandy Maeshiro, Vivian Matsushige, and myself, answering questions posed by Professor Valerie Matsumoto (history and Asian American studies), was followed by a Q&A session that kept the interest of a good portion of folks who joined us. Thanks to the technical skills of Barbra Ramos and Tam Nguyen of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, we were able to have folks turn on their mikes to speak during the Q&A, adding to the feel of a real gathering.
And if I do say so, it was a historically significant meeting, as many Colorado activists joined us, thanks to Elaine Takahashi and Marge Taniwaki.
A big shout-out to Henry Nakata of San Jose’s J-Town CommUnity TV for recording, editing, and creating a time log of the over-two-hour program. Big props to Carrie Morita, Sandy Maeshiro, and Wendy Nagatani, who have helped with book orders and book deliveries. And to Scott Nagatani, music producer, and Keiko Kawashima, vocals, for their YouTube video of “People Make the World Go ‘Round” featuring photos from “Rockin’ the Boat” and bringing attention to the book launch — DOMO!
Scott created a kick-ass soundtrack and it can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDdRpyPjCeY
The video of the book launch can be viewed at J-town CommUnity TV’s website — https://www.youtube.com/c/JTownCommunityTV — or by going to the video directly at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q16BqmENawA
I suspect that by the time you are reading this post, events will be rockin’ and reelin’ with after-events of the national and state elections. Be safe, be sane, and be sure to wear your mask!
Mary Uyematsu Kao is a retired Sansei photojournalist and author of “Rockin’ the Boat: Flashbacks of the 1970s Asian Movement.” She can be reached for comments or feedback at [email protected] Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.