The University Mound Ladies Home appears to be saved.
Plans to close the assisting-living facility and convert its Portola District property into a private school – a move that would have seen several dozen seniors evicted – have been put on hold.
Instead, assisted-living company AgeSong will take over the home and continue to operate it as a home for seniors under a deal that could close as soon as Thursday, the company’s CEO said Wednesday.
University Mound’s board of directors had previously signed a contract to sell the two-story brick building to Alta Vista, a private charter school, for $5.7 million.
That contract included a clause that allowed AgeSong to buy the property instead if it could match the bid. Nader Shabahangi, AgeSong’s cofounder and CEO, said Wednesday he had assembled a team of investors to do just that.
“Hopefully, we can get in there in the next few days to reduce anxiety and give people peace of mind that they don’t have to worry about where they’re going to be living,” he said.
About 53 seniors lived at University Mound as of May, when the home’s board first gave its residents 60-day eviction notices. About 20 remain there today.
The deal to keep the home open is “in many ways the best possible outcome,” said Adam Alberti, a spokesman for University Mound.
University Mound had functioned as a home for seniors “of moderate means” since the 1880s under a $100,000 endowment from James Lick, one of early San Francisco’s most prominent citizens.
By the early 21st century, the home was one of the cheapest options for assisted living in The City, but the grant money had run out. Mounting debts and rising operating costs led the home’s board of directors to solicit bids to buy the property.
The terms of the sale to Alta Vista provided up to $1,000 a month for the seniors displaced to cover the cost of assisted-living care elsewhere.
However, the notion that the home could close and the seniors be evicted prompted a swift and fierce opposition from city leaders, including Supervisor David Campos, who said the eviction notices were akin to “death sentences.”
On Wednesday, Campos said the AgeSong announcement is a “a positive development,” but stressed that the home must still offer low-income seniors an affordable assisted-living option.
“I want it to continue as a retirement home. I also want to make sure it’s affordable to seniors of modest means,” said Campos, who added that rezoning the property to ensure that University Mound stays an assisted-living home is “still an option.”
Family members of residences expressed relief but pushed for transparency on how the $5.7 million from AgeSong will be distributed. At least some will go to the capital partners who took over title to the property for $1.8 million in June.
“How is the rest going to be monitored? We don’t know,” said Sandra Parker, whose 90-year-old mother, Alice, lives at the home.
It’s also not clear who will work at the new AgeSong-operated home. University Mound’s workers were organized by Service Employees International Union (SEIU), whose mounting pension costs contributed to the home’s insolvency.
AgeSong plans to honor the home’s original mission, Shabahangi said, but investments in the aging property, including upgrading the “seventy-year-old bathrooms,” as well as paying off the $5.7 million debt to investors will be costly.
Alta Vista could still end up as the new owner of the University Mound campus if the AgeSong deal cannot be closed.