Dozens of seniors told to leave nursing home as private school, elder-living care company spar 

click to enlarge Alice Parker
  • Mike Koozmin/the S.F. Examiner
  • 89-year-old Alice Parker sits in her room at the University Mound Ladies Home.

At 19, Alice Parker was a sheet-metal worker, a real-life Rosie the Riveter who prepared B-24 bombers for the Allied air forces during World War II.

Seventy years later, a few weeks shy of her 90th birthday, Parker is on the front lines in a very 21st-century struggle: San Francisco’s housing wars.

Parker — who has slight dementia and can move around only with a walker — is one of several dozen moderate- and low-income seniors who are being evicted from the University Mound Ladies Home, a private, nonprofit assisted-living facility in The City’s Portola district.

She’s being kicked out of her $2,800-a-month modest, dorm-style room, with shared bathrooms down the hall, so that the home can become the new campus for a recently founded private elementary school. Supervisor David Campos, who represents the area, wants to keep Parker and her 30 neighbors put.

Also taking a keen interest is AgeSong, a large assisted-living facility company. AgeSong claims in a lawsuit filed against University Mound in March that the home reneged on a deal signed last year to keep the facility open as an elderly care home.

Representatives from the home contend that the deal is null and void, and that the sale to the school is the best deal possible for the residents, who will receive another endowment to provide for their care from the proceeds of the sale.

Meanwhile, the seniors remaining at the home, who were initially told to leave by today, now have until July 31 to find a new place to live, have been urged by housing-rights activists to stay put while the legal and political battles play out.

click to enlarge University Mound Ladies Home
  • Mike Koozmin/the S.F. Examiner
  • University Mound Ladies Home may be converted into a private school.

Much of the maneuvering over the home’s future has gone on behind closed doors, the home’s elderly residents and their family members say. They’ll have a chance today to hear both sides out and to say their own peace at a Board of Supervisors hearing called by Campos.

“We don’t know what to do. We still don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Bruce Bean, 89, a former Mission resident who has lived at the home since 2012.

The news that the home was broke and closing came out of the blue, with no warning, he told The San Francisco Examiner.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” said Bean, who uses a wheelchair to get around after a mild stroke, “if we get to stay, I’d jump up and down.”

LONG ROAD HOME

Open since 1884 — thanks to an endowment of $100,000 from the estate of James Lick, who made a fortune in real estate during the Gold Rush — the home is one of the cheapest state-licensed facilities its kind in San Francisco.

A similar room elsewhere in The City fetches double what Alice Parker pays, said Sandra Parker, her daughter and caregiver.

The home is also in longstanding financial peril. With the endowment gone by 2007, mounting debts, including rising pension costs for employees, and negative cash flow saw the home nearly close, when a new board took over management.

The home stayed afloat after taking out a $100,000 loan in 2009, according to records. But a low resident count — the home is licensed to take 76 seniors but never had more than 62, according to board documents provided to The Examiner — and increasing operational costs saw the home fall $188,000 in debt by 2012, tax records show, a deficit not including the unpaid $100,000 loan and an additional loan made to the home by trustee John Sedlander.

NEW OWNERS

But last year, University Mound appeared to be saved. Big capital improvements, including an increase in its capacity to 99 residents, and other fixes were part of an agreement signed with AgeSong in August.

However, University Mound failed to pay AgeSong for its services and the company departed in December, according to Cristina Flores, an AgeSong executive and former member of the home’s board.

In May, the home’s board informed its 53 remaining residents — including Parker, Bean and Marian Brown, who with her late sister became a city legend as the nattily and identically dressed Brown twins — that they would have to leave in 60 days.

Shortly thereafter, a team of capital partners — the Lafayette-based firm Rubicon Mortgage Fund, San Francisco-based Pacific BVL Corp., and Daniel Weiss of Tiburon — provided the home with an $1.9 million bridge loan to stay afloat long enough to sell the property.

In early July, the home announced that it had sold the block-sized, two-story brick building to Alta Vista, a private school. Renee Lawson, counsel for tech company Zynga, is the school’s president.

Exact terms of the sale were not disclosed, and Lawson did not reply to a request for comment.

However, there’s no way the school can buy the property, according to a lawsuit filed in March: the AgeSong agreement, signed by University Mound board President Mary Louise Fleming, included a clause giving AgeSong the right of first refusal for any purchase offer.

click to enlarge University Mound Ladies Home
  • Mike Koozmin/the S.F. Examiner
  • Residents of the University Mound Ladies Home may lose their homes as property owners make other plans for the building.

“I believe we will purchase University Mound, and we intend to keep it open,” said Flores, who noted that AgeSong has applied for a license from the state to run the home itself.

Adam Alberti, a spokesman for the home, contends that the contract between AgeSong — which along with Alta Vista bid on the property in June — was rendered “null and void” for several reasons.

Nonetheless, AgeSong was still given a chance to meet Alta Vista’s bid, but has not yet done so, he said.

UNCERTAINTY

The next court date in the legal fight is in August, after the July 31 move-out date. Observers from the state are on-scene, making sure the elderly residents are looked after. But little else is certain.

Evelyn Armstrong, 83, who was a nurse at Laguna Honda Hospital for 31 years, only reluctantly gave up her Twin Peaks apartment three years ago to move into University Mound.

“I like it here,” she said, adding that the stress of uncertainty and moving deadlines is taking a toll. “I don’t want to move again.”

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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