Planning Commission to Consider Senior Living Facility

The Planning Commission is expected to consider a proposal by Oakmont Senior Living to build a three-story, 72-room assisted care facility for the elderly at 600 Foothill Blvd., where the Christian Science Church currently is located. The church will move to a smaller building on the corner of the lot.
The plan, unpopular with neighbors concerned about the facility’s suggested size and location, will come before the commission at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 22, said Susan Koleda, deputy director of community development.
Oakmont’s proposal includes a new, three-story licensed residential care facility that will stand 48 feet, 6 inches — a height that would require a variance from the city. Koleda said Oakmont also requires setback variances for a chimney and the double doors that cover the utility meters but exceed setback regulations by a few inches.
Otherwise, the proposal meets criteria in the Downtown Village Specific Plan, which was established in 2000. The city identifies the corner of Foothill and Woodleigh as an “institutional” zone where the permitted uses include churches and “residential care home and facilities.”
The church will occupy a two-story structure that is scheduled to stand 24 feet, 11 inches.
“There is a need [for assisted senior living], the General Plan says it,” said Scott Van Dellen, a neighbor with a background in urban planning. “But let’s find the right place for it, because this isn’t it.”
He suggested an area near Verdugo Hills Hospital would be more appropriate for such a facility, in part because there is more space.
Van Dellen also worried about traffic issues the plan might cause. Koleda said the city has conducted a traffic study and determined that traffic in the area won’t be significantly affected by the addition of the facility, which will feature 53 parking stalls in an underground lot.
Koleda said the busiest time at the facility will be around 2 p.m., during a shift change. She said Oakmont indicated fewer than 10 visitors are expected on site each day.
Van Dellen said he thinks there are probably more visitors than that, if doctors and therapists, maintenance and food service workers are taken into account.
Oakmont, which is based in Santa Rosa, initially approached the city about the project in 2015, when its officials appeared before the city’s Design Commission. Members of that body offered advice, including former Design Commissioner John Roberts’ suggestion that the building should “look like a collection of buildings of various heights joined together.”
The new proposal still has the appearance of a single three-story building, but portions of the upper floor have been pulled inward to make it seem less “looming,” Koleda said.
Three years ago, Ken Kidd, Oakmont’s vice president of development, said the firm recognized a need for senior care throughout California, especially in La Cañada Flintridge. He cited the 2010 census, which indicated that LCF was home to about 500 elderly residents who lived alone.
Koleda said the number of senior living facilities in the city has decreased recently: There currently are two small facilities housing 12 seniors; in 2014, there were six properties housing 30.
According to Oakmont’s website, the company has established more than 40 retirement communities in the western United States.
Last year, Oakmont Senior Living was scrutinized for actions it took during and after deadly firestorms. Four residents of the Oakmont of Villa Capri in Santa Rosa reportedly filed a lawsuit alleging that staff abandoned at least a third of the nearly 70 residents under their care during the Tubbs Fire, which broke out on Oct. 8.
According to the lawsuit, the seniors escaped because families of two of the women “made Herculean efforts to ensure that all of the residents they could find got out of the building.” In a statement, the company reportedly said public safety agencies prevented staff from returning to the building, which was destroyed in the fire.
Then, Santa Rosa police reportedly stopped the company’s unauthorized excavation and demolition of the building from a locked-down fire zone. Oakmont Senior living reportedly said it had received permission to carry out the work, which city and county officials disputed.
Van Dellen said he thinks LCF officials should investigate those situations.
“I’m sure Oakmont has its side of the story, but they should follow up with Santa Rosa and the families who helped evacuate.”

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