Elder care facility under pressure not to move forward with evictions

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University Mound board member John Sedlander is questioned by Sup. David Campos.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY REBECCA BOWE

A group of senior citizens, mostly in their 80s and 90s, faces eviction from the University Mound Ladies Home, a San Francisco elder care facility serving residents of modest means that has been in operation for 130 years.

The University Mound Board of Trustees has said the nonprofit organization that runs the home is too far in debt to keep the doors open.

Nevertheless, interim director Bill Brinkman and members of the Board of Trustees have rejected the city’s offer of temporary financial assistance. University Mound has entered into an agreement to sell the facility to Alta Vista School for $5.4 million as a way to pay off its debts, making it clear at a public hearing that it would not reconsider this plan despite the city's attempts to intervene on behalf of the impacted residents.

At the Board of Supervisors’ Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee today [Thu/10], Sup. David Campos put board treasurer John Sedlander on the spot.

“The city has given you every opportunity to stay open,” Campos said, referencing offers made when his office met with University Mound leadership shortly after the closure was announced. “We are willing to put money on the table, to keep this open temporarily, until we find a long-term viable solution. Are you willing to accept that?”

But Sedlander insisted that this was not a viable option. “We’ve been financing our operations for the past six years … with debt,” he said. “We are unable to make the payroll unless we were to close this facility. … It’s one of those things that’s just a model that doesn’t work.” 

The closure has sparked widespread community concern, in part because it can be very dangerous to force people in frail health to move.

“They’re playing with people’s lives,” Eddie Shine, whose mother is 97 and lives at University Mound, told the Bay Guardian. “A move would be devastating, which is why I’m so passionate about this,” she added.

Speaking during public comment, Anna Stratton said she was concerned that her 87-year-old mother would “feel isolated and alone” after being transferred to a Hayward retirement home. “When we transferred her [to University Mound] she did not eat for seven days,” Stratton explained, noting that this would arise as a concern yet again with the pending move.

In May, residents were issued eviction notices indicating that they would have to move by July 10. That date has since been extended to July 31.

Campos said the city would explore every possible route to prevent University Mound from closing down and evicting the seniors, including the possibility of rezoning the property to be maintained as a retirement home since the benefactors behind the original endowment established that it should function as such. After public comment was over, Campos called Sedlander back to the podium.

“You heard the testimony,” he told the University Mound board treasurer. “You know the city is going to do everything we can to block you” from moving forward with the July 31 eviction. “I am going to give you the option to do the right thing here,” he went on. “Are you prepared to call that deadline null and void?”

Sedlander responded that he was not prepared to rescind the evictions.

The item was continued and will likely come up for discussion again before July 31. “I will fight to do everything I possibly can till hell freezes over to make sure we stop the closure of this facility,” Campos said. “If the city has to fight to make it happen, then the city will fight to make it happen.”

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