The Breakers Building, which was designated as a historic landmark in 1989 and has housed a long-term senior care facility since 1990, could be on the verge of phasing out that portion of its nearly 90-year history in favor of converting the site into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. The action comes as the facility is currently facing a court battle that could end in the revocation of its license to be an elderly care center being stripped away.
Michael Weston, Deputy Director of Public Affairs for the California Department of Social Services said that the action to revoke the license of Breakers of Long Beach started in March of last year, when the department filed its initial motion. Under the law, the license-holder is allowed to appeal, and that court date, which will be heard by an administrative law judge, has been set for April. If the Breakers loses the appeal, its elder-care services would effectively be shut down.
“The department’s action right now is to revoke the license of the facility, which essentially would close the facility,” Weston said. “They would no longer be able to be a licensed residential care facility for the elderly.”
The document filed by the department [below] states that the Breakers failed to provide “basic care,” which resulted in the death of one of its residents in 2012. The document also alleges the facility, on multiple occasions, failed to provide timely medical care to residents, and that it violated health and safety codes, as it was found to have mice and roaches in the facility between March 2011 and August 2014.
The Press Telegram reported last year that a Los Angeles County judge ordered The Breakers to pay several hundred-thousand dollars in damages to a woman who suffered injuries while being cared for at the facility. The group also had two additional lawsuits filed against it in 2013, one involving the death of a 90-year-old resident. One case was settled while the other was still being litigated at the time of print.
Multiple sources confirmed that a meeting held February 18 at The Breakers building brought together residents, the building’s owner Bernard Rosenson and representatives from Solid Landings, a for-profit company based out of Costa Mesa that offers gender-specific recovery plans for those suffering from addiction. Maggie Macklin, president of the Breakers Residents Council was at that meeting and said the subject matter took residents by surprise.
“We’re out of the loop,” Macklin said. “It’s like with everything Bernie has done. I know he’s financially in trouble. I feel that he really put the wool over us. We heard about this for the first time at the meeting, and going there, we didn’t know what it was going to be about.”
A member of Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal’s staff was on hand to observe the meeting and reported back to the vice mayor that the relinquishing of the property by Rosenson was in fact tied to the recent legal troubles that The Breakers have faced.
“The owner, Bernie Rosenson, indicated that circumstances involving litigation and his age had forced him to relinquish management of the Breakers, though he would still own the building and Sky Room,” Lowenthal said in an email. “Mr. Rosenson informed tenants of a 60-day notice before new management took over. The 60-day notice started on February 18th.”
To Lowenthal’s understanding, at the meeting Solid Landings discussed their desires to place a drug and alcohol rehabilitation at The Breakers. The tenants in the treatment program would be segregated to separate floors, away from the current residents. No resident would be forced to move from their current unit but they would be offered to move to refurbished units on different floors if they chose to. The rehab program would service patients between the ages of 18-75, whom would stay for a period of 3-12 months and would undergo detox before ever entering The Breakers. The vice mayor made no mention of the legality of the proposal, but did say that she was unsupportive.
Nancy Downs, who resides and owns property in Downtown, said she was unsupportive of the proposal to intermix elderly people who require medical care with a potentially much younger crowd of male patients seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addictions. A representative for the Breakers said that the youngest resident currently living at the building is 50 years old and the oldest is 97.
“We need to keep the downtown momentum moving in the direction it’s going and this won’t do it,” Downs said.
Vice President of the Downtown Residential Council Eric Gray said that converting the facility from its current usage could negatively affect the living standards of current residents and that he would back any move to prevent this plan from coming to fruition.
“I think you have this situation where we have this historic iconic building that sits on Ocean Boulevard serving many in our aging population as a retirement community,” Gray said. “I think it’s important to look at their quality of life and say, is a rehab facility the appropriate mix for this residential population within this historic building? I would argue strongly that it is not and surely there are better solutions. I will support any efforts to block this from happening.”
The plan has also been denounced by several elected city officials, including Mayor Robert Garcia. While not disclosing particular measures that could be taken to ensure that a rehab facility doesn’t move into the building, Daniel Brezenoff, the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff simply said “the Mayor is not supportive of that proposed use.”
Director of Development Services Amy Bodek said in an email that the City has not been contacted by Solid Landings to inquire about The Breakers, however, another treatment group, Sovereign Health, reached out to the City several weeks ago and was told that the building is not zoned for a rehab facility.
“We have not heard of Solid Landings and I don’t know who they are,” Bodek said in an email. “[…] Sovereign [Health] contacted the City several weeks ago to inquire about the zoning for the Breakers and were told that their proposed use was not permitted. We have not heard from them since then.”
Additionally, Jacqueline Medina of Long Beach Development Services said that there is “no mechanism for the applicant/company to request approval of such a use,” and that “Planning Staff has informed the company of this.”
Who initiated the conversation to potentially convert The Breakers into a rehab facility is unclear, as both representatives from Sovereign Health and Solid Landings declined to comment on the matter. However, a spokesperson from Solid Landings did confirm that the company is still in talks to lease The Breakers building.
“It appears that at this time, it is premature to provide any other information as the details of the transaction has not been finalized,” Jemellee Ambrose, spokesperson for Solid Landings said. “We can provide this information however, and that is Solid Landings is not purchasing the property, but is instead leasing it. Until all plans are finalized we are unable to provide any significant details.”
Placing a rehab treatment facility in the same building that houses the Sky Room and the Sky Bar, both of which serve alcohol, raises additional questions, especially given that the Sky Bar was just renovated in June of last year.
Calls placed to Jonathan Rosenson, Bernard Rosenson’s son and the previous manager and sommelier at the Sky Room, who sources say now works at the corporate level, went unanswered. He did, however, deflect questions regarding whether or not a rehab facility is trying to open in vacant rooms at the Breakers, and if so, how the rest of the building will be affected, whether or not the Sky Room would stay in place, whether or not the building is currently in escrow, and City staff’s position on the permitted use of the building in an email, saying that our reporter was “[…] completely in error of all accounts,” and that “No such forms have been signed,” referring to the issues raised as “untrue rumors.”
No timeline has been given on when potential changes to the building could take place, if the proposed plan does move forward. However, Solid Landings is expected to hold another meeting with Breakers residents next week. Details of the meeting are not being disclosed at this time, according to Macklin.
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