by Tom Bakaly, CEO
Beach Cities Health District

For more than 60 years, Beach Cities Health District has played a vital role in improving and promoting the health of our community, initially as the founder of South Bay Hospital and more recently as a provider of innovative services, and facilities, with a focus on health and wellness. As the District evolves to meet the changing needs of our community, it is now planning its next phase — the Healthy Living Campus.

The Healthy Living Campus will be a comprehensive center to promote health and wellness for all ages. Included will be services and facilities to serve our seniors, particularly the frail elderly who might otherwise have no option but to live their final years in a nursing home. It will include residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs), with one plan being considered calling for 10 percent of units offered at below market rates, a facility for memory care, and a Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (“PACE”) to help our seniors – particularly those with below average income levels – age gracefully in their own homes. The Campus will also feature open space equivalent to two soccer fields for outdoor activities and a youth wellness behavioral health center that supports all youth ages 12-25 in the Beach Cities.

Recently, a very small number of residents have attempted to deny our seniors the benefits of the Healthy Living Campus. These few residents have unfairly assigned motives to BCHD’s response to over 600 public records requests. While the District welcomes open debate about the pros and cons of its project, it does not welcome specious attacks based on misinformation and unsupported legal arguments. Unfortunately, that is what we witnessed in last week’s editorial in the Easy Reader.

In the editorial, Robert Pinzler falsely asserts that the District “cannot legally build its new campus as proposed.” He bases his assertion on the false assumption the District does not have lawful title to its property, or if it does, it is somehow limited to owning or operating a hospital on that property.

Pinzler cites no legal authority for his conclusion because there is none. He also fails to mention that the District gave him a copy of the actual Deed dated December 12, 1957, whereby the Redondo Improvement Company, the former owner of the property, transferred its rights in the property to the District. The Deed contains no restrictions whatsoever on the future use of the property.

Instead of the deed, Mr. Pinzler attempts to rely on a “Judgement of Condemnation” in 1957 that approved the District’s purchase of the property by eminent domain, because it then planned to use the property for the “construction, completion and operation of a hospital thereon in order to provide hospital services.” Of course, constructing and operating a hospital is exactly what the District did.

Not until more than 30 years later did the hospital cease operations. Since then, the District has reconfigured the hospital campus to provide an extensive array of health services to the community, all in compliance with changes in state law that vastly expanded the scope of services that “health care districts” may provide, including “retirement programs, services and facilities.”  The State of California changed the law and the name of Districts (not BCHD as Mr. Pinzler suggests) to recognize the fact that there is more to providing health services than hospitals. 

Pinzler would have us believe that if a public entity lawfully acquires property for a public use and fulfills its original public use for more than 30 years, it may never change that use – even if the original use is no longer feasible and state law expressly allows other uses. There is absolutely nothing in the law that supports his proposition.   

In order to initially acquire a property by eminent domain, a governmental entity must have public use, but no law requires that such use be implemented in the same fashion in perpetuity. Tellingly, even the Judgment in Condemnation upon which Pinzler relies does not require it.

The District’s legal authority to develop the Healthy Living Campus as a public use as proposed in the draft Master Plan is clear and unequivocal. ER

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