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On Local Government – Health District 3.0 a no go

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by Bob Pinzler

The Beach Cities Health District (BCHD) is desperately trying to convince residents that a “Silver Tsunami” is going to inundate the Beach Cities and leave senior citizens with no place to go if they wish to leave their homes for assisted living communities.

But, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 29 percent of assisted living communities have a waiting list. And a large portion of those waits are under 30 days. Something is screwy here.

Over the past 60 years, the BCHD has morphed itself from running a hospital, which ultimately failed, to managing a series of health-related operations. These operations are challenged by the mismanagement of their facilities to the point where 70 dementia patients are housed in a building deemed “earthquake unsafe.”

Now, they want residents to believe they can build, and successfully operate, a new facility, which will be able to provide assisted living facilities to 400 to 800 seniors, depending on how they stack “heads in beds.” The process of building these will take 15 years. Thus, by 2040 we will have all these new rooms.

Yet, by 2040, a large portion of this “Silver Tsunami” will have been reduced to a gentle wave. That’s the way demography works. What happens after that? How can this District, with its penchant for failure at building management, assure us that this time will be different?

The reason the BCHD must get this project is that they cannot see any other way to justify their ever-bloating mission statement. Created in the early 1960s to fill a specific community need, the District finds itself continuously surpassed by private sector offerings. They must molt that skin and grow a new one.

This time they are going too far.  The proposed housing facilities will be out of the financial reach of many in the community they are legally required to serve. After all, they get tax dollars only from the three Beach Cities. Yet, according to their own marketing studies, the likeliest users of these expensive facilities will come from elsewhere. Should our tax dollars go toward that goal?

To this observer, the best use of this property purchased with funds from the three Beach cities would be for its underlying zoning, as a park. The District should sell the property (after all, they have to demolish the buildings which could easily fall down during the next major earthquake, anyway), combine that money with the annual tax receipts they will still receive and provide the services they have presently chartered themselves to perform.

The BCHD is, for the third time in their history, desperately looking for a reason for being. The first time made sense. The second time papered over their failure. This third time should not be permitted to occur. 

It is time for this public agency to know when its end is near.


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