December 10, 2018

Jewish Home to launch Westside campus

After years of planning to open a senior housing facility on the city’s Westside, the Los Angeles Jewish Home will break ground April 6 on the long-awaited campus. 

The ceremony will mark the official launch of the Jewish Home’s project to build the Gonda Healthy Aging Westside Campus on a 2.5-acre site in Playa Vista, a master-planned community near the ocean. The organization, which is the largest single-source provider of senior care in Los Angeles and already operates two other campuses in Reseda, expects to open the Westside facility in 2016, said Molly Forrest, Jewish Home CEO and president.

The total cost for the project will be between $125 million and $150 million, Forrest said. 

“This can be expected to be a state-of-the-art senior community,” she said. “It will exemplify the very best in optimal living choices and provide many opportunities for exercising a healthy lifestyle.”

The campus will feature 175 units where seniors can live independently but receive services to help them as they age. An additional 24 units will offer assisted living for those who can no longer look after themselves and/or who suffer from diseases affecting the memory. 

The design includes a pool, gardens, fitness rooms, meeting rooms, dining rooms, an event theater, art studio and a card room. The facility will offer programs and activities such as book clubs, excursions, exercise classes and courses. 

Residents will purchase a membership to the community instead of owning a unit, and pay a monthly fee toward services, Forrest explained. She said the costs have yet to be finalized.

The imminent construction marks a major milestone in the Jewish Home’s 102-year history, officials there said.

Forrest said building a campus in West L.A. has been part of the organization’s strategic plan since she joined the Jewish Home 18 years ago. The problem was, until now, the nonprofit didn’t have enough funds to buy land for the project and couldn’t find property that was suitable, she explained. 

Donations from the Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Foundation and the Saul Brandman Foundation, along with other private donors, enabled the purchase of the Playa Vista plot for $15 million in 2012. Construction of the campus will be financed by residents’ membership fees, she said. 

The Westside has a large, underserved elderly population and is also a major source of donations to the Jewish Home, said Michael Heslov, former chair of the organization’s board, who was involved in finding the land for the project. 

Currently, the Jewish Home has about 300 people on its waiting list for beds at all its facilities. The Gonda campus will help alleviate that and provide seniors and their families more residence options in West Los Angeles, Heslov said. Already, the Jewish Home has received 131 deposits for independent living units at the new campus.

“The interest has been extremely high,” Heslov said. “We expect it to be very successful.”

Independent and assisted in-residence living are just part of the Jewish Home’s plan for the Westside. The organization is also searching for land or a building in the area to establish a new medical and social services facility known as the Brandman Centers for Senior Care that would allow them to reach out to seniors living in the community, many of them on low incomes. 

The Jewish Home already has a Brandman Centers facility in the San Fernando Valley, part of a federal initiative called the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). The program offers on-site and in-home services such as medical checkups, therapy and meals to people age 55 and older who need a nursing-home level of care but want to stay in their homes. When built, the new Westside center — which Forrest said could open as early as next year — would serve approximately 240 seniors. 

In addition, the organization wants to create a 60-bed nursing facility close to the Westside campus by purchasing or renovating an existing facility.

Even before the planned physical facilities on the Westside take root, the Jewish Home is expanding its reach into West L.A. A new Encino-based home health agency called Jewish Home Care Services was launched by the organization in February and provides prescribed medical and therapy treatments to seniors on the Westside. The organization’s Skirball Hospice and Jewish Home Center for Palliative Medicine in Encino also work with seniors in West L.A., Forrest noted. About half of the seniors served by the hospice are from the Westside, she said.

With its current residential campuses and outpatient services, the Jewish Home works with about 4,300 seniors a year. With the planned Westside campus, Brandman Centers, skilled nursing facility and outpatient service expansions in the coming years, that number is expected to grow significantly — up to 6,000 seniors by 2016, according to Jewish Home spokeswoman Bonnie Polishuk.

Forrest called the Westside campus “the beginning of a movement to do things in West L.A.”

“I’d like the Gonda center to be setting a high standard for optimal senior living,” she said. “We work all our lives for the golden years, and this should set a standard that living life for a very long time can be done healthily and well, and with much fulfillment and joy.”