Reutlinger Community President and CEO Jay Zimmer (left) and Board President Jordan Rose at a Nov. 5, 2019 hearing about the management agreement between Reutlinger Community and Eskaton. (Dan Pine)
Reutlinger Community President and CEO Jay Zimmer (left) and Board President Jordan Rose at a Nov. 5, 2019 hearing about the management agreement between Reutlinger Community and Eskaton. (Dan Pine)

State AG approves deal between Reutlinger and Eskaton

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

California’s attorney general has approved an agreement to shift management control of the Reutlinger Community in Danville to Eskaton, a nonprofit regional senior care provider.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra conditionally consented to the shift in “control and governance” of the 70-year-old Jewish senior living center, pending approval from the California Department of Social Services. Deputy Attorney General Anita Velasco notified lawyers of Becerra’s decision in a letter dated March 11.

The announcement came amidst some impassioned opposition to the deal within the East Bay Jewish community. At a public hearing on Nov. 5, some family members, donors and former board members voiced concern that it would lead to a change in the character of the facility, which was founded in 1950 as the Home for Jewish Parents in Oakland.

Opponents worry about a sunset clause in the agreement that gives Eskaton the right to relocate the business “to another comparable facility” in the region after five years.

In late November, 13 plaintiffs connected to the senior home filed a lawsuit against Sacramento-based Eskaton and Reutlinger officials. The lawsuit sought an injunction on the agreement, citing “no accountability to the Jewish community.” In February, a superior court judge determined that the plaintiffs did not have “the required standing” to pursue their claim.

Eskaton, formed in the 1960s, manages more than 30 senior living facilities in Northern California and is non-denominational. Eskaton CEO Todd Murch told J. that relocation after five years would be “very expensive,” and that he did not “see a scenario where that would make a lot of sense.”

In a Nov. 21 op-ed, Reutlinger CEO Jay Zimmer said the affiliation between the two nonprofit organizations would lead to improvements and had been made due to “market conditions,” and challenges in running an independent senior-care facility.

“This affiliation partners our community with an experienced and financially strong nonprofit provider,” Zimmer wrote, “that will allow us to expand our services; preserve our charitable mission, as well as our Jewish culture and heritage; and ensure the long-term survival of our community.”

He said Eskaton promised $5 million in capital improvements.

“While the agreement references possible relocation after five years,” he wrote, “I want to make this clear: No relocation is planned and none is expected.”

Section 1.4 of the 700-page agreement stipulates that Eskaton “will preserve the name and identity of Reutlinger as a skilled nursing and residential care facility with a commitment to the Jewish values, policies and practices that have defined Reutlinger since its inception.”

Reutlinger has a capacity of 180 residents. There is an assisted-living area with three levels of care, along with a skilled nursing care and rehabilitation center (for both short-term stays and long-term placement).

Under California law, nonprofits that operate health care facilities must receive the attorney general’s approval for any major transactions. The attorney general must look at that proposed transaction for any possible “inurement” (deal) that would be outside the public interest, and, among many other considerations, whether the agreement could “create a significant effect on the availability or accessibility of health care services to the affected community.”

Attorney General Bacerra “considered such factors,” Velasco wrote in her letter, “and consents to the proposed transaction.” The letter named 10 conditions enforceable by the attorney general’s office, including that Eskaton, within the first year of the affiliation, hold a public meeting to educate members of the Jewish community “on how Eskaton will be preserving Jewish culture and heritage at the Reutlinger facility.”

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.