After being closed for 22 years, the historic Linda Vista Hospital will be converted into housing for seniors. Photo by Jonathan Olivares
After being closed for 22 years, the historic Linda Vista Hospital will be converted into housing for seniors. Photo by Jonathan Olivares
After being closed for 22 years, the historic Linda Vista Hospital will be converted into housing for seniors. Photo by Jonathan Olivares

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After 22 years of abandonment, the old Linda Vista Hospital will soon have a new life — improving the situation for some elderly adults who struggle to find decent and affordable homes in Los Angeles. The historic building near Hollenbeck Park will be converted into affordable housing for adults over 55.

The Linda Vista hospital opened in 1904 as the Santa Fe Railroad Hospital and closed in 1991. Since then, the abandoned building’s main use has been as a film set for Hollywood.

For years, potential buyers were interested in converting the hospital into lofts, but the real estate market stalled investors. After six years of eying the building, AMCAL Multi-Housing Inc. purchased it for $43 million, said Kecia Boulware, project manager at AMCAL.

Linda Vista Senior Apartments will have 120 one and two-bedroom apartments. It will also offer activities such as job training, financial literacy programs, social activities and health and wellness classes for residents. The project will be constructed in two phases. The first phase, scheduled to be completed this spring, will have 23 units for adults 62 and above. The second phase will offer 97 units for adults over 55 and is expected to be ready by 2015.

While this new development opens more affordable opportunities for senior living, seniors from Boyle Heights will not have priority. However, Boyle Heights residents have a good chance of getting an apartment if they apply early and meet age and income rules.

Many seniors in Boyle Heights have lived in the community most of their lives, but due to retirement or the loss of a loved one who once helped them pay their bills, they are unable to afford to stay in their homes.

As the senior population increases in Los Angeles, the demand for affordable senior housing and other senior services also rises, says Susana Gonzalez, care manager at International Institute of Los Angeles (IILA), a non-profit agency that provides educational, health and transportation services to immigrants and seniors.

Too Few Resources
Yet recent budget cuts have reduced many senior services in Los Angeles, explained Gonzalez, who assists homebound seniors and sees the challenges many face.

“Resources were limited before. Now with the cuts, some no longer exist. We no longer have activities or a day care,” said Gonzalez. “Seniors got depressed and lonely. We had 13 nutrition sites before. Now we only have nine sites for the seniors to go have a balanced nutritious meal once a day.”

At a time of service cuts for the elderly, there’s also an increasing population of adult children caring for their elderly parents.

Martha Diaz who is her 86-year-old mother's full-time caregiver, says seniors in BH lack resources.Photo by Emily Ochoa.
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When 60-year-old Martha Diaz retired six years ago, she thought she would have more free time. But when her 86-year-old mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Diaz became her full-time caregiver. That’s when she saw the lack of resources for seniors in Boyle Heights. This prompted her to volunteer her time to help and advocate for seniors in Los Angeles.

“There is a tremendous need. One of the issues that I’ve confronted has been that many seniors are alone,” said Diaz. “There’s not enough housing as it is for families,” adding that it’s even tougher for the elderly.

Boyle Heights has several senior retirement homes, including Hollenbeck Palms, which opened in 1890. But rents there may be too expensive for many Boyle Heights seniors.

Eligibility for Linda Vista
The Linda Vista Senior Apartments are designed to be affordable to seniors earning between 30 and 60 percent of the Los Angeles County median income of $50,000, said Boulware, the project manager. For someone who earns about $29,000, the monthly rent will be about $725, said Boulware.

“The rents proposed at Linda Vista are at least 25 percent below the average apartment rent in the area,” Boulware said, “so these units should go quickly.”

Still, many seniors in Boyle Heights may not qualify for an apartment in Linda Vista because their earnings are too low. (At $31,500, Boyle Heights’ median income is quite a bit lower than the county average.)Those with incomes between $7,850 and $14,700 a year, for example, would find a monthly rent of $725 to be too steep. According to Boulware, no subsidies will be offered by AMCAL, but some low-income seniors may qualify if they have other types of public housing vouchers.

The housing agency has partnered with community groups like East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC) to ensure the community learns about the new apartments, explained Boulware.

Even though the new housing represents a step forward for seniors, many in Boyle Heights and elsewhere in Los Angeles continue to struggle and are pessimistic about their future.

“It saddens me,” said Diaz. “I’m a baby boomer. What’s going to happen to me down the road?”

For more information on how to apply, call (323) 244-2226.

Emely Velazquez is a senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School and participates in the JROTC club. She enjoys spending time with friends, reading and watching films. She hopes to attend New York University.

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