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Disturbed Patients Barred : Restriction on Convalescent Home Upheld

December 21, 1986|BARBARA BAIRD | Times Staff Writer

A Mar Vista nursing home that has been termed a public nuisance because of repeated disturbances involving mentally ill patients has been ordered to discontinue its program for the seriously disturbed.

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday rejected the owner's appeal and unanimously voted to uphold restrictions imposed in May on the Meadowbrook Manor at 3951 East Blvd.

William E. Lillenberg, associate zoning administrator, ruled May 1 that Meadowbrook posed a threat to neighborhood safety.

He cited "repeated nuisance activities" since 1980 and said the management "has not been responsive" to neighborhood complaints.

Lillenberg said Meadowbrook formerly catered to elderly, convalescent or mildly disturbed patients. In recent years, he said, it began accepting "patients who require special security measures and treatment to control their combative, violent, aggressive nature." The owner, Meadowbrook Manor Inc., and its parent company, Newport Federal, Wednesday asked the City Council to overturn Lillenberg's restrictions.

1930 Ruling Cited

Louis A. Lipofsky, Meadowbrook's attorney, told the council that sanitarium uses are protected under a 1930 state Supreme Court ruling. He said it states that a properly managed sanitarium cannot be considered a public nuisance just because residents do not want it in their neighborhood.

However, residents and city officials contend that the ruling does not apply to Meadowbrook because the home has not been properly managed.

Council President Pat Russell cited numerous complaints from residents and said Wednesday that Meadowbrook is "clearly a nuisance."

At a hearing last January, residents complained about numerous incidents, including one in which neighbors said a female patient escaped, stole a car and was involved in a fatal accident.

Neighbors said patients throw bottles, hypodermic syringes and sheets into homeowners' yards, copulate in front of the home's windows and wander the streets. Screaming and cursing is heard at all hours, they said. Patients scale 10-foot fences and jump into neighbors' yards, they added.

Dates to 1926

The 77-bed nursing home dates back to 1926, before the neighborhood was zoned for single-family housing, officials said.

For many years, it accepted only elderly and convalescing patients and coexisted peacefully with its neighbors, they said.

The problems started about 1978, when Meadowbrook started accepting "short-term mental patients who may also have drug and alcoholic addiction problems," Lillenberg said.

The restrictions imposed last week order Meadowbrook to stop accepting people needing special treatment and phase out patients in that category in the next six months. Instead, only convalescents or those suffering from "mild" mental conditions may be admitted.

The ruling defines a "mild" mental condition as one that is "stable or in sufficient remission that the individual does not require physical restraints and is not associated with combative or violent behavior."

Other restrictions:

No mental patient may leave the grounds unless accompanied by a responsible adult.

Unsupervised residents may not leave or remain outside the home between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. No visitors or outdoor activities will be allowed after 10 p.m.

A security system must be installed to prevent escapes, and measures such as installation of frosted glass windows to shield the interior of the home from neighbors should be taken.

Owners have a year to submit a progress report to the city.

Meadowbrook President Paul Edgren called the ruling contradictory because he said it eliminates severely disturbed patients while imposing harsh restrictions that will discourage prospective elderly and convalescent patients.

He said the ruling could put the home out of business by eliminating both kinds of patients, and that the corporation "has no choice" but to appeal to Superior Court.

However, Meadowbrook officials said that rather than go to court, they might consider working with homeowners on a compromise and submitting it to the council for review.

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