A Los Angeles judge Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order preventing the board of Sunset Hall, a retirement home for aged radicals, from pursuing plans to close the facility for at least 20 days.
"There isn't much point in . . . having the residents moved out," Superior Court Judge John Zebrowski said during a meeting in chambers with attorneys for the board and for some of the residents opposed to the closure.
The judge also set a March 26 hearing to consider the matter further, while an attorney for the board agreed to allow the facility's full membership to vote on whether the home should be sold.
Sunset Hall, in the 2800 block of Francis Avenue in the Mid-Wilshire area, has been an institution for 66 years. One of the country's few retirement homes intended specifically for aged radicals, it is a nonprofit corporation governed by a paid membership of more than 200 that elects the 13-member board.
Claiming huge financial losses because of an inability to attract new residents, the board recently announced plans to close the facility later this month after accepting an offer to sell the property for $1.2 million.
But a minority of board members and many of the hall's 18 residents charged that the proposed sale was illegal because it did not reflect the wishes of the full membership.
And news of the impending closure elicited strong protests from supporters throughout the city.
"This is part of our American heritage," said George Spota, a television and theatrical producer who said he had come to court Tuesday to express his support for the residents of Sunset Hall. "These people deserve more dignity than this."
After hearing of the board's plans from news accounts, Spota said, he and several other members of the local entertainment industry--including actor Ed Asner--formed a committee to help save Sunset Hall.
Among other things, Spota said, the committee is planning to produce a documentary film on the hall and its residents, which will be used to raise money to keep it operating.
"These people have worked 60 years for other people's rights," Spota said of the hall's elderly residents, aged 77 to 99.
Several Sunset Hall residents who had gathered in court to await the judge's decision greeted the ruling with smiles and hugs.
"I feel wonderful," said Sadie Gordon, 87. "All we want to do is live peacefully. This is the beginning of the beginning."