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Filth at Castro Valley boarding home concerns neighbors
Contra Costa Times
CASTRO VALLEY -- State and county agencies are investigating a former elderly care home with a spotty record now claiming to be a boardinghouse, as concern grows among neighbors over cramped and dirty conditions inside the ranch-style home.
Trouble on Tanglewood Drive surfaced Christmas morning when neighbors learned the man running the home left for a two-week vacation in New York City and a woman who was supposed to cook a daily meal was not showing up.
Neighbors invited inside said there was trash strewn throughout the home, no heat, and a wheelchair ramp outside used by residents was rotted.
"Absolutely filthy," is how neighbor Linda Honeyman described it. "The floor was filled with dirty clothes and garbage."
Now, the state Department of Social Services, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and the county's Adult Protective Services are investigating the home, where at least five adults live with a man and his young son. At least one resident has asked to be moved from the home, and others may follow, according Nicole Fauss, owner of Hayward-based Above and Beyond Senior Services, which helps place seniors in homes.
This is the second case in two years in which questions have been raised about a home in Castro Valley that houses elderly residents. In 2013, the owners of Valley Springs Manor abandoned elderly and mentally ill patients after officials ordered the home to be shut down. But residents remained, and a janitor and cook stayed behind to provide care for two days until authorities moved in. The home's owner and top administrator were later charged with felony elder abuse.
In this case, Accent Garden Care Home operated as a state licensed adult care facility until November 2014, with Cynthia Crews listed as the operator. Michael Weston, a spokesman for the state Department of Social Services, said the care home racked up 22 violations of direct threats to the health and safety of its residents, as well an additional eight lesser threats to people who lived there.
Crews said she still owns the Tanglewood home, but Wednesday she told this newspaper it is leased to her nephew, Jonathan Carlton. Carlton, a New York City native, confirmed he is leasing the home and said he provides one warm meal a day to tenants and rents rooms for about $800 a month, mainly to people he said have little money and few options. Two sisters told police they share a room for $1,500.
Carlton maintains the people living in his home require no medical help and come and go as they please so he does not need to be a licensed care facility.
The county Planning Department said the Tanglewood Drive home does not have a use permit, which is required for boardinghouse-style residences that rent to four or more people. Carlton said he doesn't think he needs that permit, either.
"As an American, I have a right to rent out any room on my property," Carlton said during a Wednesday interview in his car outside his home hours after he returned from New York. "I'm saving people's lives who are slipping through the cracks."
Invited into the home by resident Robert Korman, this newspaper toured the Tanglewood home Tuesday and found dirty conditions inside rooms shared by multiple people. A bed was seen in the living room, which was devoid of seating, and the kitchen was locked and only accessible from a portion of the home where Carlton lives.
The five adults ranging in age from their 40s to 85 also have no access to laundry on site. One man there suffers from a deteriorated spine and requires medications for pain, according to a report by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.
As for the cleanliness of the rooms, Carlton said residents are in charge of cleaning up after themselves.
"You got to look at it like this. Clean to me is bleach on the walls. That's my level of clean," the 42-year-old said. "How can I judge you on how clean you are? Is it as clean as your mother's standard? Maybe, maybe not."
Korman, an 85-year-old resident with no family in California, said he doesn't remember exactly how he came to live at the home but it was after a visit to a hospital. Neighbors fed Korman and others on Christmas Day after he told them he had not been eating because Carlton was away, according to a police report.
"They didn't leave the place in anyone's hands," Korman said. He said he wants to be put in another home. "I would like to be alone but looked after."
Other residents told the Sheriff's Office they are comfortable in the home and want to stay, according to the police report. The Sheriff's Office said its investigation is ongoing, but it did not find any immediate threats to the safety of the residents.
The state Department of Social Services said it will send inspectors out to check on residents and determine if the home should be operating with a state license.
Two workers from Adult Protective Services visited the home Wednesday, as did Fauss, who has found a home for Korman in Oakland and said more residents there may move out. Fauss said she saw black mold in one room.
"They deserve better than a smelly room. I would not send my dog to live there," she said.
Pat McGinnis, the executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, found it hard to believe the Tanglewood residents did not require some form of care.
"If people are in wheelchairs, they need care," McGinnis said. "How do they get in and out of bed? How do they get around? The idea of 'All I do is provide them a meal' is, frankly, baloney."
David DeBolt covers breaking news. Contact him in Oakland at 510-208-6453. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.