Concord senior housing residents cry foul over monthly $350 service fee

A sign welcomes drivers into Concord. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group archives)

CONCORD — Myron and Birdie Lou Paine enjoy their independent lifestyle at Carlton Senior Living where they can walk to stores and whip up a meal in their kitchen

Since 2015, the octogenarian couple has lived in an apartment at the complex at 1700 Broadway near the Park & Shop shopping center.

But facing the possibility of paying $697 more per month beginning in January, Myron Paine said he looked into senior communities in North Carolina, near the couple’s daughter.

Currently, the Paines pay $2,897 in rent, which includes a $395 monthly fee for an additional person. In November, Carlton notified them that their base rent would increase by 5.9 percent to $2,649 and the charge for a second person would rise to $595.

Furthermore, the couple would have to pay $350 per month for additional services they don’t want, including three daily meals (up from two); weekly housekeeping and laundry; expanded activities and transportation service and high-speed Internet and cable service.

Under Concord’s rent review ordinance, both the second person charge and the service package fee are considered rent. Therefore, the couple’s proposed Jan. 1 total monthly rent of $3,594 constituted a 24 percent increase, well above the 10 percent threshold for filing an appeal under the ordinance.

The Paines and several of their neighbors contacted the city and ECHO Housing, which provides mediation services.

“We don’t struggle with getting money to pay the rent, but if we have to pay that $350 per month that’s going to come out of our life savings,” Myron Paine said.

Carlton apparently denied the couple’s request to decline the service package.

“We discussed that our rates include services you may not use or opt out of, including transportation, activities, housekeeping and meals,” Carlton Senior Living executive director Peter Nixdorff wrote in a Nov. 11 letter to the Paines.

Nixdorff added that the company does not offer “a la carte service options.”

Carlton added the services after hearing from tenants, but the $350 fee was not mandatory, according to Todd Kemerly, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

“This was in response to feedback from residents. What wasn’t clearly communicated was that this service package is optional,” Kemerly said.

In a Dec. 1 letter, Carlton informed tenants they can opt out of paying the $350 service package in writing or by speaking with Nixdorff. The company will require new residents to pay the fee.

“If it was a miscommunication problem, they didn’t proofread their letter very well,” Myron Paine said.

Relieved that they won’t have to pay for services they don’t want, for now the couple plans to stay at Carlton.

“If we find things are going worse than we expected here, we might be making that move,” he added.

Carlton owns 11 senior housing communities in Concord, Pleasant Hill, Davis, San Leandro, San Jose, Fremont, Sacramento and Elk Grove. The 152-unit independent living apartment building in Concord is the only property without a memory care or assisted living component.

Although the company abandoned its plan to buy two adjacent parcels and build 30 units for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, Carlton intends to convert the Concord complex to assisted living, according to Kemerly.

“We’re seeking for the entire building to be assisted living, but we have existing residents there that don’t need those services,” Kemerly said. “They would have the option down the road if they need those services. They would only pay for the services they need.”

Carlton intends to expand the kitchen and dining room, but Kemerly does not anticipate the need to make significant changes in the individual apartments.

Carlton had not submitted an application for a residential care facility for the elderly license to the state Department of Social Services as of Dec. 8, according to agency spokesman Michael Weston.

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