Clearing the way for a project that has generated widespread neighborhood opposition, state regulators Tuesday issued a long-awaited permit for a home for the terminally ill on Westlake Lake.
“Hallelujah!” said Isobel Oxx, who plans to open the facility. “My goodness.”
But Oxx is one of only a few Westlake residents rejoicing at the news that her state-issued license to open a congregate living facility--similar to a hospice--is in the mail.
Many of her neighbors are outraged by the Westlake widow’s plan to turn her four-bedroom home on the shores of the lake into My Father’s House, a home for the dying. They contend ambulances, hearses and the sight of the sick will destroy their scenic neighborhood and upset their children.
Georgia Duncan, a spokeswoman with the local branch of the state Department of Health Services in Ventura, confirmed that a license has been issued for Oxx to operate a four-bed home. Originally Oxx had applied for a six-bed facility, but state officials decided there was not enough space in her home to accommodate that many people. They also required Oxx to keep a registered nurse on duty 24 hours a day.
Oxx said Tuesday that she hopes to be open for business by the beginning of next week. She said she has a full staff prepared to start work and she has had many inquiries about the home.
How that sits with her unhappy neighbors remains to be seen. They have hired a Santa Barbara law firm to try to halt Oxx’s plans and to defend themselves against a federal fair housing complaint Oxx filed against them. And if the opinion of her next-door neighbor is any indication, they are not giving up.
“I’m totally behind fighting this,” said Jan Kiblinger, whose back yard looks out on Oxx’s deck. “I will fight it as long as we can. I’ll get this law changed.”
Kiblinger and others say that the home is a business, and should be considered as such. The Windward Shores Homeowners Assn. rules, which set neighborhood standards, clearly state that only single-family residences are allowed in the area.
But under state law, small facilities such as the one Oxx plans to open are considered single-family residences and therefore are not subject to any city or county regulations beyond those in place for families. State officials say the law was passed to guard against discrimination.
Earlier this spring, close to 100 residents piled into Thousand Oaks City Council chambers to beg council members to stop the home from opening. But the council could do little more than agree to lobby the Legislature to change the law.
Oxx said that when news first spread around the neighborhood about her plans, she found raw eggs in her mailbox, vials on her lawn and other forms of harassment. On the day she hosted an open house, her neighbors put for-sale-by-owner signs on their front lawns, she said.
Saying that her civil rights were being violated by neighbors, and charging them with ignoring the Fair Housing Act, Oxx filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD accepted her complaint and is reviewing it.
A few weeks ago, neighbors received letters detailing actions the government could take against them, including stiff fines, should her charges prove true. Residents say government intimidation won’t stop them.
Still, Oxx said she expects a peaceful opening for My Father’s House.
“I think [the residents] will come to realize we can be good neighbors,” Oxx said. “Fear can do strange things to people.”
Jane Rieder, a Westlake realtor who owns two homes in Oxx’s neighborhood, said she is concerned about her property values. Had she known about Oxx’s plans earlier, she said, she would have tried to sell her properties.
“We’re just really, really frightened that our property values are going to be affected,” Rieder said.
She is also concerned that the day-to-day peaceful atmosphere in the neighborhood will change.
“I can’t help but think there is going to be a commotion there,” she said. “You can’t have people dying without commotion. There are going to be families visiting and coming in and out.”
‘I don’t think we’ll be disruptive at all,” she said. “I’m sure they’ll realize it’s not what they thought it would be.”