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May 21, 2022

Meals on Wheels facing eviction

LIVE OAKMeals on Wheels (MOW) is looking for a new home after being served an eviction notice by Live Oak School District, which has been leasing its location to the organization for more than four decades.

The district has told the organization that the aging space poses several safety concerns, and that it is looking to convert the spot at 1777 Capitola Road into teacher housing.

MOW says it knew about those plans, so the news did not come as a shock. Still, the six-month deadline is posing a challenge for MOW, which runs its kitchen, dining site and administrative offices out of the site, says Jayme Ackemann, a spokesperson for Community Bridges, which runs the meal delivery program.

“We understood there were long-term plans for this site, and we were working towards our own long-term location,” she said. “But we believed we had more time to do that.”

MOW makes and distributes more than 180,000 meals annually to Santa Cruz County seniors. 

In addition, some 45 people per day are served by the onsite senior center, where the mid-county location draws people from throughout the county, Ackemann said.

“The more local these services are to the people who need them, the more effective they are going to be,” she said.

Ackemann questions the assertions that the safety concerns are so urgent that they require an immediate move-out.

“The idea that there is suddenly an urgency is new,” she said. “It’s the abruptness that took us off guard.”

MOW has a potential site, Ackemann said, but declined to give specifics because it is still under negotiation.

Santa Cruz County Supervisor Manu Koenig, whose district covers the building, says the organization has been on a month-to-month lease since 2017 as the district readied its plans for teacher housing.

“It’s a huge need for them, and they want to put that property to work solving that problem,” he said. “Their main concern is that the building needs major repairs, and they feel like they wouldn’t be good landlords if they let the tenants stay there for another winter.”

Koenig said that the situation presents an opportunity to improve services within the MOW program. In a recent request for proposals—required every five years by the federal government—the organization Grey Bears stated that it is poised to take on the services.

The organization, Koenig says, has two commercial kitchens—one in mid-county and one in Watsonville—and already has a food delivery program.

“There is actually an opportunity to combine Meals on Wheels and the Healthy Food Program so seniors have just one service to sign up for,” he said. “Hopefully they can manage that transition if Community Bridges can no longer deliver on the program.”

Live Oak School District Superintendent Daisy Morales did not respond to a request for comment by deadline. But she told KSBW that the school board declined to make temporary repairs to the facility to allow MOW to stay, saying it wouldn’t help students.

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