By Ali Tadayon | Bay Area News Group | East Bay Times
OAKLAND — Oakland nonprofits fearing displacement because of rising rents have a working group of other nonprofits, funding organizations and city and county leaders in their corner.
The Nonprofit Displacement Project, organized by philanthropy network Northern California Grantmakers in 2015, is working to secure affordable space for nonprofits in the Bay Area as well as to provide them with the technical skills to find and keep their own space.
The group’s formation coincided with the publishing of survey results showing that half of the Oakland nonprofits that responded anticipated having to make a decision about relocation in the next five years.
Of the 115 Oakland nonprofits that primarily serve low-income communities of color that responded to the survey by Northern California Grantmakers, 87 percent said the current real estate market affects their organization. Fourteen Oakland nonprofits expected having to leave the city.
“That report really highlighted what the scope of the problem was,” said Sarah Frankfurth, manager of collaborative philanthropy for Northern California Grantmakers. “It painted a much starker picture than what people had anticipated.”
The group — which consists of about 30 representatives — identifies and helps foster affordable office spaces for nonprofits, helps nonprofits navigate leasing affordable spaces, and provides and identifies funding for nonprofits facing displacement. Some nonprofits are trying to purchase buildings, others are banding together in multi-tenant centers, Frankfurth said.
“There’s not one solution; it’s a complicated issue that’s going to take a lot of different strategies to have an impact,” Frankfurth said.
The group has long-term goals of supporting city and county policies that will secure affordable space for nonprofits.
“We need to be able to create policy changes that are either removing barriers for nonprofits requiring space or creating space,” Frankfurth said. “That might be in the form of some kind of community benefit agreement.”
The group will be launching an online resource center for nonprofits in early 2018.
Another effort to help nonprofits avoid displacement is the Community Arts Stabilization Trust, or CAST, supported by Oakland’s Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. CAST purchases properties occupied by Bay Area art nonprofits and holds them until the tenant can raise the money to purchase it back from the trust at cost.
The Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco benefited from the trust when its landlords wanted to sell the building at Sixth and Market streets in the Tenderloin, said Shelley Trott, Kenneth Rainin Foundation arts strategy and ventures director. CAST purchased the space and another nearby for about $2.5 million, Trott said, and the gallery is working to purchase the building back in 2021 — for what CAST paid for it in 2013.
“The culture of a city is its soul,” Trott said. “The arts touch all of us, and bring us together and create that common ground. We see ourselves in art but we see everyone else.”
CAST has a program called Keeping Space Oakland, which provides mid-sized Oakland arts nonprofits technical and financial assistance to become “real estate ready,” Trott said. This year, CAST provided $90,000 in real estate training and consultation services to six organizations.
The Ubuntu Theater Project, which puts on theater festivals and plays throughout the Bay Area, received aid from Keeping Space Oakland. Ubuntu managing director Michael Moran said the program helped the group to identify potential permanent spaces, as well as gave it some money to turn a church loft space into a theater.
“(The program) has been pretty instrumental,” Moran said. “There is a sort of doggedness about trying to make an arts organization work. The truth is, we probably couldn’t do it without them and without community support in general.”
The Kenneth Rainin Foundation announced Tuesday that CAST received a $3 million, three-year grant. Though the money will be used throughout the Bay Area, Trott said, Oakland nonprofits will get priority. CAST organizers hope to acquire 100,000 square feet of space for arts groups by the end of 2018.
This piece was originally published in the East Bay Times. Read Here >