Mission nonprofit cancer center fights off tech displacement 

click to enlarge Supervisor David Campos, right, announces a sublease at a new space for Círculo de Vida, a cancer center that was facing displacement from its Mission office. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Supervisor David Campos, right, announces a sublease at a new space for Círculo de Vida, a cancer center that was facing displacement from its Mission office.

A nonprofit cancer resource center in the Mission has staved off displacement from DoubleDutch after the app company agreed to sublease space to the group.

The announcement Thursday was hailed as the kind of solution that other companies could emulate to soften the impacts the booming technology industry is having on nonprofits being displaced by soaring rents.

"This has been a very stressful and a very painful process," said Carmen Ortiz, Círculo de Vida's executive director. "It's just a relief."

In November, she was informed by the 2601 Mission St. building owner Vera Cort that after 11 years as a tenant, the center would have to vacate the building because the tech company needed more space. The nonprofit has provided services for Latinos battling cancer and their family members for more than two decades.

The impending displacement ignited a furor in the Mission community, which some say has suffered the brunt of the tech industry's impact on rent increases and evictions. But after some negotiating, including with the neighborhood Supervisor David Campos, an agreement was reached to retain the center.

DoubleDutch CEO Lawrence Coburn, who announced the agreement with Ortiz and Campos, will sublease a smaller space in the building two floors down on the fourth floor to the nonprofit.

The nonprofit currently occupies 2,400 square feet at $4,000 per month on the seventh floor. The new space is 1,400 square feet for a rent of $2,500. The growing tech company is expected to renew its building lease in 2016 but future plans are uncertain.

"I don't consider this a permanent space," Ortiz said. "We are going to be working with community leaders to find something that is more permanent."

Ortiz had previously looked at other places, but could only find rents at about $7,000, which she said the nonprofit couldn't afford.

Coburn said the agreement will allow the nonprofit to operate without disruption. He said the space, which the company will fix up at its own cost, is "enough to run their service very close to how they are running it today." The company employs about 160 workers at that building and a majority live in the neighborhood, Coburn said.

Having lived in the Mission for 16 years, Coburn said he understood the "tensions" and supports the nonprofit, but noted he also has "a responsibility to my investors and to my employees that we have a place to work."

Campos celebrated the resolution.

"They did something that I don't know that anyone else has really done. It creates a model for how ... so many others can play a role in protecting these very important institutions."

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