SF nonprofit fights displacement after landlord leases to tech startup 

click to enlarge COURTESY OUR MISSION NO EVICTION FACEBOOK
  • Courtesy Our Mission NO Eviction Facebook
Joining the tide of displaced San Francisco nonprofits, a cancer resource center in the Mission district announced Monday that its landlord will not renew its lease after the landlord rented space to tech startup DoubleDutch.

In turn, supporters of Circulo de Vida Cancer Support and Resource Center at 2601 Mission St. launched a campaign Monday calling attention to the displacement in hopes of blocking the move. The campaign takes aim at DoubleDutch, which creates mobile event apps and has raised more than $75 million in capital, according to its website. The building is owned by Vera Cort.

"I guess Vera Cort feels that sitting in front of a computer creating apps all day is more important than providing needed services to Latinos battling a dreadful disease,” Carmen Ortiz, Círculo de Vida’s executive director, said in a statement. The nonprofit provides services to Latinos living with cancer and their family members.

In its own statement, DoubeDutch said it learned of the nonprofit’s lease not being renewed two months ago and the decision “was made independently by the building management.”

The company said it has been in talks with Ortiz to set up a GoFundMe campaign “where DoubleDutch will be an active participant” to raise money and would volunteer to “help with setting up their new facility when the time comes.”

DoubleDutch is also examining if it could provide Circulo office space after hours when many of its meetings take place, the company said.

“Circulo de Vida is a local Mission institution and has been providing critical support to Latino families for over 20 years,” DoubleDutch CEO Lawrence Coburn said in the statement. “As a Mission resident for 16 years and the founder of a company with deep Mission roots, I am deeply saddened that Circulo de Vida is facing such a difficult situation. We will continue to do everything we can to help them carry on doing their vitally important work in our community.”

Cort told The San Francisco Examiner that since the anti-displacement campaign launched, she has received a lot of emails. Cort said she talked with Coburn on Monday morning about a possible solution.

“The CEO [Coburn] came over today," Ortiz said Monday evening. "He offered to give up some space on one of their floors so I can stay in the building. We will look at the space and see if it’s acceptable. We could deal with a smaller space.”

Ortiz explained that her group has nine employees, usually two on site, and runs six supports groups per month between 6 and 8 pm.

She credited the “community outpouring of support” for the recent developments about the possibility of remaining in the building. Cort told her previously she had to be out by March 31, after operating from the building for the past 11 years. The location, she said, was critical since it is in the Mission and easily accessible by public transit, a preferred choice of travel for the many low-income clients.

“I don’t have a problem with the tech companies, but there has to be a balance,” Ortiz said.

Circulo currently occupies 2,000 square feet on the seventh floor of the building, while the rest of the floor is used by DoubleDutch, which also has space on other floors. The entire building is 90,000 square feet.

“He’s been booming for the last two years,” Cort said of the Coburn’s business. “Isn’t that what we want, jobs and to grow the economy?”

Talks about DoubleDutch freeing up a smaller space, about 700 square feet, for Circulo are ongoing, Cort said.

Still, Cort said Circulo only has two employees and would have an easier time finding space elsewhere in The City as opposed to DoubleDutch, which employs 150 people. The tech company’s lease for the existing space is up in 2017, Cort said.

“I had to make a business decision,” Cort said.

DoubleDutch is paying $2 a square foot, just like Circulo, Cort said. Circulo’s lease has been up since 2009, but has been renewed on a short-term basis.

Cort seems to be taking the current criticism in stride.

“Most of the media and most people, they don’t like landlords,” she said.

Nonprofits struggling to remain in San Francisco amid rising rents fueled by the booming technology industry reached City Hall in 2013. That’s when many nonprofit leaders made a public appeal for help during a Board of Supervisors committee hearing. The City allocated more than $4 million to try and help organizations weather the economic boom. Forty-two applied by the deadline late last year.

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