San Francisco nonprofit organizations are not alone in their quest for reasonable rents and adequate space to run their programs – and creative arts such as dance, music and theater are not the only ones in danger of extinction as a result of the booming economy and subsequent rent hikes and evictions.
Here in Berkeley an important social service nonprofit program will be in jeopardy if it doesn’t find a new space soon.
“The market is so volatile right now that as soon as we find a place it’s either gone or we’re outbid, sometimes by as much as $300,000,” said Ronald Fick, executive director of the Association for Retarded Citizens.
ARC, which has been operating out of their 6,000-square-foot facility for almost 32 years, helps adults with severe developmental disabilities learn basic life skills such as how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and how wash their hands and faces.
The facility has become like a second home to about 42 mentally and physically disabled adults ranging in age from 22 to 59, many of who have been enrolled in the program for more than 15 years.
The building, located at 1007 University Ave., was donated to ARC to help aid the mentally retarded in 1969 by The Mobilized Women of Berkeley.
The ARC organization sold the building to adjacent Amsterdam Art for $800,000 in October 1999. Fick cited major electrical and plumbing problems, poor access and lack of adequate parking as reasons for the sale.
“The building is old and it just isn’t meeting our current needs,” Fick said.
Mark Rhoades, current planning manager for the city, said ARC and many other nonprofit organizations in the area are going to be hard pressed to find space in the current market.
“Everybody is looking for space now and it’s coming at a premium. It’s not only scarce but it’s financially prohibitive, especially for nonprofits. Vacancy rates in the East Bay are at historic and unhealthy lows and people with marginal income will continue to get squeezed out.”
The fact that the ARC program is state funded and licensed and, as such, must meet a certain criteria won’t make it any easier. The new facility must be able to accommodate six toilets and six sinks and have 4,000 to 6,000 square feet of space on one floor. In addition Fink said they need eight parking spaces and several offices.
“We’re exploring all possible options. We’re willing to pay upward of $800,000 for a new space and we’re working with several Realtors,” Fick said.
Rene Minneboo, owner of Amsterdam Art, has given Fick and the ARC program until March 2000 to find a new facility and said that if they don’t, he will be faced with “a real moral dilemma.”
He said if they can’t find a space it will be a huge problem for him because he is in the midst of expanding his business as well as launching a Web site.
“The future of my business depends on getting into that space but alternatives like eviction . . . I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror let alone face the community. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come down to that.”