Stepping out of the BART at 24th and Mission at most hours of the day one is likely to hear the pulse of African drums, hip hop, or salsa emanating from the second floor studios of Dance Brigade’s Dance Mission Theater. But that music may not continue forever. The performance space and dance school announced that its landlord is seeking a rent increase which may make it a struggle for the non-profit to continue operations in the coming year.
The arts organization has been in negotiations with its landlord for awhile, but it recently spelled out its current troubles in a newsletter to its members, noting that the building’s landlord has raised their rent by $25,000 a year, a roughly 26 percent increase, and put the organization on a one-year lease. They write in their newsletter:
San Francisco has become the playing field for a battle between the forces of financial power and economic gain on one side and the working class, immigrant and artists communities that make this city so special on the other side, and nowhere more than in the Mission. Dance Mission is also caught in the crossfire, having just been taxed with a dramatic rent increase and placed on a one-year lease. We cannot absorb this increase and keep our classes and rental rates affordable, so that our space remains the most financially accessible in the city, without raising the money to offset this blow.
The non-profit is reaching out to its fans and supporters to raise $60,000 so it can afford to stay in the space it’s occupied since 1998 without raising the cost of its classes or facility rental.
Artistic director Krissy Keefer says that the organization has had the same landlord, 24th/Mission Partners, since it first moved in, and while the rent has gone up steadily over the years, news of the latest increase and the limited lease felt like a shock.
“We were given just three months of warning,” said Keefer. “It was threatening and stunning to get this non-negotiable new lease, and it felt very threatening, I don’t know what their intention is, that was just my reaction.”
Keefer says that the relationship with her landlord has been mostly fine and hopes they can work something out. She also says that Dance Mission Theater is working with the San Francisco Arts Commission’s rent mitigation program to help stave off displacement.
“I don’t want to demonize the landlord and really want someone other than me to help to negotiate” she said. “I just really don’t know what their intentions are.”
Dance Mission Theater hosts roughly 1,500 students a week, Keefer estimates, and offers above 48 weeks of live performances throughout the year.
“One of the great thing about Dance Mission Theater is the overlapping communities it brings in,” said Keefer. “We’ve got gay Filipino hip hop crews, performances of one the highest profile transgender performers, feminist dance groups, and this huge Cuban community that teaches classes here.”
That overlapping communities could prove useful in the arts organization’s survival. Keefer says in the first seven days of its fundraiser, Dance Mission Theater has already collected $10,000 in donations.
“I’m just trying to stay hopeful,” says Keefer. “Hopeful and graceful.”
Laura Wenus contributed reporting to this story.
First Published on: Dec 18, 2014 @ 13:30. (Updated Dec. 19, 3:41)