Tech startups and Mission non-profits might actually be able to co-exist in the Mission District’s hot real estate market. Or so it seems based on an agreement reached by the tech company DoubleDutch and Círculo de Vida, the non-profit DoubleDutch threatened to displace when it requested additional space from their mutual landlord.
At a press conference Thursday, DoubleDutch, Círculo de Vida, and mediator Supervisor David Campos announced an agreement that allows the non-profit to stay in the US Bank Building on 22nd and Mission.
“We are their neighbors, we’re the only ones that can help them out,” said Lawrence Coburn, DoubleDutch’s CEO earlier in the week. “The landlord is in a tough place, they’re running a business.”
As reported elsewhere, Vera Cort, the owner of the US Bank, chose not to renew the cancer resource center’s lease earlier this year. She did so after deciding to rent the entire seventh floor to DoubleDutch –including the offices occupied by Círculo de Vida.
Coburn says when DoubleDutch approached Cort to ask for more space, they didn’t know it would come at the expense of the non-profit on the same floor.
Rather than causing them to vacate the building they’ve inhabited for roughly 11 years, the deal with DoubleDutch stipulates that Círculo de Vida will become a subtenant of the tech company. DoubleDutch will pay to construct a separate suite in the 2,000 square-foot office on the building’s fifth floor. It will accommodate Círculo de Vida’s two full-time, on-site staff members and include space for Círculo’s evening events and support groups. Given the smaller space, the organization will be paying less rent than they were before.
“It’s been extremely stressful,” said Círculo de Vida’s executive director Carmen Ortiz of potentially losing the office space. “But Double Dutch has been willing to meet and talk and negotiate…It’s a smaller space than what we have now, but it’s certainly workable.”
At Thursday’s press conference, Ortiz said that the smaller space will allow the nonprofit to continue operating its same services without interruption.
“It is so important that this organization continues, that they have a place to adequately provide mothers and children separate spaces for services,” said Guadalupe Dumas, a client of Círculo de Vida who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003.
“It’s such a relief that our clients will still be able to come to this neighborhood,” said Ortiz at a press conference Thursday. She explained that most of their clients are low-income patients who use public transit. The location at 22nd and Mission makes their services accessible.
Coburn, who has lived in the Mission for 16 years, says he didn’t anticipated his company’s growth would cause such problems. Last year the company had only 60 employees in its San Francisco office and now has 200.
“I’ve been in the neighborhood for a long time, I didn’t sign up to be guy that’s pushing out non-profits,” said Coburn, explaining that in recent weeks Double Dutch has been the target of several instances of vandalism and break-ins. “I’m not the victim here, but it’s not been fun.”
Ortiz says that once Coburn learned that DoubleDutch might be pushing the non-profit out in January, he was immediately eager to work something out and she “never questioned his sincerity.” However, when Ortiz posted a letter online explaining Círculo de Vida’s possible displacement connected to DoubleDutch’s growth, the neighborhood responded vehemently and letters and phone calls poured into DoubleDutch’s office.
“They became a boogeyman, and that’s unfortunate, but we have to put up a fight,” said Ortiz, whose organization mounted a social media campaign to draw attention to their potential displacement. “I told him when we first met, we may have to leave this building, but we wouldn’t do it quietly.”
“Most of the letters came from concerned people and not scaring and threatening,” said Coburn Thursday, though some were. “Carmen worked very hard and bravely to deescalate situation,” he said.
“Cesar Chavez said: ‘Sí, se puede,’ not, ‘Sí, se puede, assholes,’” Ortiz joked Thursday about the various “nut cases” who sent hate mail to DoubleDutch’s offices.
Coburn says that Círculo de Vida will be protected as DoubleDutch’s subtenant, given that the company is the largest in the building, but acknowledged that his company is continuing to grow and its space needs might change in the future. The tech company’s lease will expire at the end of 2015, with the option to renew until 2016. So Coburn said Círculo de Vida is secure until then as well.
“Let’s say DoubleDutch has to move, that’s a question we’ll have to work through,” said Coburn. “I’ll tell you this, we don’t have any plans for moving in the near future.”
Regarding a similar question, Ortiz said the past few weeks have already given her enough to worry about. “Let’s cross one bridge at a time” she said.