After months of deliberations, Precita Eyes Muralists and the Mission Economic Development Agency have persuaded the owner of a building on Precita Avenue to accept an offer. The building houses the muralists’ community center as well as five longtime tenants. The acceptance comes on the condition that the development agency, known as MEDA, and Precita Eyes raise a $200,000 down payment by the end of next month.
Fundraising efforts to meet the December 31 and January 22 deadlines are well underway, including a CrowdRise campaign.
The building at 348 Precita Ave. was listed for $995,000 in late August. The ground floor commercial space was Precita Eyes Muralists’ first location and is now a community center and studio as well as a storage area. The second floor and an attic space include three units, housing a total of five longtime tenants. Community organizers, as well as the muralists, were primarily concerned that a new buyer would evict the rent-controlled tenants.
“I don’t want to be focused on Precita Eyes, because we’re trying to save the building for all of our homes and businesses,” said Susan Kelk Cervantes, the founder of Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center. “I feel that that’s a really important cause and that I feel strongly about being behind that.”
Some tenants have been anxious since the building went on the market, not just because of the possibility of being evicted, but because of the trying conversations that come with building sales.
Samantha Lunt, a two-year resident of the building who grew up in the neighborhood and whose roommate has been in the building for some 30 years, recalled a few prospective buyers. One, she said, she found standing on her front steps unannounced when she arrived home at 11 p.m. one night. He had brought his family to check out the view.
“At walkthroughs [buyers would say] ‘oh, well, I’d tear this wall down,’ and you’re sitting in your living room,” Lunt said.
The building owners, according to a relative, are longtime San Francisco residents with little fortune to their name.
“This is the one and only commercial property the family owns, in SF or anywhere else. We are not ‘big investors’ by any stretch of the imagination,” the relative commented on an earlier Mission Local story on the sale.
The sellers will receive a $28,000 good-faith deposit by December 31. MEDA’s Director of Community Real Estate Karoleen Feng said the seller accepted the nonprofit’s third offer, which, she said, is market competitive. While MEDA’s first offer involved the use of a seller’s note, an agreement to pay the seller the price of the building over time, the latest offer was made with an acquisition loan from a credit union.
“We increased our offer each time,” Feng said. “We also understood the condition of the building, having walked through the building a couple of times with the residents, and we also agreed to accept the building in its current condition.”
Deferred maintenance, she said, means the rear deck and garage require significant repair.
But there is still work to be done.
Feng said the nonprofit is arranging for neighbors and friends to not just make donations but make short term loans. After funding for nonprofit acquisition of small sites like this one becomes available from Proposition A bond money, MEDA intends to refinance the building using some of the bond money and repay the lenders in about a year’s time, with a bit of interest. Additional funding may be provided by a loan from the San Francisco Foundation to cover any gap left by the crowdfunding.
Precita Eyes muralist Nancy Pili Hernández said some of the muralist group’s core staff and organizers had already put their life savings toward the fundraising goal, and one resident said a single individual had pledged $20,000.
Cervantes and others said the first milestone is within reach.
“It’s already done,” said Cervantes. “I’m sure that we can make the goal.”
“We will make this property a nice place for the area,” said tenant Gigi Amos, a musician and music teacher. “We’re going to make it a nice place, and we’re going to run it as a co-op, and we’re going to continue to live and work here and contribute to the community, like we do.”
Disclosure: Mission Local rents a commercial office from a MEDA-owned building.