Inside Noisebridge. Photo by Mitch Altman

Noisebridge, the renowned hackerspace that’s been in the Mission for nine years, will “almost certainly” have to leave its Mission Street space by August 2018, when its lease expires.

“Despite our best efforts to fly under The Storm, The Great San Francisco Reckoning has finally fallen upon us, and Noisebridge is staring displacement in the face in 2018,” wrote the hackerspace in a fundraising call posted on its website on Monday.

The cost of space per square foot has more than tripled since the group began its lease, the post said.

The group is now seeking donations. “A lot of donations,” it says. “More donations than Noisebridge has ever gotten before.”

The hackerspace is one of the most well-known in the Bay Area and has served as a low-barrier educational and collaborative hub for the technologically inclined and disinclined alike.

It moved into the Mission in 2008, but outgrew its first 1,000-square-foot space here and subsequently relocated to its current 5,200-square-foot space at 2169 Mission St.

In the note, the group stressed its importance to the community.

“We believe that San Francisco needs a hackerspace that is open to as many people as possible as often as possible,” it says. “We also strongly believe that the residents and guests of our town deserve a space to pursue their hopes, interests and ambitions at their own pace in a safe space where lack of funds is no barrier to entry.”  

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7 Comments

  1. Hi, I’m here to rain on the parade.

    My name is Al Sweigart. I was a member since it’s opening, and was twice elected to its board of directors.

    I am begging you not to give Noisebridge your money.

    Please, give any other nonprofit your money. Giving your money to Noisebridge is just throwing it away.

    Noisebridge survives because it has a constant churn of new people with disposable income who get introduced to the space, think it’s awesome, and then floats it a while longer. But Noisebridge is a dysfunctional, toxic environment. The sooner it shuts its doors, the sooner a better hackerspace can replace it.

    I wrote this up in a blog post when someone reached out to be about this space.

    I’ll grab some excerpts:

    > “Noisebridge is different now” is a line that’s been fed for years even before I left. Until they get rid of consensus, a minority of people will always be able to prevent any meaningful change and selfishly monopolize the space for their private drinking/toking club and bedroom. And a lot of people said that we shouldn’t just turn out people who were homeless from sleeping at the space, but I couldn’t help but notice that the people living in the space were always either white, male, or in their 20s, but most often all three. You have to be the right kind of homeless person to sleep there. They certainly aren’t opening their doors to the people at 16th & Mission.

    > When Double Union (a women’s hackerspace) opened they had to stop taking member applications because they were flooded with so many. A lot of women wanted a hackerspace. The demand was there. The reason they didn’t go four blocks over to Noisebridge was because they didn’t feel safe there. But the Noisebridge line was “well, I’ve never seen these problems”.

    > Don’t let the anarchist rhetoric fool you: Noisebridge is the most viciously conservative organization I’ve ever been a part of.

    > I helped push for a Code of Conduct. I helped push to ban the first person NB ever banned (a guy who was sexual harassing multiple women, and not in a “light joking” manner but a scary one; people still said I was part of a witch hunt anyway). I ran for board twice and got elected twice. I put in hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into that organization. But still people will tell you “Al’s just a control freak and wants to make all these rules, he doesn’t know what Noisebridge is like.”

    > A lot of people have helped to make some changes at Noisebridge, and we all burned out and had better things to do and left. It’s a long list of people, and ex-Noisebridgers make up a ton of my friends.

    Sorry for being the bearer of bad news. For the longest time, I was also a cheerleader for Noisebridge despite all its problems. But now I’ve resolved to stop sugarcoating my descriptions of that place.

    Please, give your money to any other organization other than Noisebridge.

    1. I started going to Noisebridge when I moved to San Francisco in the summer of 2016. Since then I’ve learned so much about sewing and laser cutting wood and plastic projects and electronics. I’ve met lots of wonderful people there, including women who teach me what they know and inspire me through their projects and careers. I try to give back to the community as well, having trained many people on the laser cutter, taught coding for interviews, and more recently, run a plastic manufacturing for women+ workshop and Fixit Clinic where people can come and fix their own broken stuff.

      I’m sorry that you haven’t been around to see the effects of your hard work. Noisebridge now has an anti harassment policy in addition to the code of conduct, and community members continually put in work to keep the place accessible, inclusive, and safe. It’s not perfect: anyone can ring the bell and come visit Noisebridge, and that means that sometimes we meet people who aren’t a good fit for the space, for reasons ranging from giving others unwanted attention, to just being at a stage where they need a type of support that Noisebridge is not equipped to give. These people are asked to leave.

      I don’t doubt that there was a time when Noisebridge was not in a good place. I’ve heard stories of how it got so bad in 2014 that people did a Reboot where they shut the space down completely, thought very carefully about how they wanted the space to be like, and opened again with new systems in place. These systems included adding a lock on the door so that visitors need to be let in, and maintaining a culture of preventing people from sleeping in the space (this is important because living in a non residential place is illegal).

      As a maker and also a woman, I’ve found Noisebridge to be an encouraging, generous, and inclusive community in a city where I knew no one. I was pretty sad to read your comment. I invite you and anyone else to come by the space to attend one of our events or just to visit, and see for yourself.

  2. Hello Al, Jarrod here. We only met a couple times at Noisebridge.

    I looked up to you as an example of what a Noisebridge member should be and I’m bummed that you haven’t been a part of the improvements to the space since you left. I would have liked to have worked with you on the space. It seems like many of the things you were working toward in the space have become reality since then; significantly better enforcement of the anti-harassment policies you helped institute, better access control, we got rid of the kitchen, and we even close at night which has prevented people from attempting to live in the space. We’ve kept working to make Noisebridge a safe space for hacking and we’re continuing to get better at it and you are a part of why it is better today.

    We still have us consensus, which I know left you without the power to fix the space, but I’m not so sure that it was consensus or the fact that we just didn’t have enough people around to help you against the people who were abusing the space. It was a bad time for Noisebridge, and I think it still hurts those of the rest us who were around at the time that things got so bad before we simply closed the space for a while to try again..

    Nevertheless, I am sorry that things went so badly for you at Noisebridge. You worked really hard on it and I’m sorry you didn’t get better support.

    I still believe that San Francisco should have a hackerspace that is as open as much possible to as many as possible, and I think that Noisebridge is really starting to achieve that goal.

    (It is hard to know where to respond to your note as it is turning up many places, I’ll paste it as some of the other locations you’ve posted, but I hope this message does reach you.)

      1. I live in the peninsula, few times I got the chance to visit NB. I am seriously considering moving tot he city. Would be nice to have NB in the city, joining you guys as an active member, paying my membership dues and supporting with whatever means I could.

        Can you tell me whether NB is still in business at all, at the Mission St., or somewhere else?

        Thanks,

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