This article has been corrected. See note at the bottom.
Despite years of advocacy to keep the historic Redstone Building in community hands, the building has been sold to a real estate company called Aurora Lights LP.
The 107-year-old building at 16th and Capp streets is home to numerous artists, nonprofits and businesses.
On Wednesday, Redstone tenants received a notice of change in ownership as of Nov. 17. It directed them to start paying rent to Aurora Lights LP, listed at 4 Embarcadero Center, Suite 1400.
It’s unclear how much Aurora Lights paid for the Redstone building. It was up for sale for around $25 million, but during negotiations in 2019 with a nonprofit, the price dropped to $15 million.
The change-in-ownership notice lists James Kilpatrick, president of Lakeside Investment Company, as associated with Aurora Lights. John Rivera, the Lakeside asset and acquisition manager, who had been speaking with tenants, declined to comment when reached by phone.
Lakeside made headlines in 2015 for purchasing a run-down SRO building housing elderly Asian tenants in the East Bay, and renovating it for student and tech tenants. It appears that the building has been renovated, but at present, there are no listings.
Aurora representatives have been visiting Redstone tenants for the past few months to inspect the building. Tenants were also told in recent weeks to duplicate keys, purportedly for Aurora’s use.
“We’re running out of shit to save. We keep losing these spaces,” said Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, a homelessness organization that has leased space in the Redstone Building for decades.
Ever since the previous owner, David Lucchesi, put the building on the market in 2018, tenants have tried to find a nonprofit solution. Multiple tenants incited vocal protests, a GoFundMe was launched, and tenants attempted to convince the city to buy the building and save it for community use.
Tenants like Boden fear the change of hands will lead to an uptick in rent, which could usher out low-income groups or artists that were attracted to the space for its low rents.
“As a homeless organization, we could say, ‘this is who we are,’ and we could still get a place. We were welcomed with open arms. We were seen as active and engaged community members,” Boden said. “And we could get it at a rate we could afford because it was a space that that shit was okay.”
Although new building owners must honor previous leases and rent, once a lease expires, the new landlord can draw up a completely new agreement.
But, like Paula Tejeda, owner of the ground-floor empanada joint Chile Lindo, many of the tenants have long been on month-to-month leases.
“It was a handshake economy back there,” confirmed Thomas Tran, a visual artist who leased a space at Redstone from 2018 until a few weeks ago.
But the low rent and aging building also meant deteriorating facilities, Tran said. He observed rats, pigeons, mold, policies of bring-your-own toilet paper, and squatters during his stay.
Nearly all tenants agree the Redstone is overdue for a renovation, but Boden worries this could trigger a series of evictions.
That’s a major reason tenants lobbied nonprofits to buy the building with financial assistance from the city. A 2019 Board of Supervisors resolution vowed to “preserve the Redstone Labor Temple as a center for social and economic justice organizations, non-profit service and advocacy agencies, artists, and cultural groups by and for the Mission District’s poor and working class.”
Clearly, the resolution failed to bring about that end.
That same year, however, the Mission Economic Development Agency showed interest in buying. It fell $7 million short of the asking price and asked the city to pitch in $1 million. Already, Lucchesi whittled the price down from $22 million to $15 million at the community’s behest. Ultimately, however, the nonprofit couldn’t afford it.
“As a nonprofit, we made it clear from the start that MEDA could not make this Redstone deal a reality on our own. That, based on the asking price, we would need the full support of the City, investors, philanthropists and community members to be able to maintain affordable rents for all longtime tenants, plus rehab the edifice,” wrote Christopher Gil, a spokesman for MEDA, in a September email. “While some important support was forthcoming, it was not possible to gather the full support needed to make this deal workable.”
Boden blames the city for that failure. “I’m really sick and tired of our local elected officials treating the issue of gentrification as if it is a tagline for their political campaigns as opposed to something that they are actually willing to address and fight,” he said. “You keep on this pontificating liberal ass bullshit that you give a fuck, and you control millions in a budget, and you can’t find some resources?”
The impact is yet to be seen. Louis Cornejo from the Urban Group Real Estate, who is brokering the deal, said he would not talk until month’s end.
“There’s going to be a change. There’s no doubt about it. How it’s going to affect us, that’s to be seen,” Tejeda said.
Corrections: An earlier version of this story misspelled Paula Tejeda’s name. It also inaccurately reported the amount of rent she pays. Our apologies.