In a Local Space Crisis, Marin Community Foundation Sells 2 Nonprofit Buildings

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Rent-too-damn-high

14 / Matt P.

August 15, 2016; Marin Independent Journal

Buying buildings to house local nonprofits seems to be all the rage among some foundations—sometimes much to their almost immediate regret. But in San Rafael, California, where the cost of space is extraordinary to the extent that it’s seen as a threat to the future of nonprofits, the Marin Community Foundation has decided to sell two buildings it bought more than ten years ago specifically to house local nonprofits in need of affordable space. The sale will reportedly bring $11.6 million.

“We bought them at a time during one of the earlier recessions when a number of nonprofits were having a really hard time,” said Thomas Peters, president of the Marin Community Foundation. “At that time, we were trying to provide some almost emergency space.”

“It’s not our main book of business,” Peters said, regarding the change of heart. “We need, just like any business, to focus—and owning real estate and being landlords is really not a central part of our business—so time to change.”

Among the organizations which will be obliged to leave by December 2017 are Legal Aid of Marin, Advocates for Children, Spectrum LGBT Center, Grassroots Leadership Network, Family & Children’s Law Center, the Asian Advocacy Project, Buckelew Programs, Family Service Agency, Marin Child Care Council, Marin Workforce Housing Trust, and the Marin affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Peters says he doubts the loss of the space deal, which was subsidized, would pose an existential threat to any of the resident nonprofits. “Any organization is always welcome to apply to us for consideration about their costs; that’s what we do,” Peters said. “We’ve been a pretty good supporter and funder of many, many programs, so I would not expect any dire consequences.”—Ruth McCambridge