Home  | Advertise with Us  | About Us  | Contact Us
Sunday, 17 December, 2017
Alamo Square Fillmore Jazz District Hayes Valley Nihonmachi Panhandle Bay View Bay Area
Home Page > News Headlines

The quandary of religious nonprofits amid the city housing crisis

Sat, 30 Sep 2017 16:53:00
4.5 / 5 (3 Votes)
Article by:
Michael Orion Powell Deschamps
Reverend Thomas C. Jackson at St. Cyprian's. Photo by Michael Orion Powell Deschamps.
The Bay Area is rife with several nonprofits that exemplify a very contradictory social atmosphere in the region’s major cities. On one hand, cities such as San Francisco or Berkeley demonstrate a dynamic, diverse and largely accepting population that allows all sorts of civil society institutions to flourish. However, because of the high desirability of living here, these nonprofits often are challenged financially simply to survive in such an expensive area, let alone to thrive or flourish.

Sharing Space
   
San Francisco’s St. John Coltrane Church — the only house of worship in the country dedicated to the legendary jazz phenom — was forced to relocate last year after being faced with an eviction notice. The church was previously renting a facility with the West Bay Conference Center on Fillmore Street, where they paid $1,600 a month to hold regular Sunday services. The Fillmore area also was a tumultuous climate for several businesses — Marcus Books and Yoshi’s Jazz Club found themselves packing their bags, along with several local barber shops.
   
After being evicted from there last year, the church has now relocated to a new building on Turk Street, sharing its space with St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church — one of San Francisco’s most dynamic and progressive houses of worship. St. John Coltrane Church is part of the African Orthodox Church, an offshoot of the Orthodox Catholic Church of America originally started by former Episcopalians in 1921. Much like Saint Columba Catholic Church in Oakland, which merges Catholic chants and African American folk songs, St. John Coltrane Church has a unique set up that appears more like a jazz nightclub than a traditional church. Each service starts with a meditation on Coltrane’s music, followed by a sermon.
   
Despite its ties with orthodox denominations, an offer to share space with St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church stood out amongst a litany of differing offers when the church was forced to close its doors last year. St. Cyprian’s has made a significant business out of renting the space it was granted — it promotes its space not only as a place for other houses of worship, but also as a “great space to share with performers, community organizers, neighborhood groups, and individuals,” according to its website, thereby allowing space for weddings, family celebrations, and funerals. St. Cyprian’s website also notes that their kitchen is available to rent by catering businesses. As St. John Coltrane’s Archbishop King said in interview, “nonprofit’ is a misnomer. If you don’t profit, you perish.”

“Rising displacement in the Bay Area”

    A survey was taken by the Northern California Grantmakers — NCG — asking about the stability of operating a nonprofit in the Bay Area. A healthy amount of these nonprofits cater to people of color, women and other marginalized groups, making any possible relocation — especially to locations that make transportation more difficult for prospective clients — a big challenge. NCG cited that approximately 34,000 nonprofits exist in the Bay Area counties, and that more and more have “expressed concern that space is becoming more difficult to obtain or to stay in.”
   
The national real estate firm Commercial Real Estate Services — CBRE — recently assessed that since 2010, the average rent for office space in San Francisco has increased every quarter, or 122%. The tech industry is largely fingered as the culprit in turning Bay Area housing markets into one of the country’s tightest markets.

At least 82% of respondents to an NCG survey said that they are “concerned about the negative impact of the real estate market on their long-term financial stability. While 68% said that they think they will have to make a decision about moving in the next five years, 76% said this is due to affordability. It was also noted that 38% of respondents had already moved, while 30% reported a decline in the material condition of their spaces.
  
The median price per square foot paid by respondents was $1.47/sq. ft., and 63% of nonprofits rent exclusively, while only 12% own their space.
   
One respondent to the survey described the real estate climate in the Bay Area as “a scary time. We have been fortunate thus far, but we know that our landlord could decide at any time to increase our rent to market rate.” Several respondents spoke of being “tolerated” by landlords who could change their mind at any time, with one respondent adding more specifically, “The lack of access to working capital makes sustaining rent and rent increases almost impossible.”
   
Archbishop King remarked that despite a very dedicated and personally driven congregation, churchgoers often commute from as far out as Antioch or the South Bay. “I think that urban centers are being challenged all across the country when you have such displacement, and you have so many working-class people who are being sent out of the center,” he said. “It’s very difficult to survive as an institution.”

Policy Changes

San Francisco is a high demand area, and in a country such as ours, that is only going to mean fierce competition. However, steps can be made to make the conditions of life easier and make it more possible to operate an effective nonprofit organization. San Francisco successfully made their city college system free to residents of the city, so this may be a suitable climate for changes in some places.
   
One suggestion would be to allocate zoning, so that nonprofits can feel stable enough to work and be effective. Another policy suggestion would be an allocation within affordable housing developments — which is already under the purview of the city government. Our houses of worship are a big part of our human community; a space must be set aside so that they can grow and be effective.

Other Challenges

In the midst of such a harsh housing climate, several organizations are promising a relief from the housing climate, while likely making a profit for themselves. Mercy Housing is a low-income housing institution funded by the Roman Catholic Church. Mercy Housing is a Catholic agency with a sparse track record — it maintains many of the low-income housing complexes in cities such as Seattle, including one where a police shooting occurred last year.
   
Twenty-two Presbyterian churches, along with St. John Coltrane’s African Orthodox Church, have signed a letter directed to the mayor of San Francisco and the city’s Roman Catholic Diocese. The letter pronounced that “the residents of Midtown Apartments” had “paid the mortgage (nine years ago) for the 139-unit facility located at Divisadero and Geary Streets,” which Mercy Housing had been seeking to acquire as part of its subsidized housing projects. The implication was that Mercy Housing was pressuring these tenants out in order to make way for their own. “‘Mercy’ is in the name,” Archbishop King told me, “but they’re not being very merciful.”

 
 Other Articles

 
 Other News
Divisadero Farmers Market, every Sunday in October, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Divisadero Farmers...

The Divisadero Farmers Market offers seasonal, organic fare, flowers, and artisanal goodies such as empanadas, jams and...

SFPD Park Station community meetings, Park Station, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 6:00 p.m. SFPD Park Station...

The second Tuesday of each month the Park Station holds a community meeting to provide input, express concerns, or...

Halloween Extravaganza, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 5-10:00 p.m., Grove Street between Central and Baker, free admission Halloween Extravaganza,...

NOPNA — the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association — with the generous help of a lot of neighbors,...

Japanese Parents Group, Thursday, Oct. 26, 10:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. Western Addition Branch Library, free Japanese Parents Group,...

And here’s another opportunity for those interested in opportunities to savor the Japanese language....

Japanese-Language Book Discussion Group, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2-3:00 p.m. Western Addition Branch Library, free Japanese-Language Book...

Take advantage of this rare opportunity to join your neighbors to discuss — in Japanese! — the books you...

Community Kitchen communal dinner, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 6:30 p.m.?9:00 p.m., at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California Community Kitchen...

This ongoing program is designed to bring together members of the community to learn Japanese and Japanese-American...

The Prepared Renter, free workshop offered on Monday, Oct. 16, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. by the SF LGBT Center The Prepared Renter,...

San Francisco remains one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. in which to live. What are the options for those...

“Storytelling through Solo Song” — a voice recital by Baroque Ensemble students, Friday, Oct. 20, 10, 7:30 p.m.at the Conservatory of Music, free “Storytelling through...

Students of the Baroque Ensemble in the Voice Department of the Conservatory of Music will provide an exceptional...

3D Computer Printing Class, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 6-7 p.m., San Francisco Main Library, free 3D Computer Printing...

This is a unique opportunity to learn the basics about creating 3D printed models — everyone is welcome, no...

Jazz at the Fillmore Farmers Market, every Saturday, 9 a.m.-1:00 p.m., Fillmore Center Plaza, free Jazz at the Fillmore...

The Fillmore Farmers Market is the only farmers market in San Francisco, and one of the few in the nation, to offer...



TheWesternEdition.com  | Copyright ©2010-2017, all rights reserved  | Terms of use