New pilot program helps arts nonprofits find new homes

Executive Director of CounterPULSE, Jessica Robinson Love, tours a group through the new home of the nonprofit.
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Just a few months ago arts nonprofits CounterPULSE and The Luggage Store were facing an uncertain future. New tech neighbors drove their rents sky high, and the groups that for years were venues for struggling artists were struggling themselves.

“Twitter moved in literally behind our building,” said Jessica Robinson Love, executive director of CounterPULSE. Lacking the deep pockets of a tech company, they readied for a move to Oakland. 

But now a nonprofit with money to match the tech gentrifiers is ready to spend, and its sole mission is to help displaced arts organizations find permanent homes. 

In a packed press conference just outside The Luggage Store on Market, the foundation-funded Community Arts Stabilization Trust announced Wednesday that it would purchase two properties for the longstanding Mid-Market nonprofits. Risky renters no longer, both nonprofits will soon own their own buildings, shielded from the ebbs and flows of rent surges. 

Flanked by Mayor Ed Lee and Sup. Jane Kim, CAST said The Luggage Store will stay on Market and 6th, and CounterPULSE will move five blocks away into an old porn theater on Turk Street. The two arts nonprofits have been in San Francisco since the early ‘90s, bringing up dancers and visual artists alike. 

“Yes, rents are rising because of our success,” Lee said to the crowd. “But this will be a city for the 100 percent.” 

The city gave just over $300,000 toward helping the nonprofits find a new home, a small fraction compared to the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, which committed $5 million to CAST. The new nonprofit then bought the properties, a new strategy of pooling funds to save arts organizations. When and how the program would expand is still unclear, but there is a definite need among nonprofits for property stability.

“The bottom line is nonprofits can't compete on a commercial real estate market,” Love said, a topic we’ve covered before (Losing our conscience, Oct/15). Now they can breathe, but the reprieve is only temporary.

CounterPULSE needs to raise millions of dollars to pay CAST for the property, which it hopes to do before moving into the space in 2015, Love told us. The amount isn’t exact yet because it’s still applying for a number of grants that could mitigate the costs. 

The long wait before moving is due to the extensive repairs needed at the 80 Turk St. site. Formerly the Gayety theater and Dollhouse, the site was littered with broken glass and piles of trash. Construction crews have cleared a lot of it out, but the place is in disrepair, with cracked walls and silhouette paintings of nude performers gracing the glass above the entrance.

The Guardian took a tour of the site with Love, and she saw through the crumbling plaster to what could be.


Jessica Robinson Love looks out the window at the Tenderloin neighborhood from CounterPULSE's new venue. 

Spreading her arms wide in the old porn theater, she described the walls coming down to make space for dancers like CounterPULSE has never had before. They have only one room in their current building. 

Leading us downstairs, careful to point out loose wiring and jutting floorboards, she showed us where performers would practice. On the top floor the light shone in and it was a bit easier to imagine what she saw -- a space where visiting artists could stay for the duration of their exhibits.

“It’s magic,” she said. 

As she grinned wide, she looked out the window of the second floor to the milieu below. The neighborhood is on the edge of the Tenderloin, and outside was the usual crowd.

Would there be a place for them in this new space for artists? Or would they be displaced, like CounterPULSE was? 

They already have agreements with SROs to perform for tenants, and street art is a part of the package. They’re a progressive arts group, she said, “from food justice to prison reform, from housing advocacy to rental rights.” 

In her eyes, the arts are a way to bring together a community. She wants to give them a safe place to come out at night, and a reason to celebrate. 


building for far less than it is worth? What is the ongoing financial commitment year-on-year? How much could taxes have been reduced if instead this group had instead moved to Oakland, which they clearly were very willing to do?

And where did this non-profit get the funds, over and above the 300K that us taxpayers have just given them without any democratic input?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

you excreted your neo-liberal feces, you would have learned that the group of non-profits received $5 million in foundation funding. You know, donations from rich people. Isn't that what you are always crowing about? The generosity of our superior sub-species, the wealthy.

I guess nothing is good enough for some haters.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

came from wealthy individuals. Can you point out where it said that? No, didn't think so.

Neo-liberal? Not neo-con? You must have me mixed up with someone else.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

their "philanthropy." Doesn't everybody know that?

If you read the article, you wouldn't have asked where the rest of the money came from.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

suck at the taxpayers' teat. Just want to be sure you have fully researched the exact source of these funds. Have you? Or are you just bluffing and generalizing hoping that the difficult questions will not be asked?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

Yes, foundations and non-profits are a scam.

Example: 97% of AIDS Walk donations go to rent, executive salaries, and administrative costs.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

Help renters become owners. Excellent strategy!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

there is no compulsion via eminent domain, this libertarian can support that.

Maybe tenants will behave more responsibly and less parasitically once they own.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

“Yes, rents are rising because of our success,” Lee said to the crowd. “But this will be a city for the 100 percent.”

Can't this piece of work tell the truth about anything, ever? "Our success?" WTF? Rents are rising because of your CORPORATE WELFARE gift to parasitic/leach tech companies, Lee. Can't you tell the truth about anything?

“But this will be a city for the 100 percent.”

Another lie. You don't work for the 100 percent. One gets nothing but newspeak and lies from this corporate shill and hack.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

But the Bay Area is one of the best places for some of us to succeed. And if that means that rents and prices are a little higher, then so what? Plenty of people arrive here all the time to try and succeed, so obviously people think it is a price well worth playing.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

"There's nowhere on the earth where everyone gets what they want"

Ever been to Wall Street?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

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