Bids Due, Tensions High as Trustee Says Precita Eyes Seeks to “Force Family to Sell to Them”

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It’s been a big week for 348 Precita Avenue, the multi-unit building on Precita Park that’s long been home to the Precita Eyes mural studio. 348 Precita is for sale, and Precita Eyes hopes to avoid possible eviction by deterring would-be buyers from bidding on the property. (For more backstory, read Bernalwood’s item about this from  Monday.)

Here at week’s end, let’s catch up on where thing stand.

Neighbor Ledia dropped by Precita Eyes during a Protest Art Class for kids on Tuesday, where she learned more about Precta Eyes, their history in Precita Park, their other property holdings, and their (at times confusing) arrangement with the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA). Neighbor Ledia tells Bernalwood:

Went to the free art class and talked to Precita Eyes today: Now I understand.

So Precita Eyes wants the owners [of 348 Precita] to accept MEDAs offer to buy the building, which has 3 residential units plus the commercial Precita Eyes space, for $1 million.

It’s obviously “worth” more. MEDA would then be the owner/landlord, with the possibly of current tenants being able to buy their spaces in some way.

348 is the original Precita Eyes space. Precita Eyes has been around since 1977, and in this space since 1982. In 1998, [Precita Eyes founder Susan Cervantes] bought the Precita Eyes space on 24th St., so the organization also has that.

The goal of the free art class/gathering is to discourage offers on the building, other than MEDA’s lowball offer.

This provides helpful context. Precita Eyes uses 348 Precita as a satellite facility, and in the comments to Monday’s post, several Bernal neighbors noted that the studio at 348 is rarely occupied. (As a neighbor, Bernalwood can confirm this.) The Precita Eyes branch at 2981 24th Street is the organization’s main office, but we did not know (and Mission Local confirms) that Precita Eyes actually owns the 24th Street building. That means the future of Precita Eyes on 24th Street is secure.

Of course, there are two sides to every transaction, and in the comments to Bernalwood’s Monday post, a member of the family that’s selling 348 Precita shared some details (which are merged here for clarity):

My name is Michael Silva. I am not the owner of 348 Precita (certainly not the only owner), but only the trustee of my late mom’s estate.

I am a member of the family that owns this property. Our presence in SF dates back to before the 1906 earthquake (they camped out in the park during the repairs). It has been in our family for a hundred years. Look up August &Minnie Schmidt in the 1915 online directory.

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1915 San Francisco Directory, via Bernalwood

One of the owners is the 83 year old granddaughter of August and Minnie. Another is a great-grandson who worked all his life in SF until he had to retire under medical disability, and who has had multiple surgeries to help the back injuries he suffered while working as a printer. His entire life savings consists of $11,000.

These are the owners to whom Precita Eyes is trying to dictate sale terms. This is the one and only commercial property the family owns, in SF or anywhere else. We are not “big investors” by any stretch of the imagination.

I am actually just the Trustee of my mom’s estate (born in SF in 1932). She and her twin sister co-owned the property until she passed away a few years ago. Now my mom’s estate, along with her twin sister, are trying to sell the property. And Precita Eyes is trying to make sure we do not receive fair market value for a property that has been in our family for at least 100 years.

What Precita Eyes is trying to do is to force the family to sell to them, on their terms and on their terms alone, and obviously below market value (or else they would just submit their bid along with any other potential buyers). Who thinks this is moral behavior on their part?

This sets up a curious dynamic. In a town where one’s standing on questions of housing policy and social entitlement often correlates to how long you’ve lived here, the story of 348 Precita now contrasts a nonprofit arts organization that’s been in Bernal for 30+ years with a multigenerational family that’s been in Bernal for 100.

Last Tuesday, there was a open house at at 348 Precita for potential buyers to view the property. Precita Eyes put signs in the windows, brought in some local kids for an ad hoc protest art class, invited a few journalists from around town to drop by, and launched their campaign to ward off potential bidders.

Sarah Hotchkiss from KQED Arts was there:

As toddlers covered in tempera paint plastered their hand prints all over sheets of paper, community members surrounded the building holding their own pieces of paper, printed with the message, “Please do not BUY this building!! This is a community space!”

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Photo: KQED

The organization staged the protest after landlords posted a brand-new For Sale sign on the studio center’s exterior the week before. Though Precita Eyes owns its arts and visitors center at 2981 24th St, they have rented the 348 Precita Ave space since 1977.

While impending doom lingers in the air, the building’s residents are not without hope. The Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), with advice from the San Francisco Community Land Trust (SFCLT), plans to make a bid on the property, which, if successful, will safeguard Precita Eyes and the residential tenants against eviction by forming a cooperative.

The dispatch from Mission Local’s reporter captured the kabuki-like flavor of the scene, as the participants performed familiar roles:

“We’re hoping to dissuade other prospective buyers from outbidding MEDA,” explained Nancy Pili Hernández, a Precita Eyes muralist.

Several prospective buyers came and went without comment. Some stopped to talk with the activists and neighbors standing outside. In some cases, the exchanges became heated.  Pili Hernández said one potential buyer became incensed when a woman approached him asking his intentions for the building. Pili Hernández said the man told the woman he would put in an offer for $2 million and evict her.

That’s the kind of possibility that makes Randy Odell, an upstairs resident of 30 years, uneasy.

“It’s no fun having your home threatened.” Odell said. “When you have no right to keep people from coming in and looking at your home, and sussing out the value, it’s very hard to keep my dignity.”

Other potential buyers took a more diplomatic approach.

Micheal Zook, a San Francisco native and former building manager who was once evicted from a building he lived and worked in for 20 years, now works as a realtor but was considering the building as a potential home for himself, his wife and his children. He talked at length with community organizers about the property and how displacement could be avoided.

So what happens next?

Although the drama of 348 Precita is playing out in 2015, this story is really a flashback to the proto-gentrification tensions of 1970s Bernal Heights, when a young generation of activist Baby Boomers arrived and set out to transform Bernal in their own image, sometimes to the dismay of the older, blue-collar families who already lived here.

Back then, however, San Francisco’s population was in decline, and Bernal Heights was considered a faded part of town.  Homes were cheap,  rents were cheaper, Precita Park was rough, and Bernal was a funky bohemian backwater. Today, San Francisco’s population has grown by almost 200,000 since 1980, Bernal is a prime location, Precita Park is a four-star destination, countercultural lifestyles are difficult to afford, and the median home price in the neighborhood hovers around $1.4 million. A big property like 348 Precita could obviously fetch more.

But should it? Will it? We’ll find out soon; Mike Silva tells Bernalwood the last bids for the property are coming in today.

PHOTOS: Top, Precita Eyes studio by Telstar Logistics

Tonight: Grand Opening Celebration for New East-West Bernal Clinic on Cortland

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Neighbor Nicole Kurth, a resident of Bernal’s glamorous Santana Rancho district, invites you the grand opening gala for East-West Bernal, the new integrative therapy clinic located at 486 Cortland, in the former Integral Body space. The grand opening happens this evening, and Neighbor Nicole writes:

I’m writing to invite all of our neighbors to join us for our Grand Opening Celebration of East West Bernal on Wednesday, August 26, from 5:30pm-8:00pm. We’re located at 406 Cortland, in the space formerly occupied by The Integral Body.

This is a second location for East West Integrative Medicine, which is an acupuncture and massage therapy clinic that’s been in business for over 12 years on Chenery St in Glen Park.

Marnie McCurdy and her experienced team of acupuncturists, massage therapists, and homeopaths will be available to provide free sample treatments and demonstrations throughout the evening. Mini massages, pulse readings, ear seed acupuncture, and refreshments will be offered on an ongoing basis. At 6pm and 7pm respectively, we’ll offer a Kombucha class and a Jin Shin Jyutsu demonstration.

Come check out our space, meet our team, get a free treatment… We look forward to meeting our neighbors and providing Bernal with the best in health and wellness services.

PHOTO: Courtesy of East West Bernal

Venerable Navarro’s Martial Arts Academy Faces Eviction on Mission Street

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The beloved Navarro’s Marital Arts Academy on Mission near Cortland is being evicted, thanks to the gentrifying effects of… Christian book stores???

San Francisco Magazine reports:

For 43 years, Carlos Navarro has run a small martial arts gym in Bernal Heights whose community involvement and affordable classes have kept local lower-income youths from the temptations of drugs and guns. But decades of community goodwill have earned Navarro little credit with his new landlord, who asked him to vacate the gym by September 20 after he refused a rent hike from $1,800 to $6,500.

As the latest addition to a long line of small businesses being displaced in San Francisco, Navarro’s Martial Arts Academy had its lease terminated, despite pleas from the Navarro family and supervisor David Campos. Their request to at least extend the gym’s tenancy for a few more months was denied by the owner, Alice Tse of Innovistech Realty. Once the gym is gone, Steve’s Bookstore—a Christian bookstore based in North Carolina and owned by Olivet University, a SoMa-based for-profit university—is in line to take its place at the Mission Street storefront, near 30th Street.

IMAGE: via Google Maps

Activists Rally as Precita Eyes Studio Building on Precita Park Is Listed For Sale

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Brace yourself: 348 Precita Avenue, the building on the south side of Precita Park that houses the small Precita Eyes mural studio, is for sale. Now Precita Eyes is organizing to discourage potential market-rate buyers:

Dear Friends of Precita Eyes,

Some of you may already know Precita Eyes Muralists’ studio on 348 Precita ave. is on the market for sale. We need your support to protest the sale to shake off competing bidders, BECAUSE A LOCAL HOUSING NON PROFITS ARE PLACING A BID TO BUY OUR BUILDING.

We ask you to talk about our 38 year old organization and our involvement in our community to potential bidders. Mention that the tenants above have lived there 30 plus years and they have no means to move.

Open house dates:
This Tuesday, August 25th (2:30-4pm) & Wednesday, August 26th (4-5pm)

We plan to have a FREE TODDLER ART CLASS & URBAN YOUTH ARTS during that time. It will be volunteered by our Toddler Art teacher Priya!!

Our Urban Youth Art Teacher Max will be present to create protest posters with the youth simultaneously.

IN SOLIDARITY!!!

MEDA is the Mission-based organization that has been active in the effort to block construction of new mixed-rate housing near the 16th St. BART station. In addition, MEDA also played a hands-on role in putting the Mission Housing Moratorium on the November ballot.

Prediction: This will be heated. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: In the comments, there’s some confusion about the Precita Eyes action plan. which appears to involve press outreach and an effort to “shake off competing bidders.”

If the recent sale of the Pigeon Palace property in the Mission is any guide, Prectia Eyes likely seeks to generate publicity about their organization, and the pending sale of 314 Precita, as part of an effort to discourage would-be market-rate purchasers from making offers for the building.  Eliminating other potential bidders would make MEDA’s effort to purchase 314 Precita more competitive. Precita Eyes is apparently working with MEDA to help purchase the building.

PHOTO: Precita Eyes on Facebook

Woman Critically Injured in Mission Street Hit-and-Run Saturday Night

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A pedestrian was critically injured in a hit-and-run incident on Mission at Precita last Saturday night, and the SFPD is looking for leads to help catch the driver. The SF Appeal reports:

The collision was reported at 9:58 p.m. at Mission Street and Precita Avenue, where a 24-year-old woman was hit by a pickup truck, according to police.

The truck driver did not stop after the collision and continued north on Mission Street. The truck and driver had not been found as of this morning, police said.

The victim was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with head and torso injuries that are considered life-threatening, according to police.

Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call the Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or to send a tip by text message to TIP411 with “SFPD” in the message.

Buddhist Chickens Guide New Bernal Neighbor on Path to Nirvana

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Neighbor Maggie recently moved to the upper elevations of Peralta, where shes been exploring Zen and the Art of Exploring Bernal Heights:

My first few weeks living in Bernal were like a fairy tale. They continue to be, but the first weeks of anything feel like a dream-state because everything is brand new. Every time I left my house, the tallest one of the top of a hill, I set out in a different direction. Moving from Brooklyn – where you are forced to walk in a grid no matter how hard you try to stray – it was like a “chose your own adventure” every time I walked my pup, Miko.

Most often, I let her decide where we went. She’s usually the one to find the little paths and secret stairways and gardens that make Bernal so charming and calming. One day we happened upon these very zen chickens. They have their own coop, a fenced in backyard, and a great garden view. It comes complete with a little Buddha that I’ve often seen them cuddled next to – completely chilled out, even when a little mutt is curiously sniffing around them.

Every day we take an adventure in Bernal, every day brings a new gift, and every day I feel grateful to live here.

PHOTO: Neighbor Maggie