As Bay Area nonprofits struggle to operate in the region amid rising rents and competition for office space, one East Bay organization is offering a solution for some.
The Greenlining Institute, a public policy organization that advocates for racial and economic justice, has opened a new center in Oakland that will provide affordable space to nonprofits.
“There is a crisis out there,” Greenlining Institute president Orson Aguilar said at a grand opening celebration of the new center. “There is a big need out there (for nonprofit space).”
The building, dubbed the 360 Center, on 14th Street in Oakland, has four missions, said Patrick Brown, director of the institute’s leadership development program. Those include housing Greenlining staff, providing permanent affordable space for nonprofits to rent, offering community space for events and meetings, and showcasing local artists.
In line with the organization’s mission, the building was constructed with mostly local, minority-owned businesses over the past three years. It has 7,500 square feet of office and work space to lease to nonprofits and 8,000 square feet for art and community space.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf praised the center’s mission to help fix the displacement in Oakland as businesses and people move in and rents rise.
“This is an incredible model.… For better or worse, everyone has discovered our awesomeness,” Schaaf said. “But we will not be building a wall.”
City Councilwoman Lynette McElhaney also nodded to the current political climate, noting that when Greenlining started in 1993, it was a tumultuous time amid riots over racial injustice and just before the Republicans in Congress signed their Contract with America in 1994.
“We have come full circle,” McElhaney said of the current political scene.
She praised the Greenlining Institute for its work on behalf of communities of color and its effort with the new center to alleviate displacement.
Besides the Greenlining Institute staff, the building’s nonprofit tenants so far include Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal, AnewAmerica, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, the Insight Research Center and Post News Group, which publishes the Oakland Post and weekly Spanish language paper El Mundo.
Nonprofits all over the Bay Area have been forced to move in recent years as office buildings change hands in the hot real estate market. Rent increases of 30 percent or more are not unusual, and the lack of affordable options is putting a strain on the network of nonprofits across all communities, who already struggle with the high costs of operating in the Bay Area.
While Bay Area nonprofits found affordable space in the past at properties in underserved neighborhoods where there was little demand for office space, an expanded business sector has hiked up prices for commercial real estate — much like housing — across almost every neighborhood in the Bay Area.
According to a survey by Harder + Company of 497 nonprofit organizations that operate 846 locations across Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, 82 percent are concerned about the high-priced real estate market or their “long-term financial sustainability.” Most of the nonprofit respondents — 68 percent — said they face the chance of moving in the next five years, mostly because of affordability.