While the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) is making headlines for allegedly being nearly priced out of its home, the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture has accused the college of bad faith in negotiating a new rental agreement. The college offers 53 classes to approximately 400 students at Fort Mason, a former Army post on San Francisco Bay whose lower portion now operates as a nonprofit primarily renting — and partially subsidizing those rents — to arts nonprofits.

The current rental agreement between CCSF and Fort Mason, dating to 2014, expires at the end of June. Recently the college informed students that its drawing, painting and ceramics classes may have to move to one of its other campuses because Fort Mason wanted to hike the rent by 300 percent.

Fort Mason sees it differently.

“I think we’re a little perplexed at what’s going on,” said Fort Mason Director of External Affairs Nick Kinsey. “The new lease will actually save City College over $575,000 over the term of the lease, including almost $20,000 in year one, putting to bed the fictional rent increase CCSF has alleged.

“We sent them a lease proposal in November [2016],” Kinsey added. “And then we really didn’t hear anything from them in the next four months.”

Kinsey said Fort Mason staff was blindsided by an article in the San Francisco Examiner earlier this week in which CCSF’s administrators claimed Fort Mason was asking for a rent hike.

“We seem to have a difference of perspective on the level of communication between the college and the Fort Mason Center,” said CCSF Spokesman Jeff Hamilton. “We’ve been in pretty much continuous discussion with them for at least four months. And we’re in process right now with Fort Mason as to how we can come to terms. At this point, we are focused on a successful resolution of the outstanding issues. We believe we have enough runway to have productive discussions and a successful outcome.”

A City College of San Francisco student make a pot in ceramics class at the college's Fort Mason campus
A City College of San Francisco student make a pot in ceramics class at the college’s Fort Mason campus. (Photo: Courtesy of CCSF)

A CCSF spokesperson told the Examiner that Fort Mason proposed a new lease that would increase the college’s rent by 28 percent, with annual increases thereafter.

Kinsey said that Fort Mason is asking the college, which occupies 22,000 square feet on two floors of the WWII-era center, to reduce the space it uses by 23 percent, something that Kinsey claims could be accomplished without cutting classes if the college used a more efficient schedule. The total rent, Kinsey said, would then go down by about $140 to $26,457 per month. After the initial increase, Fort Mason is also offering a smaller annual rent hike, Kinsey said, from the current seven percent per year to five percent per year.

Ceramics student Maryellen McGoldrick takes classes at Fort Mason. She said in a phone interview that she sent letters objecting to the higher rents to the Fort Mason trustees, and got a quick reply arguing that the rent hike was pure fiction. “What’s more shocking to me,” said McGoldrick, “is that CCSF would misrepresent the deal Fort Mason was offering.”

Fort Mason’s Kinsey says the center has agreed to continue the current lease agreement on a month-to-month basis while it negotiates with the college over the terms of a new contract.

“This has been shocking for us as an organization,” said Kinsey. “We spend $2.5 million each year supporting arts nonprofits. City College is the largest beneficiary of our support programs, receiving over $600,000 in reduced rents. We want to keep giving City College these benefits. And we hope that we’re able to do so.”

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Author

Cy Musiker

Cy Musiker co-hosts The Do List and covers the arts for KQED News and The California Report.  He loves live performance, especially great theater, jazz, roots music, anything by Mahler. Cy has an MJ from UC Berkeley's School of Journalism, and got his BA from Hampshire College. His work has been recognized by the Society for Professional Journalists with their Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service in Journalism. When he can, Cy likes to swim in Tomales Bay, run with his dog in the East Bay Hills, and hike the Sierra.

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