The nonprofit world breathed a sigh of relief when the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) announced in May that it would buy up the Mission’s iconic Redstone Labor Temple, a hub for community organizations. But the Redstone isn’t free from the whims of the market just yet.
MEDA is a nonprofit itself and is seeking help from the city to bring the sale past the finish line. On Tuesday, Supervisor Hillary Ronen answered with the expected introduction of a resolution — already co-sponsored by Supervisors Shamann Walton and Gordon Mar — that promises to support efforts to keep current tenants at the 2940 16th St. building, just a couple blocks from Mission Street.
Though the resolution doesn’t go beyond a pledge of support, Save the Redstone Labor Temple community organizer Jay Rice says it’s a needed first step to have the city get serious about finalizing the sale. MEDA has agreed to buy the building for $15 million by Aug. 1 but is seeking another $7 million for needed repairs like seismic retrofitting, according to the nonprofit’s spokesperson Christopher Gil. The group is asking the city to commit $1 million by July 15 to assure investors that the sale is financially sound.
“The Redstone is a symbol of the values San Franciscans hold dear, as the longtime tenants support the diversity of culture, arts and more that have long made our city unique,” Gil says. “It will take a true community-wide effort from the city, investors and philanthropy to keep the Redstone’s tenants in place at affordable rents, thereby stopping their displacement not just from their building, but San Francisco itself.”
The building’s significance cannot be overstated. The San Francisco Labor Council built it in 1914 as a home to unions and would be where the 1934 San Francisco General Strike was organized. It’s long served as a hub for nonprofits, social and economic justice groups serving the city — work that’s especially needed amid a period of massive displacement.
“It’s not just a historic building,” Rice says. “It’s also a vibrant community hub that impacts the lives of thousands of people. If [organizations] lost the Redstone, they would literally cease to exist in any physical space.”
Longtime landlord David Lucchesi sought to sell the building for $22 million or more in 2018, the Examiner reported, prompting fears that nonprofit groups from El/La Para TransLatinas to Wonder Dog Rescue would be displaced. MEDA reached a deal with Lucchesi in May for $15 million.
Rice is optimistic that things will work out, but timing is a priority. Once the Redstone’s years-long crisis is over, tenants won’t have it looming over the work they do. The Redstone Labor Temple Association on Thursday will lead supporters on a march from the building at 11:30 a.m., reaching the steps of City Hall by noon for a rally to increase pressure.
“Any vulnerable tenancy is very stressful, particularly when it’s so many community-serving organizations,” Rice says. “The sooner we have commitment from the city or philanthropy, or both, the sooner we can close the deal and implement our vision for the space. It’s a big deal for us to have the formal support with this resolution.”