Community Goodwill, City Funding May Save SF Mural Arts Space

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Precita Eyes Murals received a slight grant increase from the City of San Francisco this year. (Photo: Sarah Hotchkiss/KQED)

The longtime tenants of 344-348 Precita Avenue in the Mission District have reached a tentative deal to purchase their building, thereby preventing their impending displacement.

The building houses Precita Eyes Muralists, a group that creates and maintains many of the famous murals scattered throughout the neighborhood. They have rented their space since 1977. It's also home to five residents who also fear eviction if their landlords sell the building to outsiders.

This week, the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) announced it had helped broker an agreement with the building's owner, who has been trying to sell the property for upwards of $995,000. MEDA Director of Community Real Estate Karoleen Feng would not disclose the agreed-upon purchase price, but she said that, if all goes as planned, the tenants will eventually turn the building into a co-op.

"The sellers are accepting the deal on the condition that we will purchase it within a month. So we have a month to pull together all the financing," Feng said. The immediate need is to raise $200,000 for a down payment by January 22. The deal will fall through if the funds fall short, she added.

The future of the agreement hinges largely on the goodwill of friends, neighbors and supporters. MEDA has launched a crowdfunding campaign and it is also soliciting donations through its webpage. It is also seeking larger investments ($10,000 or more for a 12-month loan), with the promise of a five-percent return.

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Once the deal is finalized, MEDA says it plans to refinance the building and pay back the loans using Proposition A bond money, which is earmarked for affordable housing.

"You know, a lot of folks are sort of wringing their hands -- 'How can we help my neighbor who I know is being threatened by the possible sale of their building?'" Feng said. "This is one way that you can actually help your neighbor."