How You Can Help Save Vulcan Arts Lofts
Oakland’s historic artists enclave Vulcan Lofts has been an enormously influential springboard for the Bay Area arts community for more than 30 years. But more than 200 working-class artists are facing eviction, as the giant Fruitvale district live-work space has been placed on the market for a staggering $16.25 million, with the tenants’ rent control protections being removed. The Vulcan Tenants Union’s best hope right now is a Save the Vulcan GoFundMe campaign that needs to raise $50,000 by this Friday, March 15, so your home-stretch help is critical in preserving what my be the most important DIY arts space in the Bay Area.
“It’s hard to think of another live-work community that has almost 200 people, and has housed 200 people continuously for over 30 years,” says Andrew Pulkrabek, a professional performing artist and co-organizer of the Vulcan fundraising campaign. “It is the biggest example of this thing working successfully for a long-ass time, anywhere in the country.”
Vulcan Lofts has been home to thousands of Bay Area over the years, and its influence has been immeasurable. The band Beats Antique was born at the Vulcan. “I cut the voiceover for our crowdfunding video in their old studio,” Pulkrabek tells us. “If you’re a flow artist, a fire spinner, the Vulcan is the single most famous place in the world for this. For juggling, there is no single larger community of jugglers living under one roof anywhere in America.”
The Vulcan Lofts property has been taken off the market for the time being, because of a complicated rent control dispute. That dispute will go before the Oakland Rent Adjustment Program board on April 15, and KQED reports that current owners Madison Park Financial had been advertising the property as “Rent Control Exempt: A rare opportunity in Oakland” — despite the fact that Vulcan Lofts is currently rent controlled.
The tenants are up against powerful forces. Madison Park Financial’s president and CEO is John Protopappas, who Alameda magazine reports was campaign finance manager for mayor Libby Schaaf’s 2016 run for mayor. There are certainly financial conflicts of interest, but Schaaf has generally been supportive of the Vulcan tenants’ plight.
“It’s the one DIY space in Oakland that the city knows about and cares about,” Pulkrabek says.
The GoFundMe campaign still needs your help in the home stretch, but looks likely to be successful. “That’s just the first step,” he tells us, noting that the current funds will pay the attorneys, paralegals, and private investigators who have thus far been working pro bono. “They need to make a living too.”
Tenants hope that a successful rent board ruling will drop the asking price of the property, to what Pulkrabek says would “be within the reach of an affordable housing developer who might be willing to use public funds, subsidies of some kind, to subsidize the purchase cost of the building and do the necessary upgrades. And would hopefully do so by not kicking us all out.”
“This is what the bleeding edge of gentrification looks like in the Bay Area,” Pulkrabek tells us. “We all agree that it’s important for a city to support the arts. We all seem to agree that having art and culture is what makes our communities awesome.
“But as an abstract concept, ‘support the arts’ is a hard thing. Supporting the arts begins with supporting artists. If artists do not have facilities and support and resources they need to make art, there are no arts to support.”
SUPPORT VULCAN LOFTS BY DONATING TO THE SAVE THE VULCAN FUNDRAISER BEFORE MARCH 15