Red Gate Community Update, March 2020
photo: Steve Louie (apollo ghosts at red gate, 2019)
We’re still a bit in shock over here, and nearing exhaustion from too many late nights and early mornings in a row, but the City of Vancouver just approved an emergency grant to cover our back taxes, as well as the tax increase until the end of the year. This means that the $7500 we raised from our community over the last 6 weeks for this purpose can now be used to actually do things with, instead of just giving it all to the government. Actually we’ve already given it to our landlord, who has in turn handed it over to the government, so it’s really a question of getting that money (if you donated, your money) back! Still some paperwork to get through before that happens but it seems that the wheels are grinding inexorably in that direction.
Quick recap: Last fall we were given notice of a $1500 rent increase (from $11,300 to $12,800/mo) retroactive to August 1st. Even though we have a 5 year lease with the actual rent portion fixed at $8200, our standard commercial (“triple net”) lease requires that we also pay the property tax, which was already over $2600/mo and had suddenly jumped to $4100/mo. (Note that this represents a tax on the (speculative) value of the land, not the building. If we only paid tax on the building, we would owe $6 per month not $4100. Because of adjacent high-rise developments, every square foot of the land is considered to be more valuable than the entire building! Also we pay 5% gst on everything, including the property tax, so we’re taxed on the tax!)
We made an arrangement with our landlord to delay payment of the increase until the end of January, at which time we would owe them over $9000, and signed an agreement with them to the effect that we would pay this amount in full at that time, or would be immediately considered to be in violation of our lease and eviction proceedings would be brought against us.
Over the next few months we attempted to raise this money through our normal event activities, by renting out every square inch of usable space, creating a monthly membership fee for renters, volunteers and other key-holders, and most reluctantly, laying off staff. But by the end of the year it had become clear that we were still well short of our goal despite these efforts.
In January we launched a public appeal for help, consisting of a fundraising campaign to pay our imminent and eviction-threatening tax bill, and a political campaign to put pressure on the City and Provincial governments to change the regulations that required non-profits and small businesses to pay the enormous taxes based on the archaic “highest and best use” policy (which in our case means we are being taxed for 20 stories of empty air space above our single-story building.)
The response we received was beyond our expectations! With almost 2000 signatures, and many incisive, insightful, and overwhelmingly supportive comments, our petition to the City and Province has helped to bring attention to this issue, and we feel that it’s no coincidence that the Provincial government announced almost immediately that they would introduce legislation soon to help non-profits and local independent businesses with unreasonable property tax burdens. And almost 200 people have so far donated to our fundraiser, with over half of those in recurring monthly payments of over $1000 per month. We are humbled and extremely grateful to discover how much support we have from our community, and intend to repay this generosity by improving the quantity and quality of services that we can offer the community in return.
The emergency grant from the City will only cover the most recent tax *increase* (roughly 1/3 of current tax bill), retroactive to last august and until the end of the year. We’ll need to continue to come up with the rest of it ourselves. This is money that we owe to one part of the government that another part of the government has agreed to pay, and does not help us at all with programming, staffing, equipment, or maintenance, or any of the thousand things that are required to keep a space like this operating.
But with the tax increase paid, the money that has been donated can now be used for all those other things! We plan to give a complete and detailed accounting of where and to whom that money goes; probably a locksmith and a plumber will be among the first recipients! We’ve also had a broken window out front for at least a year, although according to the infamous “broken window theory” that leads to lower property values so maybe we’ll leave that for now! :) Anyway please stay tuned, watch this space, etc. Big things coming in 2020! And thanks again and again to everyone who has stepped up to support us in our hour of need, much love to all!
xox, redgate crew
1965 Main St. Vancouver BC V5L3C1