Red Gate Community Update - Feb. 2020

It's been one month since we launched our fundraising and political action campaign to help us with our insanely high tax bill which has skyrocketed to over $4000 per month, and to put pressure on the various levels of government and bureaucracy to change the rules which require this. Many other worthwhile organizations are suffering under the same unfair system, in which commercial tenants are compelled to pay taxes based on the highest possible values of nearby developments, even if they occupy older "undeveloped" buildings. We're not trying to carve out an exemption for ourselves, but to change the rules for the benefit of every struggling cultural group in the city.

Fundraising Report:

Many thanks to everyone who has donated to our cause! We've raised over $7000 toward our outstanding tax bill, which gets us most of the way to our goal. Along with the money that we've raised through our regular events, we're now almost 3/4 of the way to being able to pay off the outstanding debt and also next month's rent (at the new increased rate.)

We've also bought a bit of time from our landlord, who has agreed to give us two more months (but only two!) to settle our outstanding tax bill (which has now increased to > $10,600.) We were able to make a down payment on this debt with the funds raised, but we will still need to make up the difference before March 31st.  Here's the breakdown for those who like numbers:

Outstanding taxes = $10,600 - $5000 down payment = $6,600 still owing. Rent due mar.1 = $12,300. Total owing = $18,900. Savings/earnings/donations as of Feb. 15 = $12,400. Shortfall as of Feb. 15 = $6,500. (Note that of the almost $23,000 total, including the $5000 down payment, approximately $15,000 or almost 3/4 of this total is just taxes!)

Political Action Report:

Progress on this front is more difficult to estimate. Our petition to the City and Province has received almost 2000 signatures, and many incisive and articulate comments, so our humble and heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to do that!  Within a few days of the publication of our open letter, the Province announced legislation to be introduced in the spring session which will supposedly allow municipalities to have much greater flexibility in creating tax exemptions for non-profits, and it seems that the timing of this announcement was not a coincidence.

However, the proverbial devil is in the details, especially where legislation that has a potential impact on corporate profits are concerned, and we have been unable to find any information about what exactly is being proposed. Our contacts at City Hall are also in the dark about this so we'll need to keep the pressure on if we want an actual solution to come out of this proposed legislation. The problem is that the current tax regime is a complicated mish mash of laws, policies, and guidelines involving multiple bureaucracies and levels of government, and so making changes is somewhat akin to fixing the engine in your car while driving it down the highway. It's also a safe bet that entities that are in a position to influence the exact wording of the proposed legislation will make every effort to create future loopholes which they will be able to exploit. We think there needs to be an open, public conversation around these issues, and that the whole decision making process needs to be much more transparent.

The Bad News: Because of this inherent complexity, it seems unlikely that a satisfactory resolution to the crushing tax burden being loaded onto local non-profits and small businesses is likely to be in place by the time the 2020 tax assessments are determined. This means that it's likely that it will be another entire year before anything substantial changes in this regard, which will be too late for many marginal enterprises, many of which will be forced out of business before this promised help arrives.

The Good News: Many City of Vancouver officials seem to be aware of the inherent irrationality of taxing non-profits and small businesses at the same rate as new multi-story developments, and the deep contradiction between this tax regime and their own stated goals of supporting cultural activities and local independent enterprises. Without legislative changes at the provincial level, they claim to be unable to influence tax assessments, but they have suggested that we apply for an emergency grant to cover some of these taxes, which would have to be brought to CIty Council for consideration. Accordingly, we have submitted such an application and are now waiting to find out if or when we can expect a decision. The agenda for Council meetings are published one week prior to each meeting, so the earliest this might happen would be the 25th or 26th of February.

So that's where things stand. Thanks again to everyone who's shown their support, over and above the financial and operational assistance, it's giving us that much more confidence and determination to keep up the fight!

Week 2 Update

We're two weeks into our fundraiser and political action campaign and we're pretty floored with the response so far, thanks everyone! We've received almost $5000 in donations, and over 1800 signatures on our open letter to the City and Province. We met with some City staff last week and had a a very positive conversation around how to deal with our tax bill, both in the short term (an emergency grant to cover it) and long term, which involves changes to geological layers of regulations that are still months or perhaps years away.

Crucially for the short term, we made an agreement with our landlord to continue to pay the old monthly tax rate and continue to accumulate the difference for one more month.  Which is a good thing, since the soonest that city staff could get an emergency grant request in front of Council is the middle of next month! So instead of owing 9 thousand by the end of this month we  will owe 10 and a half thousand by the end of next month.

We're still thousands of dollars short of what we will need to give the landlord (to give to the city) on March 1st. We're doing our best to get the various decision makers to understand that we would be much better off, and the city would be much better off, if we were able to put that money into programming, paying artists, paying staff, and generally improving the range and quality of services we're able to offer our community. And the progress that we've made so far has been due to the efforts of this same community, so thanks again to everyone who's donated and/or helped us send a message to the people who are in a position to do something about this insane and unsustainable situation.

So we need to keep the pressure on, they wouldn't be paying attention if there weren't so many people taking them to task, and they're likely to become distracted by other priorities if we don't continue to hold them accountable. This is just the first phase of what may be a lengthy campaign to reverse years of developer-friendly policies that have come at the expense of our fragile cultural ecosystems.

We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't think that Vancouver's "home grown" art and music scene, despite recent setbacks, still keeps getting better, and has the potential to make a global impact if not for the lack of actually affordable space for it to create itself. The Red Gate has always been nothing more or less than the physical manifestation of a collective desire for it to exist.

Red Gate fundraiser progress report - 20/01/2020

Thanks Everyone! Let's Keep the Pressure On!


It's been one week since we launched our fundraiser and political action campaign, in response to exorbitant property tax payments. For full details on our situation, and how we hope to solve the problem, read our open letter to the City and Province if you haven't already! TL;DR We owe our landlord $9100 in back taxes, which is 6 months worth of tax increases, plus the usual $8500 in rent, plus the new tax rate of $4300 per month, which adds up to $21,900, which we owe by the end of January or risk eviction proceedings. By laying off staff and raising our rental rates, and suspending all non-essential expenses, we've managed to save up almost $9000, but still find ourselves barely half way to our target, with less than 2 weeks to go.

The Good News:

We've raised over $3000 in donations (over $1000 of which is in recurring monthly donations), from 140+ supporters, and have collected over 1400 signatures on our open letter. In response to this letter, we've been contacted by City Councillors Jean Swanson and Christine Boyle, and have arranged a meeting with City staff to discuss emergency tax relief, and also received a press release from the Province of BC concerning upcoming legislation which is designed to deal with this issue. We're very grateful for the overwhelmingly positive responses we've been getting, many of the signers of our open letter have left detailed and well-written comments, some of which are excerpted below.  

The Bad News:

We're still about $10,000 short of the $22,000 we need to give the landlord, of which only $8500 represents our actual rent (the money that landlord gets) and over $13,000 represents accumulated property tax which goes directly to the City of Vancouver. The legislation announced by the Province remains undefined in its details, and in any case will only take effect for next years assessments at the earliest. Also it will only remove legal obstacles preventing the City from creating a tax-exempt category for cultural non-profits, it will still be up to the City to actually enact such a policy.
In any case, we're still on the hook for over $9000 in back taxes, and will have to pay an additional $24,000 by the end of July, when the new assessments will take effect. So we're still faced with paying over $30,000 in taxes over the next 6 months.

The Bottom Line:

It appears that the wheels are slowly turning in the right direction, but appearances can be deceptive! We need to keep the pressure on and make sure that all of the encouraging words are backed up by concrete actions! It's not just the future of the Red Gate that is at stake, but that of every other cultural group, non-profit organization, and small, independent business in the city, now and in the years to come. Please help us spread the word about this situation and help us reverse the devastating loss of these spaces to unchecked gentrification and speculation.


Some comments to our open letter (excerpts):

"As someone that has contributed to the arts and culture scene in Vancouver for almost 2 decades, I am shocked by what we have lost in just the last handful of years. Now my options are to close my small Mount Pleasant business and leave the city or live in a motorhome. This is not acceptable for a "world class city". Nor is it acceptable that we are currently losing all our non-profit arts and culture spaces while developers install 5 million dollar chandeliers under bridges."
Sarah L, Vancouver

"As a touring artist, the red gate is one of the only spaces in Vancouver that is currently acting as a hub for growing artists both locally and abroad. It is part of a larger dwindling collection of safe-space venues that stimulate and help to foster art as a whole across Canada. If Vancouver turns its back on The Red Gate it is turning is back on artists from across the Country."
Taylor C, Calgary

"The impressions of your city policies in the international creative community do not look good, Vancouver. Maybe it's because so many of your resident artists have already left, along with their stories of alienation and systemic indifference, spaces erased month after month by the highest bidder for another sport clothing leisure boutique, to those foreign places, like myself. Who is going to keep your soul alive when they are all gone? Culture exists in its authenticity like an ecosystem, in which diversity lends itself to resilience and the brilliant vitality of every myriad component, niches for the special and unusual created and protected by the diverse infrastructure surrounding them. Monoculture requires artificial manipulation and can be destroyed by a single outbreak. Don't expect your superficial facsimile of culture to be enough to sustain that paradisaical delusion from the inevitable blight of the polluted sea air when it eats away at those empty towers, when everything that was authentic has already dissipated into the coastal air."
Hilary C, Berlin

"I play in a band called Peach Pit. We went from playing Red Gate to selling out the Vogue Theatre in 4 years. Without spaces like this there will never be another "come-up" story of musical acts from Vancouver. Give other musicians the chance we got."
Christopher V, Vancouver

"Red Gate played a vital roll in helping me in the craft of film directing when I was just coming up. If not for them many of the steps I took to fulfill my career would most likely be left in the dust. Cultural spaces like this are essential helping up and coming artist explore ideas. Without them we are left with a city void of artistic innovation."
Corey A, Vancouver

"Expand the current use of developers' contributions to "public art" to include infrastructure funding to arts and culture venues and non-profit arts and culture organizations. No more chandeliers please!"    
-Stan W. Vancouver

"Redgate is a thriving cultural center in Vancouver that brings together young artists around the city and provides them a venue to perform, make connections, be inspired, and expand their artistic ability. It is fantastically organized and hosts excellent events year-round such as music shows featuring local emerging artists, intersectionally representative events such as the Stew Jams, Dame Vinyl, and stand-up, and overall is a fantastic community space that my friends and myself, all emerging artists in Vancouver, go to make friends, support local artists, and be inspired. This location prides itself on being accessible to all types of people and is one of the few locations in the city that makes itself accessible to low-income artists by having many events be pay what you can (PWYC) or no one turned away for lack of funds (NOTAFLOF). It additionally makes itself accessible to those with disabilities as well as those who require a safe space, such as queer, female, trans, and racialized individuals. Locations like this are being shut down at an alarming rate all around the city, and this is one of the last thriving community centers we have left."
Sophia T, Vancouver

"It's a shame that an organization that does so much for the music community in Vancouver can receive so little support from a city that claims to value art and culture. They're one of the few organizations that pull together consistent quality performances that emphasize inclusivity and diversity. It would be a demoralized blow to the musicians of the city if they have to shut their doors."
Francis B, Coquitlam

"I sit on the City of Vancouver's Cultural Advisory Committee and I support these recommendations fully. The new cultural plan needs concrete action items (it was never written with concrete language because it was first trying to be supported by council and then funded - we are approved for the first year of funding as of Jan 1, 2020). The changes proposed in this letter need to happen at both the civic and provincial levels . The City of Vancouver (the provinces cultural beacon) is responsible for generating the bulk of the provinces $7 billion cultural GDP and it is crumbling from a lack of reasonable rent. Don't jeopardize this important economic driver (never mind the intrinsic value of the art itself which literally gives life meaning). I will be circulating this letter to all of my colleagues."
Jessica W, Vancouver

"Vancouver's cultural spaces are disappearing! Follow your own Culture|Shift report claims and make changes to your current policies that prevent artists and culture workers from thriving!"
Alycia D, Vancouver

"I have been part of the music community in Vancouver for over thirty years. It was hard enough to be an artist that doesn't subscribe to the mainstream in this town. If Vancouver continues down this path the only ones who will be able to survive are people like Rodney Graham who's had to start shilling to the developers to keep going. Nice chandelier Rodney. Vancouver's current destiny is milquetoast nod to the arts through banal murals and garbage art. Please make your support for the arts more than lip service for a change."
Stephen H, Vancouver

"The Red Gate is one of the most important and long-lived cultural institutions in Vancouver."
Kathryn M, Vancouver

"Red Gate is an amazing society thhat has supported emerging artists from multiple marginalized groups."
Kirsten H, Vancouver

"It really cannot be understated how important the Red Gate Arts Society is to so many thousands of people, within this city and beyond."
Robert Q, Vancouver

"Coolest space Ive ever been too!"
Jeff T, Portland OR

"Kennedy you came on my radio show and talked about Red Gate. Back it up!"
Sean O, Vancouver

"Here is your opportunity to stand behind what is on your website and walk the talk, make Vancouverites proud of their leaders and reduce Red Gate's annual property tax to $1/year to allow them to maintain their current location."
Doreen C, North Vancouver

"...much of the Citys talent remains unseen because there isn't enough to spaces to showcase. The amount of incredible artists who "move on" to places like Berlin or any other art hub do so not out of a hatred for living here. They do so because they seem it neccessary for any chance of getting bigger. If we were able to have promoters more options for venues and more potential for success, Vancouvers local scenes could explode and easily become international appeals."
-Jon Y.

"Formerly a Vancouver resident and a Canadian living in London,UK.
I watched my hometown become increasingly unaffordable and it’s creatives being forced out of the city."
Louise L, London UK

"I was born and raised and spent my first 50 years there and can vouch for the disheartening decline in available space and practical support for the day to day needs of artists. It truly is now or never and present and future generations will feel the loss wrought by speculation."
Valley H.

"It is only a matter of time (a short time) before I will have to reassess my options - or lack of options - and either leave the city of Vancouver and/or stop being a musician/composer and look forward to a life on the street."
Blaire P, Vancouver

"I remember first visiting Red Gate in 2009, 11 years ago, when it was on Hastings & Cambie. It was beautiful inside, a great space to see local music and art."
Emily M, Vancouver

"I first came to Vancouver a year and a half ago for university, I joined on with CITR and soon found myself covering my first show at Red Gate. Vancouver is a city uniquely positioned to be the cultural zeitgeist of both Canada and the Pacific northwest. Red Gate is a crucial venue to not only the survival of Vancouver's music scene, but also to the core of it's artistic legacy and impact across the nation and world wide."
Tate K, Vancouver

"No one wants a city comprised only of WeWork buildings."
Tyler S, Seattle

"These spaces ignite the spark of creativity, and give our emerging talent the platform they need to grow and take steps in their career."
Kristina L, Vancouver

"World class" cities (sic) grow up from within themselves; they are not made out of big box chains, highest-end retail, corporate HQs, and half-empty overrated trophy buildings."
Brady C, Vancouver

"So many talented musicians, artists, producers, actors, dancers, etc. are consistently moving to Montreal, as they can afford to live there. As an artist and event producer who came to Vancouver with high hopes 8 years ago, I have largely given up in my efforts - primarily due to Vancouver's lack of care & support towards arts and culture. I myself am leaving this year because this city has shown through its actions that it does not care about the local arts community."
Sami M, Vancouver

"As an artist, I moved away from Vancouver, the city I was born in and forever my emotional home, due to the lack of opportunity and the relentless adversity caused by unmanageable and precarious rent."
Nicholas Z, Toronto

"I have already fled the Vancouver scene, for these and other reasons."
Victor W, Victoria

"I am part of the population of dwindling artists and musicians who have felt the pinch to the point of having to leave the city. As a former employee of a non-profit arts organization, I implore you to look at this matter with all the seriousness it deserves; the closure of these incubators, and the people who create, maintain, and utilize these spaces are the unique culture that adherence to the notion of Richard Florida's "Creative Class" can not produce"
Jamie W.