Save the Vulcan! 200 working-class Oakland artists are crowfunding to save their homes and fight the-rent-is-too-damned-high

[Editor's note: Xeno Evil is an Oakland artist fighting to save their home; I'm happy to help them with their campaign -Cory]

The historic Vulcan Lofts in Oakland, CA are up for sale and nearly 200 working-class Bay Area artists are at risk of losing our homes. In order to save the Vulcan, we've founded a tenant's union, hired several attorneys, and petitioned the City of Oakland to put the building under rent control. Our hearing with the rent board is coming up very soon and we need to raise $50k in the next month to cover legal costs. Please support us by donating to our cause and sharing our crowdfunding campaign with your network. We love you.

The Vulcan Lofts have been an integral part of the Oakland arts community for over 30 years. Housed within a former steel foundry, the Vulcan is a central residential hub for nearly 200 low-income, working class artists and their communities. Full of visual artists, musicians, circus performers, and creatives of all stripes, the work produced at the Vulcan enriches the cultural fabric of the Bay Area and beyond on a daily basis, creating works of joy and beauty in the most rapidly gentrifying corner of America.

Now, the oldest, largest, and most visible live-work community in Oakland is under threat.

In late 2018, the Vulcan was put up for sale for $16M by its current owner. Following the tragedy of the Ghost Ship fire, the city of Oakland has increased its oversight on live-work spaces, putting new pressures on landlords and increasing the requirements involved when these buildings change hands. As a result, the new owner will have to spend millions of dollars on repairs and upgrades to the building.

If the building is sold to a commercial developer, this expense will be passed on to its residents in the form of a staggering rent increase, putting its nearly 200 low-income artist residents at risk of mass displacement amidst California's housing crisis.

In an effort to save their home, the Vulcan's residents have undertaken an unprecedented organizing effort to found the Vulcan Tenants Union (VTU) and secured legal representation to petition the city to place the building under rent control. But the current owner claims the building is not subject to rent control, although the place was used for residential purposes prior to laws allowing landlords to claim an exemption to rent control regulations.

The VTU is fighting to officially put the building under rent control in order to avoid mass displacement, prevent the owner's latest attempt to increase our rent, and stabilize a historic bastion of Oakland's cultural heritage. A successful verdict may also open the door for an affordable housing developer to purchase the building, ensuring its long-term status as affordable artist housing. As the first major case of its kind following the Ghost Ship tragedy, the Vulcan will be a seminal case for other live/work spaces, creating a ripple effect that could affect hundreds of similar spaces in the city of Oakland and beyond.

We are in the process of rewriting live/work history. In their fight for rent control, the VTU has enlisted the help of tenant's rights attorneys, community organizers, and activists. Safer DIY Spaces, a local organization which arose after Ghost Ship to protect the city's live-work residents from eviction and displacement, has generously offered a stipend to support the case. Now, the money has run out.

An urgent situation has become an emergency. We need help if we are to save our homes, our community, and our way of life.

In order to properly pay for the legal and paralegal fees, private investigators, inspectors, and costs of service of subpoenas, witness fees and other cost related to our rent control case, the Vulcan needs to raise $50k by March 15th. This figure also includes funds to reduce the burden for an affordable housing developer to manage the paperwork and inspections necessary to formally evaluate the purchase of the building.

This isn't just about the Vulcan – this is about the folding of numerous artist residences and DIY spaces in Oakland, in the Bay Area, and across the nation. If we win this case, we set an example for other live/work spaces, arming them with the legal strategy they need to ensure safe and habitable conditions while continuing to not just live, but thrive. We are asking our community at large for their support to help us save the vibrant Vulcan community that contributes so much to the cultural fabric of this city. With the support of many, we are ready to fight against the displacement of its low-income and vulnerable tenants.


WHAT DOES THE MONEY GO TOWARDS? This $50,000 pays for the two lawyers, two paralegals, and a licensed private investigator. The scope of the work includes case preparation, briefs, subpoenas, witnesses preparation for hearing, research, investigator costs and, likely lengthy hearing procedures.

SAVE the VULCAN! Crowdfunding now! [Vulcan Tenants Union/Gofundme]