Part IV: Could We Stay or Should We Go? Perspectives on NonProfit Displacement in the San Francisco Bay Area

Our blog series, Could We Stay or Should We Go? Perspectives on NonProfit Displacement in the San Francisco Bay Area, is drawing to a close. In the final two blog posts, we focus on a partnership between a nonprofit and an architecture firm. In this fourth installment in our blog series, we speak with Molly Wertz, executive director of Tandem. When Tandem was recently facing displacement, they came up with a resourceful approach to stay in San Francisco. Next week, we’ll hear from their partner, architecture firm WRNS Studio.

What is your experience with displacement in San Francisco? 

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Tandem had to leave SOMA last year due to rising rents, at the same time our staff was growing. It was difficult (impossible) to find an affordable place with great public transit and good parking. Our staff provides services at multiple preschools each day, so our program staff need in-and-out parking. We have other staff who rely on public transit, too.

How has displacement affected your organization?

We ended up in a much bigger office space, which also includes a community room where we can do our trainings for families and educators on site. This is a benefit. We're now in the Bayview, where parking is remarkably more abundant and cheaper - that's how we were able to increase the space we need. Our administrative staff has felt the challenge of being all the way out in the Bayview, where public transit is less abundant, frequent and reliable. Our staff members who live in the outer Sunset and Richmond have found the time of their commute by public transit increase by well over 100%. Some days it takes one staff member two hours to get to work!

How has displacement affected your relationships with funders?

Our funders are keenly aware of the challenges displacement put us under. They have not let this diminish our relationship.

Describe your relationship with WRNS. How did the partnership start, and where did it take your organization?

We found WRNS on the 1+ site, which we were directed to by the Northern California Community Loan Fund's Non-Profit Displacement Mitigation Program staff. They recommended that we look for an architecture firm to help us see if we could make a smaller space in our SOMA building work. (Our landlord had offered to keep our rent stable, but move us into a much smaller space.)

Initially, an architect and designer from WRNS came and helped us assess whether we could make that space work. (We could not!) Then they visited several potential sites in SF to help us assess how we might make those work. When we found our current space, they were able to affirm for us that this was the best one so far. It was helpful to have experts who could see into the future of any space configuration projects or remodels. They were able to help us see beyond an early, low "sticker" price through what it would take to actually move in to a space.

Once we chose this spot on Fairfax Avenue, WRNS design team helped us plan for eventual remodel, and immediate best use of space. They chose colors for us, and helped us shop for affordable and durable carpet. We had a small grant from the Non Profit Displacement Mitigation Program which helped us to purchase some furnishings so that we could fully utilize the space, and with another grant from a private funder, we were able to work with WRNS to shop for furniture that would make our use of the space efficient, and welcoming for constituents coming in for training. We've just ordered our furniture with the help of the design team at WRNS and are eager to get it moved in!

What, do you think, does the future hold for nonprofits/foundations/philanthropy in the Bay Area? What does the future hold for Tandem? How has your partnership with WRNS changed your prospects?

Families in the San Francisco and the Bay Area are feeling the squeeze. If we are to retain the diversity here that makes this area great, we're going to need advocates, service providers and the funders who make their work possible. The long story of a great community has to do with its tolerance, diversity and those members who make equity a core value. It will take commitment and hard work for Tandem, its partners and all those organizations fighting for strong and stable families for us to retain what makes our community great. But I have no doubt we'll succeed.

Our partnership with WRNS helped us find an appropriate place from which we can deliver our work for the next decade or more. Their support has helped it be a place where our staff and clients feel honored and respected for the hard work they do every day. The vision that WRNS has helped us paint for our funders about how warm and inviting our space can be has helped us engage more funders who believe those values are important.

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Molly Wertz has worked tirelessly throughout her career to support partnerships between education, nonprofits, and community for the benefit of children and their families. She’s led Tandem since it launched as a 501c3.

To learn about funding patterns and trends among Bay Area foundations, please stop by our regional Center or one of our Funding Information Partners to access Foundation Maps. The new Foundation Maps platform allows you to create maps illustrating funding flows in specific regions and issue areas, including visualizing those who support capacity building and technical assistance, which could be helpful for organizations developing strategies to mitigate displacement.  If you are a member of Northern California Grantmakers, you can access Foundation Maps: California with your member log-in, and if you aren’t already part of the Get on the Map campaign, you can learn how you can benefit from contributing your funding data to the collective whole. 

Read Part I in this series, featuring Paul Cohen, executive director of the Eviction Defense Collaborative

Read Part II in this blog series, featuring Brian Cheu, director of Community Development for the City and County of San Francisco.

Read Part III in this blog series, featuring Landon Williams, program director of community development and investment at the San Francisco Foundation.

Read Part V in this blog series, featuring Molly Thomas, communications director, and Kyle Elliot, partner at WRNS Architecture Studio.