Save the Vulcan

$51,788 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 748 people in 5 months
Created February 17, 2019
ALL FUNDS RAISED OVER OUR STATED GOAL will pay for work being done on our behalf by Safer DIY Spaces to pave the way for an affordable housing developer to purchase the building and secure the long-term stability of the Vulcan community.

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 upgrades and repairs 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. DIY Safer 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 22nd. 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.

Thanks to our nonprofit partnership with ProArts, your donation to our Save The Vulcan crowdfunding campaign is also completely tax-deductible! 

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In the words of our hearing officer today, "The wheels of justice do not grind quickly."

Today's hearing was basically nonstop testimony from a number of early Vulcan residents, both in person and over the phone. Many of these Vulcan alumni are now in their 60's, and their stories all had a familiar ring to them which made many of us current Vulcanites grin knowingly. Some things about the Vulcan never change, apparently.

As a result of all this testimony, nothing much else happened. Our attorneys requested subpoenas for a handful of addition witnesses, including the original construction foreman for the building, and our next hearing was scheduled for Monday, September 16th, which feels like a looong ways out.

So after a big exciting buildup with the crowdfunding campaign, it looks like this is going to take awhile. Possibly another hearing after September 16th, maybe even more than that, and very likely an appeals process after that. Thanks for hanging in there with us as we wade through legal and administrative bureaucracy in our quest to put the Vulcan under rent control.

Save the Vulcan!
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WE'RE STILL HERE! ❤️❤️ You all deserve a little (comprehensive) update into where we currently stand in our fight to SAVE THE VULCAN—here it is:

Hey there, friends and supporters!

Our first hearing with the Oakland Rent Board took place on April 15th, and featured testimony from Eddie Orton, the Vulcan’s first owner, about the early history of the building. Much to our frustration, little additional progress on our case was made during the hearing, so an extension date has been scheduled at City Hall for June 10th.

We anticipate that this next hearing will be an opportunity for the Vulcan’s residents to testify about a wide variety of issues which affect our case. Our private investigator was able to locate former Vulcanites who were living in the space prior to its legal conversion. They are willing to testify on our behalf. If all is successful, this should be the final piece of the puzzle for the argument that the Vulcan qualifies for rent control. Wish us luck!

If we win, it sounds likely that the Vulcan’s owner will likely appeal the ruling, which will drag out the process and force us to raise more money for legal fees. Additional legal fees are a drop in the bucket for our rich landlord, but we’re going to have to hustle again if he decides to force our hand, and we’ll certainly need all the help we can get when the time comes.

Fortunately, nothing has happened on that front yet, so we’ll keep you all posted on how it goes. For the moment, we’re just grateful to have more time to strategize and regroup after the all-out sprint of our first fundraising effort.

Our campaign raised $51,673 in a little over a month, which was awesome. We also threw a small fundraiser show at the Vulcan which brought in just shy of $1000.

Here is the numbers breakdown for our crowdfunding campaign:

$39,200.22 – Attorneys and Private Investigator
$5456.00 – Safer DIY Spaces
$2996.70 – ProArts, our nonprofit fiscal sponsor
$1736.08 – GoFundMe processing fee
$240.00 – Social media/website expenses

The Vulcan Tenant’s Union has opened a bank account with the remainder (around $2k), which is being held in reserve for the next round of legal fees and future fundraising expenses.

Again, thank you all so much for your support. It’s been a HUGE BOOST to morale to see so much support for the Vulcan and we give you our word that we’ll fight hard to keep the community safe from the threat of gentrification.
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Thank You Wonderful Humans!

We've been absolutely floored with the incredible response from our far reaching Vulcan community. Your shares and donations have already brought us over 60% of the way to our goal!

Take a look at the thank you video that we've put together for you. Please keep sharing our campaign with your friends and family!

IMPORTANT: The legal team is looking to speak with former residents of the Vulcan who lived at the Vulcan in the 1980s, especially between 1980-1988. If you have any contacts or leads, please email Andrew Pulkrabek at andrew.pulkrabek@gmail.com.

Thank you very much for your support!
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$51,788 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 748 people in 5 months
Created February 17, 2019
Funds raised will benefit:
Pro Arts
Certified Charity
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Oakland, CA
EIN: 942259269
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* If, after reasonable efforts, PayPal Giving Fund cannot deliver donations to this charity, the funds may be donated to another charity per PayPal Giving Fund’s policies.
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