East Bay nonprofit shocked by sudden lease termination, massive rent hike – Silicon Valley

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RODEO – The head of a long-standing nonprofit serving West County says the organization is in jeopardy after Contra Costa County officials abruptly terminated its lease and quadrupled the monthly rent.
For 15 years, New Horizons has rented a county-owned building in Rodeo to run a career development center to help unemployed residents with life skills, career training and other services.
But it looks as though New Horizons days on Parker Avenue are numbered.
Flexing its power as landlord, the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors voted on Jan. 10 to end a lease agreement with the nonprofit, a decision that came at the direction of county staff who indicated the property could fetch more money.
Currently, New Horizons pays $750 monthly to rent the office space. A report before the supervisors said the county could collect $3,000 a month — the county staff’s estimated market value for the office space — or four times what the nonprofit is paying.
Because the Board of Supervisors’ decision was placed on a portion of the board agenda typically reserved for routine business and non-controversial items unrelated to the public’s interest, the board passed it without discussion.
The lease termination and rent spike stunned Anthony Hodge, the executive director of New Horizons, who said the nonprofit and its board had no idea of the county’s plans until contacted by this newspaper.
A day prior to the 5-0 decision, Hodge said he received an email from Jewel Lopez, senior real property agent at the county’s Public Works Department, requesting a meeting to discuss a new lease. But the email did not mention the upcoming vote or the county’s intention to significantly raise the rent, Hodge said.
The loss of the office space could be catastrophic for the financially vulnerable community members New Horizons serves, Hodge said in an interview.
“I think it’s inappropriate, and I just don’t think the voices of our constituents are being heard,” he said.
Over the years, New Horizons has developed a reputation as a trusted organization working with unemployed, underserved and undocumented community members, Hodge said. The Rodeo location is a one-stop shop for programs on earning a high school diploma, parenting and filing taxes, as well as helping unsheltered residents find stability.
The nonprofit is a longtime tenant of the county-owned building at 199 Parker Ave., next door to a senior center on Rodeo’s main drag. Contra Costa County initially charged $500 per month for New Horizons to rent the 2,400-square-foot office space. In 2015, when terms of the lease ended, the nonprofit remained a tenant on a month-to-month basis, paying $750 a month.
Supervisor Federal Glover, whose district includes Rodeo, said the termination and new terms should have come as no surprise to New Horizons.
“They knew that this was coming,” Glover said bluntly in an interview. “They knew that they were working on an expired lease and that it would need to be renewed.”
Glover said the rent hike was to bring the nonprofit “into compliance” with market rate rents.
Supervisor Candace Andersen, in an interview, expressed second thoughts after terminating the lease along with her board colleagues. Andersen said she planned to look into the situation, calling it “not standard procedure for us … especially with a nonprofit.”
Hodge said the rent increase is particularly hurtful considering the nonprofit was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nonprofit generated a revenue of $228,842 in 2018 and $110,010 in 2019, according to its tax forms. But, in 2020, revenue dropped to $63,470, the most recently available tax records show.
More recently, in 2022, Hodge said “the total income for the center was $40,000. So if we’re paying $36,000 for rent a year, it is going to impact every service at the center.”
The lease will officially terminate in February, 30 days after the board’s vote. If the nonprofit does not agree to the new $3,000-a-month rent, the county could seek a new tenant or make the space available for a county department to use.
Hodge said the location is vital to those who live in or near Rodeo, Crockett and Hercules, and who would otherwise need to travel to Richmond or San Pablo for such services.
New Horizons is now currently in the middle of what they believe to be “good faith” negotiations with the county, Hodge said.
“I’m just disappointed in the way it occurred,” he said. “It’s almost (like) being strong armed, to be honest.”
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