By Kate Cagle
Some gallery and creative business owners at the popular art destination Bergamot Station are starting the New Year on shaky ground.
Just two days before Christmas, tenants on the privately owned portion of the complex received invoices from their new landlord, RedCar Properties Ltd, a Los Angeles real estate investment firm based in Chinatown. The invoices did not raise rates, but passed along higher property taxes, insurance taxes, management fees and common area charges to tenants. Some gallery owners report their rents have effectively increased by nearly 70 percent with the additional taxes and fees.
The owner of Writers Boot Camp, one of about a dozen creative businesses on the two acres of privately owned land, says he will need to recruit 40 more clients to pay the difference on his bill. The new invoices were issued just eight days before their due date at the first of the year.
“The timing has been unfortunate because of the holidays,” said Jeff Gordon, who has leased his space for 18 years and can count Oscar and Tony winning writers among his alumni. “Nobody is necessarily against the purchase, we just have no idea of their openness to support the arts.”
RedCar Properties did not return our request for comment on the sale.
Bergamot Station opened in September of 1994 as a gallery complex where owners can benefit from large, formerly industrial spaces and relatively low rents. While Santa Monica owns 5 acres of the property, the other two were until recently owned by Wayne Blank, a developer and co-owner of the Shoshana Wayne Gallery.
Two years ago, Blank publicly split from the City over plans to redevelop Bergamot Station into a mix of galleries, apartments and office space. In a release, Blank called the plans “fatally flawed” and said they could “result in the death of Bergamot Station as a world-renowned arts district.” Ever since the split, gallery and creative business owners have worried revitalization plans may push out existing tenants who cannot afford to pay escalating rents or survive prolonged construction.
“For the past three years, we’ve been questioning the ability to survive,” Gordon said of the City’s plans to dramatically develop the Bergamot area around the new Expo Light Rail stop on 26th Street. “It’s been overly politicized because they’ve been focused on out-of-scale development.”
Many of the tenants who received the new invoices rent on a monthly basis. It’s not clear how many will be forced to leave because of the higher costs or where they will be able to go. It is clear that the art haven is already starting to change amid plans to make room for more businesses and residents. For example, the Santa Monica Museum of Art left the complex in 2015 and will reopen in downtown L.A. this year with a new name.