For the past week, gallery and other creative business owners have scrambled to combine bank statements, tax returns and essays to justify their place in the creative community of Bergamot Station.

January 17 was the deadline for the tenants on the privately-owned portion of the gallery complex to submit hardship cases to their new landlord. Without leniency, many of those tenants are looking at rate increases of up to 70 percent.

Their future has been uncertain since late last year, when a Los Angeles real estate investment firm purchased two acres of Bergamot Station. The dozen tenants have not had a face-to-face meeting with their new landlord, RedCar Properties Ltd, and are completely in the dark in regards to future plans for the galleries. All they know is that two days before Christmas they received new invoices passing along higher property taxes, insurance taxes, management fees and common area charges to tenants.

Tenants have been working with a lawyer and asked for leniency for their new landlord while they figure out how to pay the higher rates. RedCar Properties has told tenants they will review requests on a case-by-case basis.

Beyond the urgent problem of higher bills, long-term uncertainty also plagues tenants of the privately-owned portion of Bergamot Station. Tenants and the City have both been trying to set up a meeting with RedCar to find out about their plans for the 2 acres adjacent to the Expo Light Rail station. So far no meeting has taken place.

RedCar Properties did not return our request for comment on the future of the site.

“There’s very little chance that within a year or so that anyone is going to remain,” Jeff Gordon, the owner of Writers Boot Camp at Bergamot Station said. Gordon says with the rate increase, it would cost him an additional $80,000 a year to stay in his location of 18 years.

The City of Santa Monica still owns the other five acres of Bergamot Station. Since 1994, the gallery complex essentially worked as a partnership between the City and developer Wayne Blank who owned the other two acres and served as landlord for the entire site. Tenants benefit from large, industrial spaces that provide space for large art installations at relatively low rent.

But plans for development of the property near the Expo Line expansion clouded the future of the galleries. For years, the City has planned to develop their portion of Bergamot. At one point plans called for a hotel, office space, apartments and restaurants. The City eventually scaled back proposed plans, but the ongoing debate caused Blank to balk, saying development may “result in the death of Bergamot Station as a world-renowned arts district” in an editorial.

Late last year, Blank sold his portion of the property to RedCar and told the newspaper The Argonaut he plans to pack up his gallery and leave.

City public information officer Constance Farrell says the city was surprised to learn of the sale over the holiday.

“This is a tough situation,” Farrell said. “We remain committed to preserving the gem that is Bergamot Station.”

It’s not clear what the City can do, since the Bergamot galleries were legally sold to a company that will likely want to maximize the return on their investment. Councilmember Kevin McKeown suggested the very developer who is washing his hands of Bergamot should turn around and bail out the tenants.

“If reports of the sale price on that parcel of land are correct, somebody just picked up $35 million. Maybe he can write a Blank check,” McKeown wrote in an email to the Daily Press.

kate@www.smdp.com