The meeting of La Casa de la Raza’s board of directors last Thursday night was over before it started. Though the purpose was to “ratify a number of votes the board has taken lately,” said Board President Michael Gonzalez, a procedural glitch prevented any formal action from taking place. But it wasn’t as if nothing happened. “This place was the sweat of everybody,” said critical community member Kathleen Morales. “Nobody got a penny. They didn’t take anything. What happened?”
A historic political and cultural center of the Latino community, La Casa has been celebrated for bringing music, food, and educational programs to the city’s Eastside. But long-term, well-documented financial troubles have crippled the center, a castle-like 26,000-square-foot converted warehouse on Montecito Street.
For two years, Ed St. George, prolific student housing developer, has emerged at La Casa, causing both relief and consternation. He plans to buy half of the building for about $1 million to “keep the doors open,” he said. The other half would become Casa Redevelopment Company, which St. George would manage, court files state. Proponents of the plan stress the entity would remain under La Casa’s control. The deal would help the nonprofit pay back its nearly $1 million debt; it must be finalized in bankruptcy court in February. The bankruptcy judge thinks this “deal is great,” Gonzalez said. “Everybody gets paid.”
By Paul Wellman (file)