Community Meeting Summary and Invitation for Feedback

 

SF Rigden Shrine

 

To all of you who were able to attend our Community meeting on Sunday, thank you! Thank you for attending with open hearts, the willingness to be vulnerable and honest, and the imagination to see the possibilities before our community.

Thank you, too, to the many of you treasured members who were not able to join us on Sunday but have asked to be brought into the loop and given an opportunity to offer your feedback.

How did the meeting go?
First, we took time to appreciate everything we’ve done in this incredible space for the past six years including but not limited to hosting the Sakyong three times, holding the Kalapa Governance Gathering here with President Reoch, we held an incredible regional Rites of Passage, filling the Dzong with the happy sound of curious Shambhala kids, and we’ve had a dozen or more profound Vajrayana programs led by many of our beloved teachers like Acharya Rockwell and Acharya Cashman

We recognized that things are currently hard for many members—people are taking on second and third jobs to cover rising expenses, and longtime San Franciscans are moving to other parts of the Bay Area, or out of the Bay Area altogether. We have seen that it can be difficult to spend as much time volunteering at the Center or paying the same level of dues that they originally pledged.

With this in mind, and knowing that the rent at our 1231 Stevenson location will rise to $14,500/month if we want to take the offered three-year lease extension, we discussed that we will have to find a new budget that works for our community, and a space that allows us to accomplish this. This brought us to the San Francisco Shambhala Center / NorCal Shambhala Space Committee’s proposal.

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Prayer Flags

 

The Proposal
After a lot of research and exploration of properties available throughout the city, we propose that we stay at our current location but significantly downsize. We would sign the three-year lease extension specifically for the upstairs of Sharchen Dzong (approximately 1200 square feet), which is currently home to the Tantra Shrine Room, the Tenno Room, and the Tenno Room Antechamber (which is also our Regional Director’s office). We would likely reconfigure the space somewhat to facilitate our using the upstairs as our entire Center.

Our address would change to 44 Gough Street, and we would gain some access to amenities in the larger 44 Gough St. part of our building, including kitchenettes, bathrooms, elevator, and the secure front door at 44 Gough. It is also possible that when we have larger programs we will be able to rent larger space from other tenants in our building.

We have been quoted a rental fee of $4800/month for this upstairs space, a very reasonable offer in our current rental climate. Our proposal includes that we make this move before the end of our current lease, to save our financial resources. We might transition sometime in May, for example, after our big spring Vajrayana program.

The committee appreciates that this proposal represents a major change, and is quite different from the option of keeping the downstairs space and letting go of the upstairs, which would also represent a big increase in monthly facilities expense, likely a total of about $11,000/month.

Obviously, we don’t want to be back in this same situation at the end of the new lease, so it’s important that we have a vision for what comes next. My aspiration is that with this move we immediately begin a three-year capital campaign towards the purchase of our own home in San Francisco, so we can escape the vulnerability of being exposed to the ebb and flow of the rental market.

The first step of this plan, to downsize, would also give us time to gain strength as a sangha family. By bringing our level of operations into alignment with the size and energy level of our community, we can focus on our membership and our practice together. By reducing our facilities expense, we can dedicate more fundraising towards our future home, rather than spending our members’ money on rent!

 

Lobby

How did people react?
There were many strong feelings in the Center on Sunday. For many, it was a shock to imagine our community in a much smaller home. In fact, halfway through the meeting, we got up from our seats in the downstairs shrine room and went upstairs. It felt full but good!

Many members expressed a sense of inspiration and relief that we could get out from under the strain of a rent we struggle to meet each month and also take these three years to focus on our sangha. At the same time, many members urged us all to take seriously what will be required to increase our capacity as an organization, to raise lungta, increase membership contributions and volunteer involvement, and actually be able to purchase property at the end of these three years.

One important note from our Chagdzö Walsh was that we can’t assume that if we want to move to this smaller space we will be able to easily do it. In fact, because we will be in a smaller space, we won’t be able to mount large programs without renting someone else’s space as mentioned earlier. Because we won’t be able to rely on the revenue from the large programs we have relied on in the past, we will rely more heavily on membership dues and smaller programs to pay our rent. Each and every member’s contribution will be important to the overall well-being of the center!

In closing…
Because this is not only the local center but Sharchen Dzong, this proposal will go to the Northern California Shambhala Board and Director, who will decide whether or not to approve it from the point of view of NorCal Shambhala, at which point it will go to the Sakyong and the Kalapa Council.

Please take some time to contemplate and meditate on this plan and see how it makes you feel. Both the Governing Council and I welcome your feedback.  Please write to me and let me know your thoughts, your questions, and where your inspiration is in this crucial time. We will include your feedback in the communication we give to the NCS Board at their March 12th meeting. We appreciate your input and energy, and will keep you informed as matters develop. For those of you who are interested, I’ve attached some questions and comments already compiled from members who were present at the Community Meeting.

With love and appreciation for all of you,

Your Center Director,
Alex

AVG orchestra

 

 

 

 

 

 

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