May 15 2013 11:07 AM

Southeastern San Diego nonprofit can't afford its office space

Photo by David Rolland

The Coalition of Neighborhood Councils (CNC), an umbrella nonprofit group that advocates for southeastern San Diego's neighborhoods, will vacate a city-owned building because the organization can no longer afford its bills.

The CNC, which has been a subject of news in the special-election campaign for City Council District 4, has until May 24 to move out of the Tubman-Chavez Multicultural Center in Valencia Park. The location has also served as the headquarters of several youth programs that were discontinued when CNC funding dried up.

Some members of the CNC's board wanted to try to stay in the building, but newer members pushed to vacate. "This… is not a healthy place for the organization," said Kathleen MacLeod, an alternate board member, "and I want the organization to succeed. We're just so broke."

The board's using the financial difficulties to restructure the CNC so it no longer focuses on social services, several board members said. Instead, the board wants to restore the organization's original purpose: uniting communities in southeastern San Diego over common neighborhood issues. When the CNC started in 1994, that meant helping neighborhood councils that were weakly organized, but more recently it's meant making sure communities in District 4 aren't overlooked by Caltrans for transportation improvements or by the San Diego Association of Governments for grant funding.

In November, the CNC amended its bylaws, changing the way board members are selected. In the past, a resident could attend three CNC meetings and then having voting powers. Now, neighborhood planning groups appoint representatives. The changes made way for a new wave of board members in January, who wanted to leave the building that month.

"This board is taking responsible decisions in order to save the organization," said board member Ken Malbrough, who supported the decision to leave. "You have to have a reason for the building."

The decision was put on hold, though, because the Mayor's office wanted a more formal process for the decision to vacate, said Sheila Minick, the board's acting co-chairperson. A committee formed to compile a report on building expenses, she said, but the picture became so bleak that finishing it became pointless.

Although rent was only $100 a month, other expenses totaled about $2,500 per month. The CNC also saw a $6,800 reserve as of Jan. 1 dwindle to $365 on March 31, MacLeod said.

The CNC brought in $1.38 million in fiscal year 2008 and $1.47 million in fiscal year 2009. That fell to $668,888 in fiscal year 2010, and an operating deficit worsened, ending up $216,171 in the red.

In mid-April, the board voted unanimously to give its 30-day notice. The CNC board hasn't yet decided where its meetings will be held.

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