A nonprofit that for more than four decades has provided scrap materials and art supplies at low or no cost to The City’s teachers, students and artists is in jeopardy of eviction from it’s Bayview District warehouse space.
Following multiple moves throughout San Francisco, SCRAP — a recycling and reuse center established in 1976 — has operated out of a warehouse at 801 Toland St. for the past 19 years. The San Francisco Unified School District, which owns the property, has supported the organization by providing the space rent-free.
But that could soon change, as the warehouse faces several fire safety and building code violations and is in need of costly repairs, according to SCRAP’s leadership.
SFUSD spokesperson Gentle Blythe confirmed that recent safety and permitting concerns at the space are complicating SCRAP’s tenancy.
“SFUSD was recently told by the San Francisco Fire Department that the site where SCRAP is located cannot be occupied by an enterprise such as SCRAP and that SCRAP cannot remain in that space,” she said, adding that an organization such as SCRAP would require a mercantile occupancy space, while the warehouse is permitted only for storage.
“We are in conversation with SCRAP’s leadership about this issue but have no further updates at this time,” Blythe said.
In a newsletter sent on Feb. 5, Executive Director Ben Delaney informed SCRAP employees of a possible eviction due to the warehouse’s need for “substantial building upgrades.”
“We are working with our generous partners at the San Francisco Unified School District to identify options for the continued operation of the SCRAP depot at its current location,” wrote Delaney. “However, there is the possibility that SCRAP may need to find a new home.”
SCRAP Founder Anne Marie Thielen started the organization 42 years ago to address environmental issues and teacher funding cuts and to cater to the needs of artists.
Since its inception, Scrap has provided some 10 million pounds of discarded materials for reuse, and the organization diverts between 200 and 300 tons of discarded materials from landfills annually.
Some 2,000 people, including students and teachers, participate in workshops, field trips and events hosted by the organization. The organization also focuses on workforce development by providing jobs in economically-challenged neighborhoods and training to developmentally challenged youth.
A storefront inside of SCRAP’s Bayview warehouse serves about 5,000 customers annually who purchase discarded materials such as leather, frame parts, textiles, wire, plastic, rubber scraps and “shiny” things, according to the organization’s website.
SCRAP is largely run by volunteers, and proceeds are used to pay about 10 part-time and three full-time “scrappers,” said Thielen.
The storefront, however, drew the ire of City Inspectors last year. Following an inspection by the Fire Marshal in October that identified fire code violations, a building inspector cited SCRAP for operating a “recycled art supply store open to [the] public.”
“There is also someone living in one of the shipping containers lined up on the Newcomb [Avenue] side with no sanitation facilities,” the complaint read.
Thielen said that the warehouse is located in an industrial area that draws homeless residents.
“We have people who invade us — they go underneath the fence,” she said, but noted that the main focus of the complaint is the space’s retail use.
According to Thielen, SCRAP has had a “written understanding” with the school district that “we will be [selling] supplies to the community at large.”
“The school district always knew we were doing more than just giving materials to teachers,” Thielen said. “Unfortunately, things are changing in San Francisco. Things that are now commercial have to be in a commercial-type building.”
Separating the storefront from the storage space would be too costly, she said.
“It would be very expensive to operate in two spaces,” she said. “The City [is] at the mercy of developers. For us to rent a space would be impossible — we don’t make enough income.”
In the coming weeks, SCRAP’s leadership will form a committee to identify solutions, said Thielen, which include seeking the help of The City in finding an affordable real estate opportunity.
Thielen said that the organization has slowed it’s accepting of donations in preparation of a potential relocation in the coming months.
“The school district is being very patient — They haven’t given us a date to leave the space,” she said.