Berkeley Animal Rights Center faces potential termination of lease

Priyanka Karthikeyan/Staff

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The Berkeley Animal Rights Center, or ARC, is facing the potential termination of its lease with the city after the ARC received a letter Sept. 30 outlining alleged violations of the lease terms.

In a letter to the ARC’s funding body Friends of Direct Action Everywhere, the law firm Burke, Williams & Sorensen detailed ways in which the ARC had violated their lease with the city. Alleged violations identified in the letter include use of the premises for activities other than office space, alterations made to the building such as painting and the use of unapproved signs, a lack of valid insurance and allowing the property to be used by other organizations.

ARC manager Orlando Torres alleged that the city monitored the ARC to document violations of the lease, including allegedly sending city officials to take pictures of a workout session held at the ARC for staff and volunteers. ARC spokesperson A.J. Hill said such allegations emerged after the city produced a photo during a meeting with ARC lawyers that appeared to show the same yoga session from outside the building.

The letter from the law firm cites the yoga session as a violation of the lease’s requirement that the premises be used for office space only.  

“We feel that this attack on the Berkeley Animal Rights Center is unwarranted,” Hill said.

Torres said the city’s use of a law firm to notify the ARC about the violations of their lease is unusual. According to Torres, the city initially contacted the ARC about potential violations regarding a lack of valid insurance, which later expanded into a list of additional violations in the letter.

How the city has identified what qualifies as the use of office space in its letter, Torres said, is inconsistent with how non-profit organizations generally use offices. The letter identifies the building’s current use as a “communal work area, meeting location, (and) event space” violates the lease terms. Torres added, however, that nonprofits often organize community events and hold volunteer appreciation parties.

City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, whose district includes the ARC building, said he hopes that confusion caused by this situation can be resolved and that the ARC can continue to have a positive impact on the city.

“I just think that they’re a very vital, thoughtful addition to the community and they’re raising very important issues that we need to think about and understand,” Worthington said.

The letter from the city stated that if the ARC fails to comply with the terms of their lease within 30 days of receiving the notice, the lease will be terminated.

“We hope that the city of Berkeley reconsiders and allows a voice for animals to be represented in the city,” Hill said.

ARC is currently drafting a letter to Mayor Tom Bates about the situation that has been signed by other animal rights organizations in support of the ARC and intends to publish a MoveOn petition.

Contact Sydney Fix at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sydney_fix.

A previous version of this article may have implied that the lease violations by the Berkeley Animal Rights Center identified by the city have been substantiated. In fact, the city’s allegations of violations by ARC have not been verified.