Berkeley-based KPFA radio station building scheduled for auction because of unpaid taxes

Maya Valluru/Staff

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The KPFA radio building on Martin Luther King Jr. Way is scheduled to be put up for auction beginning March 20 because of unpaid property taxes.

The Pacifica Foundation, the parent company of KPFA, is working to resolve this issue and does not anticipate that KPFA will have to go out of business, according to Lydia Brazon, interim executive director of the Pacifica Foundation. The unpaid taxes are a result of complications with KPFA as it applied for tax-exempt status, Brazon added.

“The essential cause of the tax lien on KPFA’s building is the Pacifica Foundation’s dysfunctional governance structure,” said Christina Huggins, KPFA board chair, in an email.

KPFA’s property taxes were not paid for several years while pending exemption approval under the assumption that they did not have to be paid while waiting for the status, according to Brazon.

Pacifica ran into a series of complications several years ago during executive director turnover, during which Pacifica had to temporarily change its name, resulting in the loss of its tax-exempt status, Brazon said.

The Organizational Clearance Certificate, which grants the exemption through the California State Board of Equalization, had to be reapplied for every time the name changed, according to Brazon.

This issue also complicated KPFA’s exemption application, which was completed within the same time period.

“We hired two firms, which are experts in these situations, and we are now cautiously optimistic that the situation will be resolved and the amount will be within our ability to pay,” Brazon said. “We have no expectation that KPFA is going to close or be auctioned off. One way or the other, I strongly believe that the doors will stay open.”

In case the situation is not resolved, Brazon said Pacifica is working on a plan to meet the entire tax liability.

In order to yield substantial relief, one firm is working on getting the tax-exempt status, while the other is working on reducing the accrued penalties.

“Because there are many Pacifica directors who have little or no experience in broadcasting and financial management, the Pacifica National Board has have not been able to manage the assets effectively,” said Carol Wolfley, KPFA board secretary, in an email. “Right now, there is an election for a bylaws amendment to change the governance system to work more effectively.”

A “member generated petition” has enough signatures to mandate the bylaw restructure vote, Huggins said in the email.

The auction is scheduled to take place online from March 20 to March 23.

“Pacifica has been around for so long, since 1946, and it’s gone through ups and downs, and democratic experiments within its board, and bylaws have been a matter of controversy at different times, and all kinds of upheaval, and it continues. It survives,” Brazon said.

Contact Taylor Rudman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @TaylorRudman.