Nov 18 2020

Opinion: $1 Lease of 801 Magnolia is a Slippery Slope

Would the City lease out and give control of the Japanese Tea House to a private organization in the same manner as proposed for the Piedmont Center for the Arts?


To: Piedmont City Council:

I have read with great interest the upcoming approval by the City of a lease for the 801 Magnolia Avenue building. Here is my “slippery slope” argument to highlight the consequences of extending the proposed lease to The Piedmont Center for the Arts.


I have just formed a new nonprofit, Cherry Blossoms, Inc. (“CBI”). Our nonprofit would like to get a five-year lease from you for the City’s Japanese Tea House, and its surrounding deck for $1.00 per year. We plan to rent it out for art exhibits, bonsai exhibits and to professional Japanese puppet masters and to Kabuki theatre performers to bring culture to the Piedmont community.

We also would plan to make money renting to music teachers for individual & group lessons and recitals, especially on traditional Japanese instruments. Anyone else wanting to use it could apply to rent it from us, and we would rent it out at our sole discretion charging whatever user fees we think we could get.

Our lease would provide that the City would be responsible for all water, refuse removal, exterior maintenance, including decks, benches, trees, landscaping maintenance, and any maintenance related to the structural integrity of this sweet little building. CBI would be responsible for interior maintenance; we will be making lots of money in rental fees and so could easily do any inside maintenance that we, in our sole opinion, decide needs doing.

Once a year the City could rent it out from us for the Japanese Consulate visit or for a bride using the Community Center as a “City Private Rental” with six month’s advance written notice to us, unless we later decide we really need to use it. In that case, we can just give you 30 days’ notice prior to your scheduled booking and you will have to try your best to find another venue.

Such a lease with us is modeled exactly on the one you are already giving to the Piedmont Center for the Arts and will demonstrate the City’s support for Asian arts in Piedmont.

Now that the City is supporting the arts by giving away other under-utilized city buildings, we demand equal treatment. We have the blessing and backing of a significant portion of the Piedmont community and will be presenting our proposed lease to you for a First Reading as early as possibly in January, long before the cherry trees bloom.

We look forward to working with you to advance the arts in Piedmont.

M. Rhiger, Piedmont Resident

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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