Co-Ops to Negotiate Lower Rent

The student-run co-operatives at UCSD have begun redrafting their rent agreement with the university in hopes of reducing their monthly payments to a more sustainable level.

Representatives from the co-ops — including the Che Cafe Collective, the UCSD Food Co-operative, Groundwork Books and the UCSD General Store Co-operative — recently decided to request that they no longer be required to pay rent for their on-campus spaces.

Though they said that this is still the ultimate goal of negotiations with the administration, the focus of their April 16 meeting with Director of University Centers Paul Terzino, A.S. President Utsav Gupta and Graduate Student Association President Alex James shifted instead to simply lowering their rent.

All those present at the meeting agreed it was time to redraft the rent contract between the co-ops and the university.

Co-op representatives also requested that their Master Space Agreement be reworded to define them as student organizations rather than businesses. This request, they said, is in response to financial hardship the co-ops fell into following a remodeling of the Student Center and the opening of Price Center.

James said the co-ops believe their current rental rates are negatively impacting their progress and ability to serve students.

“They had concerns that the funds they were paying the university was money that they could otherwise be putting back into the co-ops, to make the co-ops better,” James said.

Representatives at the meeting from the co-ops, the university, the A.S. Council and the GSA agreed to create a committee charged with drafting the new Master Space Agreement, which would dictate rent for the next two years.

The committee will be comprised of two representatives from each organization except for the university, which will be represented solely by Terzino.

Until the committee drafts and finalizes the new MSA, the co-ops will continue to abide by the terms of their 2006 MSA. This agreement — which should have been renegotiated in the 2008-09 school year, but was defaulted upon when the co-ops refused to sign an amendment to the contract — has two sets of guidelines built in.

The first set allows for a two-year lease, but is defined to only apply as long as the co-ops continue their payment plan and agree to a new lease after the two years are up. Because the co-ops did not agree to the 2008-09 contract, they fell back onto the second set of guidelines.

Under these secondary rules, the co-ops abide by a month-to-month pay plan — which they will continue to do until the new space agreement is drafted.

However, one of Terzino’s suggestions at the meeting was a pay-as-you-can policy, which would lessen the financial burden on the co-ops until a new agreement is worked out. According to Rubens, this means that if the co-ops do not have the funds to completely cover their rent, they will not be reprimanded or evicted by the university.

The committee will continue to meet throughout Spring Quarter. James said the meeting on Friday did not produce a finite consensus about what would be done in response to the co-ops’ requests.

“The only official agreement that I heard in the last meeting was that we all agreed to have another meeting,” James said. “I hope we can get it done by the end of the year, because the whole constituency of the committee will change if it had to continue into next year — and that will complicate things a lot.”

The next meeting will take place on Friday, April 24.

Readers can contact Sarah Smith at [email protected].