SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The Natalia Johnson Conservatory has been a tenant at the Fruitridge Community Collaborative – a repurposed Sacramento City Unified School District elementary school in South Oak Park.
“In 2015, when this opened up as a collaborative, many of our kids were very excited,” manager Kandice Kelly told FOX40.
The conservatory has been at the repurposed school for the past five years and its doors are open to women and men of all ages. A recent eviction notice, however, has left the group on edge.
“We found out in September our rent was three to four times more than we’ve been paying,” Kelly explained. “We tried to work with the school district, we’ve tried working with the tenant’s board to be able to meet that financial demand.”
The group was told to vacate the property by the end of January, according to Kelly.
“The story has been spun to make it appear as if it’s just about $300. Well, it’s not about $300,” Kelly told FOX40.
Michael Pace, a fiscal sponsor helping nonprofits at the center, told FOX40 over the phone that he leases the space along with the school district but allows the tenant board to make day-to-day decisions.
“Part of the duties of the tenant board is to decide who will be evicted and when,” Pace said. “The tenant board has made a decision and they are moving forward with that process.”
In a statement from December provided by the tenant bord, they say tenants were required to pay more to fill a $90,000 deficit. They say in 2019 a new agreement was introduced that required all tenants to sign new leases.
“We exist to help people do good things in the communities and we genuinely, truly want to see that happen,” said Pace. “It’s unfortunate when things don’t always work out that way.”
“When we met with the tenant’s board here in the building we told them that we have the funds now and what they have said is that they still want us to go,” said Kelly.
The group says they invested money to transform the studio for local dancers to learn the arts close to home.
“A lot of them do not go to the schools in this district and they’ve had to be bussed out because of that. And then on top of that, there has been a lot of families that have been gentrified out of the neighborhood just in their own homes,” said dancer Natalia Johnson.
They’re now fighting to have the eviction overturned.
“For us to be broken up is hurtful,” said Johnson. “ We like to be around each other and we like to build as a community.”
Kelly told FOX40 the school board president offered to pay the additional rent.
The tenant board said an unlawful detainer has been filed. FOX40 was told the dance group is planning to move in the near future to another art center.