Last Chance to Fund the Berkeley REACH

(This post was co-au­thored by me (Cody Wild), Tessa Alex­a­nian and Ray Arnold)

TL;DR We have 2 days—un­til July 1 - to in­crease monthly dona­tions by $2260 or raise $27,000 in lump sum , or else REACH will lose its cur­rent lo­ca­tion and go on in­definite hiatus

Do you care about the Berkeley REACH stay­ing open? Has an open-ac­cess com­mu­nity space added value to your life? We have a few days to raise enough money to com­fortably sign a one-year lease. If not, REACH will lose its cur­rent lo­ca­tion, and the pro­ject will go into in­definite hi­a­tus.

Com­mu­nity sup­port for REACH has been sub­stan­tial, and we’re proud to see the num­ber of peo­ple will­ing to pay se­ri­ously for some­thing im­por­tant. But we haven’t hit the level where it’s re­al­is­tic to sign a full year lease. For that, we’d ei­ther need an ad­di­tional $2260/​month on Pa­treon, or up-front dona­tions of around $27,000 to make us se­cure enough to do so. If this lease isn’t signed in the next few days, REACH will lose its cur­rent lo­ca­tion at the end of July.

If you’re ex­cited about REACH, you’re prob­a­bly already donat­ing. We care about our com­mu­nity not overex­tend­ing it­self. One of the main benefits of REACH is to help those who haven’t yet got­ten their fi­nan­cial foot­ing sta­bi­lized, and if that’s your situ­a­tion we don’t want you feel­ing pres­sure here.

But if you can com­fortably donate more to REACH – if you’re one of those 6 figure salary pro­gram­mers who are ex­cited by the prospect of hav­ing an hon­est-to-good­ness com­mu­nity in a world that in­creas­ingly pushes to­wards at­om­iza­tion, we’d like you to con­sider whether you want to do more.

If you’re will­ing and able to pledge more on­go­ing sup­port than you already have, or want to make a large, one-time dona­tion to help an early-stage pro­ject get its foot­ing, the next few days are the time to come for­ward and do so.

Back­ground Reading

Cur­rent Fi­nan­cial Reality

REACH has a fund­ing gap. While this fund­ing gap re­mains, it doesn’t make sense to sign the lease.

Assets

  • REACH is earn­ing $3,600 a month in the Patreon

  • The PayPal has brought in around $10,000 so far

Costs

  • The land­lord has been ne­go­ti­ated down to $5,500/​month in rent

  • Short-term room rentals have brought in $1000-$2000/​month; we ex­pect that to gen­er­ally be lower out­side of the sum­mer months and think $1000/​month is a rea­son­able year-av­er­aged estimate

  • Fund­ing a 20 hour/​week care­taker for the space, at min­i­mum wage, would cost $15,110 over the year

  • Main­te­nance and cap­i­tal costs, op­ti­misti­cally, are around $100/​month

  • Not count­ing lost wages, about $10,000 of per­sonal funds were already in­vested into this project

Tak­ing into ac­count solely the cost of rent, the fund­ing gap on re­cur­ring and re­li­able funds is $900 per month, or $10,800 for the year. If we’re try­ing to fund the real cost of the space in a sus­tain­able way, we es­ti­mate the size of this year’s fund­ing gap at:

That’s a fund­ing gap of $2260 per month, or $27,120 for the year.

Clos­ing the Fund­ing Gap

A few large dona­tions to the PayPal, in the next few days, could offset enough of the $27,120 full-year short­fall that sign­ing the lease would seem like a rea­son­able risk.

In gen­eral, though, a Pa­treon dona­tion pledge can be re­lied upon in a way that ad hoc dona­tions just can’t. Many of you have, in the past, given PayPal dona­tions— which have been valuable— but if REACH is to sur­vive, more peo­ple for whom REACH is valuable need to com­mit to donat­ing funds on a monthly ba­sis.

Why not move some­where less ex­pen­sive?

First off, this is the Berkeley REACH. It’s not sur­pris­ing that rent is kind of high.

A house? There are houses in Berkeley with a similar amount of com­mon space, but mod­ify­ing them into a com­mu­nity cen­ter would re­quire a per­mit from the city. This would, very op­ti­misti­cally, be a 5-8 month pro­cess.

Other com­mer­cial space? There are com­mer­cial spaces in Berkeley that are less ex­pen­sive on a per-square-foot level. How­ever, they typ­i­cally re­quire 3-5 year leases. This pro­ject is still evolv­ing and sta­bi­liz­ing fi­nan­cially, so that’s too long of a com­mit­ment to ask a lease­holder to take on.

Even putting aside the hur­dles of one of the above op­tions, it would take at min­i­mum sev­eral weeks to find an al­ter­na­tive, lower-rent venue, dur­ing which sig­nifi­cant mo­men­tum on the pro­ject would be lost. The in­vest­ments to the space, the dona­tions, and the ways that REACH’s pri­mary care­tak­ers have con­figured their lives around it would be tem­porar­ily un­done, and would have to be built up again.

Why are we post­ing this?

We won’t ar­gue that this is effec­tive al­tru­ism – while you could make a case for that, it de­pends on a lot of as­sump­tions, and you may not want to count this in your Giv­ing What We Can Pledge.

Yet. Hu­mans are built for liv­ing in com­mu­nity, and we be­lieve that donat­ing money to help mem­bers of your com­mu­nity con­nect and thrive will make us stronger. We all spend money on things to make us hap­pier, and we be­lieve that, out of the available op­tions, in­vest­ing in com­mu­nity is one of the richer and more sus­tain­able ways to do that. To quote Ray Arnold:

I think it’s very good that the ra­tio­nal/​EA-sphere spends at­ten­tion on helping far away or fu­ture peo­ple, even if they won’t re­turn the fa­vor. Part of liv­ing in the pre­sent era can and should in­clude notic­ing that you have a lot of power, and the op­por­tu­nity to use that power to help peo­ple at scale.
But, while money is the unit of car­ing, there’s plenty of things to care about other than far away peo­ple.
Free­thinker-es­que com­mu­ni­ties don’t just have trou­ble co­op­er­at­ing for grand al­tru­is­tic pro­jects. They strug­gle to co­op­er­ate to just buy them­selves some god damn nice things._
I’m of the opinion peo­ple do not spend nearly enough money in­vest­ing in their own com­mu­ni­ties.
—from Thoughts on the REACH Pateron

By re­duc­ing the nec­es­sary ac­ti­va­tion en­ergy, we make it eas­ier for any given com­mu­nity mem­ber to think of a valuable com­mu­nity meetup se­ries, or work­shop, or ac­tivity, and just do it. There is a lot of bond­ing and mu­tual growth that comes out of events that would be too high-effort to ini­ti­ate if an open space weren’t eas­ily available.

There aren’t many parts of ur­ban, sec­u­lar, at­om­ized so­ciety that op­ti­mize for com­mu­nity. REACH is still very much an ex­per­i­ment in go­ing against that grain and cre­at­ing an in­ten­tional space to be to­gether and build to­gether. We haven’t yet seen the full re­sults of that ex­per­i­ment, but what we’ve seen so far is enough to make us hope­ful.

Without more fund­ing, the REACH will close. We hope you will join us in ex­tend­ing its run a lit­tle fur­ther.