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Pico Youth Center Hopes for New Home:

The Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC), forced to move at the expiration of its current lease at the end of September, believes it has found new and larger quarters very close to the space at 828 Pico Boulevard that has been its home since its founding in 2002.

PYFC founder and executive director Oscar de la Torre told the Mirror that the Center is focusing on two new locations, one near the intersection of 7th Street and Pico Boulevard and the other near 10th and Pico. “If one of the [prospective] landlords does not renege on a verbal commitment,” said de la Torre, the Center will have new space in adequate time to avoid any interruption in its operations.

The current circumstances forcing an imminent move began in early June 2007, when the Center received notice that it would have to leave at the end of its current one-year lease term September 30, 2007. According to de la Torre, the landlord Beptal, Inc. began showing the next-door space in April of this year, and an unknown tenant was interested in that space and more, so Nazy Efraim, the property manager and sister of Benjamin Efraim, a principal in Beptal, offered the PYFC space to the undisclosed prospective tenant. The notice to PYFC followed.

The Center has been paying market rent on its space, said de la Torre, but the market keeps rising in Santa Monica, so that $1.80 per-square-foot rents have become $2.00 to $2.40 per-square-foot rents, and thus the move will be costly, but at least not a jump from sweetheart rates to market rates.

Although the Center’s immediate goal is to find new space to rent for its operations, it is now committed as a result of this experience to a capital campaign to raise money so that it can purchase a permanent home. De la Torre says he has been speaking with other nonprofit organizations about strategizing such a campaign.

The Pico Youth and Family Center was born out of a 1998 demonstration against youth violence following a series of shootings in the Pico neighborhood. In June 2001, PYFC was awarded a grant from the Santa Monica City Council to deliver services to youth and their families, and the Center opened its doors in January 2002. Today the Center, which requires youth to register for its services although they are free, counts 131 members.

Executive director de la Torre says that he frequented the John Rossi Youth Center when he was a Samohi student, and even now he hangs Rossi’s shingle at PYFC. Rossi was a white European of Italian descent who provided a home for Santa Monicans of all races, says de la Torre, who now wants PYFC to do the same today.

Perhaps the Center’s forced relocation is a blessing in disguise, he concludes. “Maybe we should call it an expansion rather than just a relocation.”

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