Facing a rent hike, Peninsula Youth Theatre launches fundraiser

Performing arts theater sets $75,000 goal

Peninsula Youth Theatre, a regional group that works with local kids who want to experience life under the spotlight, is facing a 45% rent increase, so it's launching a fundraising campaign to help it stay in its longtime home in Mountain View.

In an April 11 letter to parents and supporters, the theater's Executive Director Karen Simpson wrote that the performing arts theater is facing an unexpected increase in facilities costs after the ownership of the property changed hands. While Simpson did not cite the exact amount, supporters are being asked to donate to a $75,000 facilities campaign to "secure our increased rent for one year."

Known as PYT, the youth theater group has made its home in Mountain View for 25 years, almost all of it at its current location at 2500 Old Middlefield Way. In any given year, the theater serves 2,500 children and teens from all over the Bay Area who participate in a mix of productions, classes and off-site camps. Every elementary school in Mountain View participates in the "School Play in a Box" program, where PYT provides the teacher and script to help put on a school play. Musicals, stage productions and free Theatre in the Park events pull in a combined 26,500 audience members annually.

Simpson told the Mountain View Voice that she sympathizes with the property owner's position, and that the property tax for the land undoubtedly spiked when it was purchased in November. The new rent is also "not outrageous," given the area and the market right now, but it still poses a tough challenge for the nonprofit.

While negotiations with the property owner are still ongoing, Simpson said the call for help needs to kick off early to raise enough donations to offset a rent hike that begins Sept. 1.

"Looking at what that increase is going to look like, we need to get that info out there and start raising the funds to cover the lease," she said.

The worst case scenario is that PYT will have to move, which would be a tough proposition. Finding available real estate big enough for stage productions is tough, and zoning restrictions in Mountain View and nearby cities leave few affordable options. The $75,000 fundraiser, if PYT is forced to move, would have to cover the difficult transition to a new home and redeveloping the new facility for large-scale rehearsals and performances.

A neighboring performing arts theater, the California Theater Center in Sunnyvale, recently shuttered after 41 years due to financial challenges, and City Lights Theater Company is finding it tough to find a temporary location during redevelopment of its current San Jose home.

PYT relies on revenue from tickets, class fees and private donations, with limited contract agreements with the city of Mountain View that either waive the cost of using facilities or pay for plays performed in the city. Kids who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals participate in the school-site productions free of charge.

Anyone interested in donating can go to Negotiations on the upcoming lease are expected to wrap up in the next few weeks, Simpson said.

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