Facts on the City-owned building and Brooks Institute

From the Brooks website “After considerable discussion and deliberation, the difficult decision has been made to close Brooks Institute.” Where does that leave their students?

by City staff

Last year, the City was approached with an idea by downtown property owners, represented by the Downtown Ventura Partners (DVP), to facilitate the relocation of Brooks Institute to the Downtown Area. Brooks presented a plan to re-energize their institution and move into three locations downtown. In order for Brooks to find and occupy other permanent facilities, they needed a temporary location to assist in their transition.  With the Trade Desk just having vacated a City-owned building downtown and their lease expiring in February, the City had the ability to make short-term space available to Brooks.

To make more efficient use of rentable space in the building downtown, the City consolidated the non-profit tenants with other tenants; no tenants were evicted. Subsequently, the City entered into a short-term lease with Brooks through December 2016, with the option of four, 1-year extensions to help facilitate their move.

As part of the City’s due diligence in determining the viability of the lease, the City was provided access to Brooks’ and its parent company’s (GPHomestay) confidential financial information. Based on that review it was determined that Brooks was solvent.  As a longtime partner and contributor to Ventura’s thriving art scene, the City saw this as a business retention opportunity to retain 80 faculty jobs, 80 support jobs, and a campus for 350 students by facilitating Brooks’ move to the downtown.

On August 12, Brooks Institute announced it was closing and construction came to a halt. The loss of this tenant pointed out some weaknesses in the City’s internal process, namely that the security deposit of $27,572 and $32,038 in rent had not been collected in a timely manner within the deadlines of the lease. The City is conducting a through process review to determine what caused the delay to collect the amount due from Brooks.  We will also be developing a better administrative process to prevent this from happening in the future.  The City takes this issue seriously and we strive to promote transparency at the highest level.

The City did not contribute any funds to Brooks’ improvements. The contract with Brooks requires them to pay the full amount of the lease and complete renovations, and protects the City from default and any damages associated.  Public property, unlike private property, cannot be liened. Additionally, since lien rights cannot be filed on public property, the City is not liable for the improvements that were made and the contractor cannot successfully file a lien against public property.

The City empathizes with all who have been affected by the decision of GPHomestay to close Brooks Institute. The closure has impacted students who must relocate to other schools, the faculty who have lost their jobs and the local contractors that were left unpaid.  The City will assert its rights per the lease agreement and will aggressively pursue recouping owed funds from this project.

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