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Our Story

Turning a seed of an idea into a solution

Est. 2013, San Francisco

In 2012, CAST emerged out of a brilliant partnership between the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and Community Vision (then known as Northern California Community Loan Fund or NCCLF). Kenneth Rainin Foundation CEO Jennifer Rainin and Chief Program Officer Shelley Trott along with Joshua Simon, former NCCLF Director of Real Estate Consulting (who later became part of CAST’s founding board and is currently Senior Advisor at CAST), were meeting with other San Francisco Bay Area stakeholders to figure out a way to help artists and nonprofits from being displaced. 

Building the plane as we’re flying it

Recognizing the tech boom could once again create a surging and prohibitively expensive real estate market for arts organizations, both Trott and Simon embarked on a mission to ensure artists could remain in our cities regardless of market changes. The idea being if these artists and nonprofits could buy their own buildings, or at least sign long-term, affordable leases to stabilize their current and future operations, they could afford to stay in the Bay Area. 

L to R: Jessica Robinson Love of CounterPulse; founding Board members Deborah Cullinan, Eric Rodenbeck (back), and Joshua Simon; Darryl Smith of Luggage Store Gallery, Board member Shelley Trott, and consultant Marcelle Hinand at a 2013 press conference hosted by the Mayor of San Francisco.


This seed of an idea that was incubated through NCCLF evolved into what is now known as Community Arts Stabilization Trust. With a $5 million grant from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation to launch CAST’s first two pilot projects, CounterPulse and Luggage Store Gallery, CAST set out on its mission to slow the exodus of artists and arts organizations in the Mid-Market neighborhood of San Francisco by buying two buildings, leveraging New Markets Tax Credits, and holding the asset for a period of seven years until the arts partner was strong enough operationally and had enough funds raised to buy their building back from CAST and acquire a permanent home. 

Founded in 2013, CAST has helped transform access to space for nonprofits in the Bay Area, at a time when artists were being priced out left and right in San Francisco and particularly vulnerable to an escalating commercial real estate market. 

In 2014, Moy Eng joined as CAST’s founding Executive Director. Since its founding, CAST has grown from a staff of two to a team of 12. The organization now has six projects across San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose totaling over 80,000 square feet in affordable space, and has raised approximately $50 million, which is dedicated to securing and stewarding space for artists and cultural workers. 

The CAST team, March 2023. Photo by Mogli Maureal.

Forging a new path

CAST’s tenant buyback model has been cited as a prototype for rooting arts and culture in communities by the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank and the World Cities Culture Forum in London. The framework, which supports the acquisition of a property and stabilizes escalating real estate costs over 7-10 years, builds arts organizations’ capacity to lease or own property in the long-term. CAST has proved this model with pilot project CounterPulse’s successful purchase of its building in Spring 2023. CAST-inspired ventures have emerged in major cities across the world from London, Sydney, and Vancouver to Austin and Seattle. 

CAST’s evolution from an idea into an innovative community-centered real estate organization has helped over two dozen arts/community groups gain dedicated space for their work.


Why we exist

With arts and culture being the fourth-largest economic driver in San Francisco, the development of CAST as an intermediary to support real estate acquisitions and capacity-building was a significant move in showing what bold thinking, leadership, and resources could achieve to support this vibrant sector. Through many conversations with arts groups and other city stakeholders starting from 2007-2009, it became clear that there was a need for an entity to fill the gaps in the specialized areas of community and economic development and real estate financing. Most arts organizations excel when it comes to programming and being catalysts for change, but they often lack the expertise to navigate space challenges that will keep themselves rooted in their communities. 


Photo by Mogli Maureal

Arts and culture are essential

Arts and culture play an essential role in building healthy communities and neighborhoods; it is the reason why so many are attracted to come visit or settle in the Bay Area. As major contributors to a city’s local economy, artists and cultural workers should be able to thrive and be valued for their ability to help us understand who we are, communicate with each other, and bridge gaps in understanding, helping us to build connections that honor and celebrate our commonalities and differences. 


We need to invest in artists and cultural workers the same way they invest in us.

CAST was created to keep this incredibly diverse art scene from fading. It is critical that as our region grows and changes, we create and solidify the conditions for artists and cultural workers to flourish and thrive. When we accomplish that, we all gain from the energy and soul of thriving communities.