A portrait of Karl Marx sits at the top of the Che Cafe's muraled exterior. An Oct. 21 eviction ruling may mean the Che will vacate as early as next week. COURTESY PHOTO
A San Diego Superior Court judge ruled in favor of UCSD Oct. 21 in the eviction hearing involving the campus landmark Che Café, saying the university owns the property and that the eviction notice it sent last summer was sufficient.
Asked for a comment after court on Oct. 20, the music-venue collective’s lawyer, Bryan Pease, said Judge Katherine Bacal would issue a written notice of the decision to be delivered to the collective, after which the Che would have five days to vacate. He added that he thought it was likely the university would write that notice on Oct. 21 and that Bacal, who heard final arguments in the case on Oct. 16, could sign it later in the day.
It's possible, Pease theorized, that the Che could be out of the site as early as next week.
The Che was served with the eviction notice in June after allegedly losing its co-op status in a Graduate Student Association vote. The university terminated its month-to-month lease and gave the collective 30 days to vacate, which it failed to do.
Pease told the court on Oct. 16 that the Che is challenging the association's vote to decertify the co-op, arguing that the governing master space agreement does not give them the authority to do so. He argued that, while the association can vote to certify, no authority to decertify had been granted to the body.
Representatives from the co-op previously stated they believed they were in an extended holdover period after their term-specific lease expired in 2008 and had occupied the space on a month-to-month basis while lease negotiations took place.
Pease told Bacal that the decertification vote was believed to be a way for the university to bypass dispute resolution and a chancellor’s review, which is why the collective proceeded to file a lawsuit.
On Oct. 21, Bacal ruled that while dispute resolution is not required, it must be exercised for it to be enforced. She said the Che had the burden of proving that it sought dispute resolution but that there was no evidence that it had tried to obtain it.
On Oct. 16, Pease addressed the issue of why the Che, despite being certified by the Associated Students and graduate student group, had not pursued an extension of its lease when it expired in 2008.
“They’re students,” he said, “and they’re not as sophisticated as a savvy administration that was misleading them and providing contradictory information… and also, there are different entities within the master space agreement, which were the Associated Students and the Graduate Students Association, that are separate from the collective. So under the lease, it was actually those student governments that were supposed to initiate this process, or at least it was unclear who was supposed to initiate or how you were supposed to initiate it.”
The university’s legal team, led by Daniel Park, argued that the collective made no effort to obtain its certification or initiate dispute resolution during the allotted ten-day period after the decertification vote. Furthermore, he said, the university was acting within its rights as a landlord with a tenant who had a month-to-month lease and that, in fact, no reason was required by law to evict the Che.
Bacal ruled that the certification/decertification issues were irrelevant to the decision. The Che had filed a legal challenge to the graduate student resolution, but, with Bacal presiding over those proceedings as well, it's not clear that they will take place at all.
The Che’s suit alleges that the university “colluded” with members of the graduate student group to decertify the collective, alleging that students were not given a reasonable opportunity to participate in decisions involving the survival of the venue.
This is not the first time the Che has faced extinction. Pease said he believes the cafe faced an unlawful detainer suit in the 1990s and was saved by student action.
On Oct. 21, a collective member said the latest ruling was not the end of the road for the Che and that the collective will continue to push to be part of the campus.
The nonprofit collective opened in 1980 and has booked such high-profile acts as Nirvana, Jimmy Eat World, Billy Corgan, Bon Iver, Bright Eyes and Green Day and has been used as an art exhibit space and a restaurant. In 2012, it fell behind on its insurance payments and had to raise $12,000 immediately.
– NBC San Diego