Pacific Rim Intl. to Close Emeryville campus following ‘nearly three times’ rent increase

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The Pacific Rim International School, or “PRINTS,” announced the abrupt closure of their Emeryville campus at the conclusion of their 2023/24 school year to parents. The decision, it was explained, was due to the inability of PRINTS to come to terms on a lease with the new property owners that they detailed was “nearly three times our prior lease.”

The sudden announcement has saddened and frustrated parents and left them wondering why essential services like early child care providers are not better protected from large rent increases. Many parents are also pondering if better communication could have been provided by PRINTS giving them more adequate time to find options for their children.

PRINTS is a dual-immersion Montessori school that has operated on the corner of Doyle and Stanford for over 30 years. The Emeryville campus offers a Mandarin program and accepts children as young as three months. They also have a larger campus in San Mateo that also offers Japanese and Spanish programs.

Their intimate Emeryville campus has an enrollment of less than fifty students and is beloved by parents. “Their Montessori environment is very peaceful, and respectful of babies and children as unique humans, allowing them to be their authentic selves,” noted longtime Emeryville resident and former Parks & Rec. Committee member Patty Weber who lives at Watergate with her family of four. “Our children have thrived at PRINTS. My husband and I don’t speak Mandarin and had never had much exposure to Chinese culture before PRINTS, so our experience has been challenging, but in a good way. We’ve learned so much, and appreciate being taken out of our comfort zone so we can grow.”

“The staff is incredible,” echoed PRINTS parent Renee Wang, a recent Emeryville resident whose one-year-old attends their infant program dubbed ‘Nido.’

Sadly, the time these parents and children have shared together appears to be coming to an end. In a letter sent to parents last Thursday, PRINTS Management announced their abrupt closure and the circumstances behind the decision.

…the landlord’s representative telephoned us to say he will expect us to agree to a 10-year term and rent/expenses of nearly three times our prior lease. PRINTS Management

“After 30 years serving children in Emeryville, we are all deeply disappointed to see this chapter come to an end,” they shared in a letter to parents adding that their summer sessions at their Emeryville campus had also been cancelled. “The school building has been sold and the new landlord is raising rents and other expenses exponentially. We have been trying to negotiate a renewal of the contract for months, but the landlord was not responsive. Yesterday afternoon, for the first time, the landlord’s representative telephoned us to say he will expect us to agree to a 10-year term and rent/expenses of nearly three times our prior lease.”


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The State of California passed so-called “rent gouging” legislation in 2019 but the scope is limited and does not apply to commercial properties. This leaves many small businesses, including essential services like day care providers and the families they serve, vulnerable to these large increases in rent.

The property for their building as well as most of the block between Stanford and 55th was acquired last year by Hackman Capital Partners for $23 million. Hackman is a privately held real estate investment and operating company based in Los Angeles. This acquisition also includes the property leased to Doyle Street Cafe who are still under lease. Hackman also owns a warehouse on 64th Street.

“We actually provided Pacific Rim multiple opportunities, over several months, to renew its one-year lease,” Hackman media contact Audrey Hackman provided. “They did not commit. In fact, we only heard indirectly through the community that they were planning to vacate the space.”

The PRINTS Management team met with their Emeryville campus staff and faculty last week on April 25 to announce their decision and answer their questions then followed up with a letter sent to parents. This letter invited parents to transfer to their San Mateo campus “if geography allows.”

The abrupt decision to close their campus has left parents disappointed and scrambling to find other options for summer programs and their children’s ongoing care and education.

“The headmistress should have informed the parents earlier in order to give us enough time to find other options,” noted PRINTS parent Timothée Colmet Daâge whose family lives a short bike ride away in North Oakland and has three children who have attended PRINTS (two who are still enrolled). “She certainly should have treated her staff with more respect and decency given the years of service, decades for some, they have given to the school.”

While parents generally praised the staff at the Emeryville campus, they seemed less impressed with PRINTS management that was clustered in San Mateo. Some of the parents complained that the Emeryville campus was treated like an outpost and management was less communicative with Emeryville parents particularly during the pandemic.

“They claim that they were surprised by the sudden increase in rent expectation with no prior communication, but this seems improbable given the scale and timeframe of the change,” provided parent John Hung who works in Emeryville.


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“This has been a major inconvenience for us that has left us scrambling to secure last-second childcare, and I feel much worse for the other parents with younger kids that will have many fewer options on such a tight timeline. Childcare options are extremely limited, especially for specialty schools like Montessoris or bilingual schools, and many families have been left out to dry.”

“She certainly should have treated her staff with more respect and decency given the years of service, decades for some, they have given to the school.” PRINTS parent Timothée Colmet Daâge

Rumors began swirling among parents that the landlord was already in negotiations with another South Berkeley based provider with a similar focus. Parents are suspicious that this school has been negotiating with the landlord for months prior and that this information could have been provided sooner giving them more time to make alternate plans.

Hackman confirmed the new tenant who will be expanding into the space. “In the interim, Happa Baby approached us, inquiring about the space’s availability,” they provided. “This minority, women-based daycare, which operates locally in Berkeley, expressed a willingness to sign a long-term lease at today’s market rates.” (it should be noted that PRINTS is also a minority, women-based daycare).

Some parents are already inquiring with Happa Baby and are hopeful that the change to a different operator will be seamless and hopeful that their tuition will be competitive with PRINTS (PRINTS was charging $2,650/mo. for kids ages 3 and up and $3400/mo. for their Nido program).

Some parents are dubious that the large increase in rent won’t be passed along to them in the form of higher tuition and reduced staff salaries. Others have expressed concerns that the care at Happa Baby may be a downgrade on what they’ve become accustomed to at PRINTS including higher student-teacher ratios.

“This situation is definitely having an immediate impact on PRINTS families, and perhaps could have been handled better by management. But more significantly, it is a symptom of a greater problem and will have a negative ripple effect on our greater community,” Weber provided.

“Our early childcare centers provide essential services that allow parents to work, both to support their families and to contribute to society and the economy. Not only that, they provide care during the most critical years of childhood development. These centers need more support, including but not limited to, protection from significant rent increases that forces them to shut down and / or increase already high tuition rates. ECDC is a great example of a supported early childcare center. We need more of that.”


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Our early childcare centers provide essential services that allow  parents to work, both to support their families and to contribute to society and the economy. PRINTS parent Patricia Weber

Not surprisingly, child care in California is among the most expensive in the nation. Elected officials are beginning to identify that the exorbitant cost and failing facilities as a looming ‘childcare crisis.’

“Happa Baby is committed to giving those impacted families peace of mind —as are we,” Hackman provided. “We both are committed to facilitating this transition, which ultimately will be good for the community, and we wish Pacific Rim the best of luck.”

Parents are hoping PRINTS management will provide additional clarity in a scheduled zoom call with them this week.

Feature Image: Homes.com

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

13 Comments

  1. My children and grandchildren all went to PRINTS. It is very sad when profit becomes the primary motive for making decisions. Humanity only seems to care about financial gain, not about the education of children or preventing the environmental collapse of our planet. This situation is a microcosm of a much more pervasive illness in our global society; profit over wellness and well-being. Emeryville is no longer the place of living that it once was…

  2. If the whole block was bought by the same company and they are raising prices all around, it is going to be terrible. The commercial spaces in the corner with 55th are already being vacated and losing Doyle Cafe would be a terrible hit. I hate to be doom and gloom, but it really sound like greed is going to destroy a nice area of Emeryville.

  3. Do you know how Happa Baby is able to afford the rent? Was there some back door deal going on with the landlord? It seems like if a big school like PRINTS could not afford the increase, how can a small daycare do it? Or how can they guarantee that it ultimately wont be kicked out like PRINTS?

  4. Anyone renting from hack man beware! They may f\/ck your business at the worst possible time: huge increase or close your doors! Renew early or prepare to move, don’t let them burn you at the end. Don’t invest in tenant improvements!

  5. As the co-founder of Happa Baby, I would like to address the community’s concerns. HB’s unique business model, hands-on approach and professional management are the keys to making us successful. We have grown from a small family childcare licensed for six children to now serving four times that number of children in addition to a very long waitlist in just two years.

    Our goal is to fully utilize the capacity that 5521 Doyle Street offers by increasing the enrollment rate to an optimal level. HB is grateful for its school community who has been the biggest supporter of our sustainability and the driving force behind our growth and expansion.

    We look forward to becoming part of and contributing to the Emeryville community!

    Warmly
    carol

  6. PRINTS management, Christina Cheung, dropped the ball. How is it possible that another daycare is moving in? They’re hiding behind the greedy landlord narrative. They gave the staff and families two month notice with zero assistance and hired lawyers to speak with families instead of being honest and transparent. Shame!

  7. Carol, could you please comment on your experience with Hackman? When did they approach you? When did you sign the lease? What did they say about the current tenants, if anything?

    • She knew in March already. She was advertising on BPN (Berkeley parents network) and her families knew too. It seems there was some behind the doors business going on between the landlord and Happa Baby which is disgusting. For a daycare center to push out another one is greedy to say the least.

    • I am address PRINTS families directly this week to answer any questions they have. Thanks for your comments.

  8. PRINTS sent parents a follow up email giving more information about their interaction with Hackman, and a more heartfelt response to the situation. They do care, but they didn’t know until this article was posted that anyone was questioning their side of the story. We have a simple situation here of conflicting reports between Hackman and PRINTS. If PRINTS is telling the truth, there is nothing more they could have done. I’m personally holding out until Rob hopefully finds out more of the truth, which will likely be found if / when more businesses close on Hackman’s property. I think at that point we will know if the “greedy landlord narrative” is actually the truth or not, but we can’t just assume it’s false until then.

  9. We will also be able to see the truth more when we find out how Happa is able to afford that space. Will their rates be higher than Prints was? Will it be more crowded and or lower teacher ratios? Will it end up being that they can’t afford the rent? Or will they succeed and stay afloat while offering similar care and tuition than Prints? We don’t know yet. Signing a lease alone does not prove you can succeed. Only time will tell.

  10. It’s hard to say exactly what happened in this situation – PRINTS says one thing, and the landlord says something else. Some of the comments seem to presume that Happababy did something wrong, but there is no evidence pointing to that.

    In any case, the response of PRINTS management to the situation was beyond abysmal. The situation may or may not have been beyond their control (nobody knows for sure), but they immediately snapped to a judgement of closing the school with no attempt to mitigate the damage to their employees or impacted families.

    Moreover, they showed a complete lack of empathy towards the situation that they were placing their former employees and families in. Their responses on the Zoom call were dismissive of parent concerns, and left it entirely up to them to figure out solution to the issues. Management refused to help with questions such as “how can parents help the staff that are losing their jobs”, “can you help with introductions to any other local schools”, and “is there anything we can do for an end of year celebration to help the kids find closure?” They instead left it entirely to the parents to take the initiative on these myriad items – a parent made an analogy to management dispassionately treating the situation as a limb that they had chosen to sever.

    This entire experience has permanently soiled years of great experiences with PRINTS for me.

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