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La Casa de La Raza Negotiates Payment to Bank to Avoid Foreclosure Auction

La Casa de La Raza won’t be placed on the auction block anytime soon, officials said Friday, confirming that the Lower Eastside community center has paid its mortgage lender to put an end to foreclosure proceedings.

The organization was slated to be auctioned off for cash on Monday, a deadline that was extended two weeks earlier. La Casa’s headquarters at 601 E. Montecito St. was originally supposed to be sold Aug. 25 for failing to pay outstanding property taxes.

The nonprofit’s board this week negotiated to pay Fidelity Bank a fee, La Casa Executive Director Raquel Lopez told Noozhawk on Friday.

The agreed-upon amount was less than the $9,647.28 owed in 2013-14 fiscal year taxes, but Lopez did not wish to disclose the figure.

“That urgency is off the table for right now,” Lopez said.

Making the good-faith payment gives La Casa time to work with Santa Barbara County to reinstate its nonprofit status — the reason she said the organization delayed payment.

This marks the second time in two years La Casa has avoided auction. County officials considered the same action in 2012, when La Casa owed more than $97,000 in property taxes, default on the property since the 2004-05 tax year.

La Casa, which was founded in 1971 to focus on preserving Latino cultural heritage and providing an umbrella for services, took out the Fidelity trust deed to pay off that bill, along with other inherited debt.

Lopez said La Casa has begun the reassessment process after earning a certificate from the state Board of Equalization this year allowing property taxes to reflect its nonprofit status — something the nonprofit has been trying to do since 2012.

While the county doesn’t seek outstanding taxes until five years of default, Fidelity decided to send the foreclosure notice.

La Casa will have another year to work out refund terms, said Lopez, who is hoping to see refunds for the past nine years the organization paid full taxes on the nearly two-acre site, which often lets for-profit organizations use space.

“We have reached an agreement with the mortgage company and all has been resolved," she said in a statement. “We appreciate that our supporters recognize our valuable contributions and respond to negative press with expressions of their belief in our work, by financial donations, and offers to help in any way they can. We stand united with our community to the end, doing the valuable work we have been doing all along. We are equally grateful for the assistance and support provided by our local community foundations. 

“The legacy and contributions of many generations are nurtured under one roof in the distinctive building that distinguishes La Casa as a community center with ownership and responsibility for its own facility. La Casa is a destination with historic significance that is reflected in its original murals of the Chicano Arts movement and traditions of innovation in music, theater, poetry, dance, spoken word and the role of the arts.”

Lopez encouraged supporters to visit La Casa’s Facebook page to learn more about continuing the center’s programs and services.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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