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La Casa de La Raza, Facing Foreclosure, Negotiates with Lender to Delay Auction

La Casa de La Raza has negotiated with its lender to delay an auction that had been planned for Monday as part of foreclosure proceedings the Lower Eastside community center will continue to fight.

The nonprofit’s board and staff were able to move the deadline for a potential auction to Sept. 8, La Casa Executive Director Raquel Lopez told Noozhawk on Friday.

News of the two-week extension came the same day La Casa was supposed to pay back outstanding property taxes to it mortgage loan lender, which threatened to auction off La Casa’s headquarters at 601 E. Montecito St.

Lopez has said La Casa was delaying its latest payment — the organization owes $9,647.28 in taxes for the 2013-14 fiscal year — while it works with the county to reinstate its nonprofit status.

She originally said the nonprofit planned to make a payment to Fidelity Bank on Friday.

“This postponement allows La Casa to continue to manage conversations and negotiations to permanently end the mortgage company’s foreclosure proceedings,” Lopez said in a statement. “We are very much heartened by our supporters, by the County of Santa Barbara's goodwill and the mortgage company's willingness to work with us.

“We deeply appreciate all of the calls for support and concern. We want to assure the community that we will be here in two years, in four and in another forty years from now — with support. The reality is that La Casa is not unlike many non-profits in our community facing challenges in today’s current economic environment.”

Lopez encouraged concerned locals to donate to La Casa online.

La Casa has avoided being put on the auction block once before. County officials were considering 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.

The nonprofit, 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.

This year, La Casa earned a certificate from the state Board of Equalization allowing property taxes to reflect its nonprofit status — something Lopez said the nonprofit has been trying to do since 2012.

She said La Casa is currently working with the county to reassess the property, hoping to get a refund from the past nine years it paid full taxes on the nearly two-acre site, which often lets for-profit organizations use space.

Santa Barbara County has assessed the property at $796,809. 

Fidelity sent the foreclosure notice while La Casa attorneys continue working with county staff on terms. 

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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