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Church Sells Idle Org Building

April 4, 2010

In the midst of all the other news last week, one story didn’t get the attention it deserved: the Church of Scientology has put their Portland, Oregon “Idle Org” building up for sale.

The Church bought the historic Stevens Building in downtown Portland, amid much breathless fanfare and hype, in January, 2008.  At the time, the Portland Business Journal reported:

“After a years-long search for a building to call its own, The Church of Scientology of Portland has acquired the historic Stevens Building in an all-cash deal for $5.38 million.

“The sale was fueled by donations from church members. At 12 stories, it is the tallest building ever acquired by a local chapter of the Church of Scientology, according to Butler Brokers Commercial Realtors, which handled both sides of the transaction.”

The Church’s first action was to encourage all of the existing tenants of the building to move out before their leases expired. I thought that sounded like a dumb move at the time – to cut off all income from the building – but after all, they were in a hurry! They had urgent renovations to do, and “Ideal Org” to put there, right away, now, now!

I’ve seen the building. It’s huge – 56,480 square feet, twelve stories. It was hard to envision exactly how they would fill the space, considering they weren’t exactly packing them in at their Salmon Street offices or at their later temporary spaces on 13th Street.

Two years went by, and still the building stood empty. They were supposedly regging money for the renovations. How much they collected from their field, we don’t know.

Then, on March 31, it was suddenly announced in the Daily Journal of Commerce, Oregon, that the Church was selling the Stevens Building.

As the Church spins it, they found the building “unsuitable” for their needs. After two years.

Local OSA spinmeister Gwen Barnard issued a statement that said “What we didn’t realize is that there wasn’t a space big enough to have a large church service or a large church event.” Oh, I get it. They must have done the initial building inspection with blindfolds on. I’ve never been in the building, but even I can see there is nothing like an auditorium or big event space inside.

The Church claims about 1200 members in Oregon, and stated that they needed an event space that would hold about 250 people. Excuse me for pointing out the obvious, but if they have 1200 local members, why would that not want an event space that holds 1200 people? Particularly with all the “unprecedented expansion” we keep hearing about.

And the asking price? 4.95 million. By my calculations, if they bought it for 5.38 million and are selling it for 4.95 million, that’s a $430,000 lossif they get their asking price.

One wonders if they are going to tell their parishioners about that $430,000 loss. One also wonders of they are going to return any of those “Ideal Org” donations for the building or its renovations.

I wouldn’t count on it.

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32 Comments
  1. sherrymk permalink
    April 4, 2010 9:07 pm

    When Pasadena’s public bought the historic Brailey building in 2006, right in the heart of old town Pasadena on Raymond St., it was also to much fanfare. What was supposed to be months till the “big opening” has now turned into 4 years. The amount needed for the renovations has been a constantly changing figure. Pasadena’s public spent MILLIONS of dollars buying out the leases for all the then current tenants including a restaurant that had I believe something like a 15 yr. lease. The last to go was a dentist. Then the building just sat and sits to this day. Huge flap with the City of Pasadena too.

    Quite a scam. Get the public to purchase an historic building. Then turn the title over to the church. Let it sit. Then sell it and use the money to hire more PIs, pay off your lawyers, cover the costs of all your law suits, stash the rest in some offshore accounts. Whatever you sell it for is pure profit. The C of S didn’t put out a penny. Screw the parishoners. Yup. That’s the formula.

    • lunamoth permalink
      April 5, 2010 12:39 am

      Sherry-

      Yes, I thought of both the Valley Org and Pasadena Org’s Idle Orgs big, expensive new buildings when reading this; a few months ago I heard that Valley was having something like Bowling Night or something to raise the money to get THE PLANS done for the reno’s!! Just the PLANS! At this rate, it would take a full decade to raise enough money for the reno’s themselves – that is IF the public doesn’t wise up before then, and IF dm doesn’t cannibalize these “assets,” which it sure looks like he’s going to do.

      • whotenanny permalink
        April 5, 2010 9:23 pm

        I can tell you (with some certainty) that at the rate they are raising money they won’t have the money for the renos for TWO decades.

  2. lunamoth permalink
    April 4, 2010 10:05 pm

    …And so it begins. Which idle org is next? Are we the only ones who could see that this was inevitable? Who can afford to hold onto real estate that not only does not generate income, but costs money to own?

    Do you suppose that effect of the church selling this building, after squeezing and grinding and shaking down the Portland public (1200 members – yeah, right) with the great urgency of purchasing this unsuitable building ” immediately”- do you suppose it might put a little damper on the enthusiasm of future donors?

    The problem that creates will undoubtedly fall on the shoulders of the Portland Org staff, who will be expected to get in those future dono’s, despite its ARC-broken field.

    So, who’s next?

  3. April 4, 2010 10:56 pm

    Thanks Jeff,

    I recognized this Idle Orgs scam for the scam it was many years ago!

    In fact I mentioned it to several people and of course was accused of promoting “black PR”.

    (A definite Mis U what the term actually means in the PR Series but never mind)

    Any way I saw this day coming.

    The only point that I was out in my prediction was that they are now selling these buildings off at a “loss”.

    Then I realized why.

    Because they can write off the loss and it would never be considered profit!

    Slap a coin in the washer!

    I’m sure they are going to “explain” to the faithful and clueless that the reason they had to sell the building was because the renovations were not completed on time or some other lame excuse, that the gullible will buy and then there will be more “wash, rinse and repeat”.

    The Scientology Laundry Mat is now open for business!

    • lunamoth permalink
      April 5, 2010 12:41 am

      “Then I realized why.
      Because they can write off the loss and it would never be considered profit!”

      AHH!

    • John Doe permalink
      April 7, 2010 12:37 am

      RJ,

      As a tax exempt church, they don’t need to “write off” the loss. Since parishioners paid for the building, the church’s coffers swell by the amount they net from the sale, less the costs of owning the building for the last few years.

      I think you’re right about the sequence of things, the only thing I would add is that the public is likely going to be made wrong for not coming up with the money to renovate, thereby introverting them to stop any “enemy line” pesky questions. Here are a few suggestions for the church:

      “It’s your church, yet you couldn’t complete the cycle of action to open it. The entire field is in Treason!”

      “Those criminals that selected that unsuitable building for the church have either been RPFed or have blown and are working once again for Big Pharma!

      “We are going to expand into smaller quarters that will be even better!

      “When the Portland org makes Saint Hill size, we will award you with a new building!!!”

      • April 7, 2010 9:17 pm

        You are correct JD.

        My point is that the IRS tends to ignore losses while tending to be more interested in what could be conceived as “profits” or gain. I.e. if the Church made a gain by selling off these buildings there might of been some hard questions asked.

        In other words by selling them at a loss they can stay under the IRS and possibly FBI’s Radar who might of suspected some kind of fraud was being perpetrated.

        This is why I suggested that it was a perfect money laundering operation.

  4. TRUTH permalink
    April 4, 2010 11:37 pm

    Of course, It is after all DM’s profit and parishioners are screwed big time. DM is collecting more and more cash since he knows he is facing his last days in power.

  5. LogicHammer permalink
    April 5, 2010 12:45 am

    Don’t tell me that our fellow Scientologists still in the church aren’t familiar with LRH’s admonitions in HCO PL 23 Sep 1970 “Quarters, Policy Regarding, Historical.” Don’t tell me they are engaging in the form of dev-t of “having to have before they can do.” Don’t tell me that they’re not familiar with LRH ED 74 INT “Solvency” where LRH wrote (begin fair use quote) “The greatest help you can be to the enemy is to permit orgs to become insolvent. There is no single greater threat to any org than insolvency.” Don’t tell me they’re not familiar with HCO PL 5 Feb 1982, Issue I, “Out-Ethics Symptoms” where LRH wrote (begin fair use quote) “There are three things which, when observed, can be very revealing. 1. Overspending, waste and extravagance. 2. Overt Products. 3. Nonproduction.

    One or the other of these three will lead frequently to discovering the rest being present as well.

    Recent incidents have now revealed something else. When those three things above are present, they are covering up a serious out-ethics scene.”

    When LRH is right, he’s really right. The Ideal Org program is overspending, waste and extravagance of magnitude, and the outpoint is SO BIG our fellow Scientologists can’t see it. I probably don’t have to mention overt products of the church as I assume some people reading this blog got overt products from their auditing and ethics cycles in recent years. And nonproduction? The present orgs are already Idle Orgs. Does upper management really believe new people will flock to the church simply because we have posh and prestigious quarters? What fantasy survey came up with that conclusion? Will new public come in in droves because we have zippy uniforms? Because we have cool marketing in analog and digital forms? I got into Dianetics because I read the book, it made sense, and ultimately found a city office and had a blast in the cramped, crummy attic of someone’s house! The engram that was discovered and flattened and made me a permanent Scientologist was on my HDA course while I was cramped up next to fellow students who were doing their own drills and sessions! Who gives a damn about how spacious and pretty the building is? There was something beautiful about the comraderie and the “make it go right” agreement when you’re in not-so-posh and not-so-spacious quarters. Going clear and free was the purpose, in spite of the environment. No one cared about the quality of the space or mest, they cared about being with a good sup, good fellow students and friends, and creating their line with LRH and applying his data. I sat with housewives, a millionaire, university students, a nurse, a handyman, an FSM, etc.. We had no considerations about the space.

    It boils my blood to see hard-working staff going down with a poorly-run ship. DM is playing “Let’s violate the hell out of ‘Quarters, Policy Regarding, Historical.’ Let’s violate what LRH has said were the few clear-cut lessons learned after gaining 20 years of experience regarding the quarters and housing of orgs.” Don’t tell me many orgs are spending less than 15 to 17 percent of GI for rent and mortgage payments.

    There is so much green-and-white being violated that the only way to continue not-ising this fact is to just shut down the analyzer and go into agreement with the church and let that do the thinking for you, and then pretend you’re offended when an Independent Scientologist shows you the difference between policy and reality.

    Sorry guys, I had to vent. I have to take a chill pill now.

    • Li Po permalink
      April 5, 2010 7:56 am

      Great post! It will be a good read for my fellow scientologists still inside.

  6. Nonscientologist permalink
    April 5, 2010 2:13 am

    Actually as a non-profit religious organization, Scientology would not be “writing off” their loss on the property, unless the building was owned by a for profit corporation also controlled by the church.

    I do agree with the comment that this sounds like an effective way to soak the donating public. Talk about exploitive fundraising. Ouch!

  7. April 5, 2010 3:31 am

    You know Austin Org made the same stupid mistake in 1980, i.e. buying a huge building it couldn’t afford. At first, they had tenants who helped with the rent. That basically worked. Two large busy restaurants, Kinkos, a dress shop, law office, a popular arcade, a photo development place.

    But then the CLO, running RTC programs forced the org to kick out all their tenants so they could “expand.” Result: Gigantic expensive ghost town.

    The org was constantly in the red never able to pay it’s bills. Here’s what one of their ex-staff — an old friend of mine — told me recently:

    “I used to say we were serving the Holy Trinity: The Phone Bill, The Light Bill and the Property Taxes. Taxes on that building were 300K per year in the early 90’s. Lights were about 10K per month and the phone bill was another 2K to 2500 per month. We had an offer from Book Stop to buy the building for enough build a new building on the site of the existing parking lot — complete with underground parking. The Int Landlord said “No,” giving that old saw about how LRH chose the site personally and yah, yah, yah. Int Management sent some videos on FP. I remember one guy talking about ” Suppose your org’s electric bill is $600 per month…” We all cracked up laughing and I said, “Where’s that? Fantasy Land Foundation?!” Then we got posted in the newspaper for being at the top of the list of delinquent property tax payers. They sent an ethics mission. I don’t remember the guys name but he was a holy terror. I thought that he was going to hit Ron Matlock, the OES so I grabbed a rolling pin from the clay table and stood outside the door to Tech just in case.”

    I went down to Austin in 2009 (I used to be on staff there before I joined the Sea Org) and went to the org to check how it was doing. The org is located right across from the University of Texas (55,000 students) on the busiest walking street in the city. Every place on Guadalupe is packed with people going in and out… except one. Austin Org. Ghost town. It has huge bay windows looking into Div 6 course rooms… all empty. No one going in. No one coming out. Only one staff member to be seen.

    Weird graphics all over the windows proclaiming it as a Church. Austin is not a renovated org. What it actually looks like is a uber creepy cult. And it’s obvious the public avoid it as if it was infected.

    Perhaps if Int management was allowed to do it’s job; perhaps if there was an Eval Corps as there was under LRH before DM tore it apart creating individual Evals for each org to operate on instead of squirrel blanket programs from RTC ordering all orgs to do the same thing regardless of their individual needs, circumstances and situation; perhaps if the Sea Org didn’t rip off their staff only to waste them; perhaps if Scientology was about ARC instead of MEST; perhaps if Scientology weren’t flushed down the toilet by a suppressive who’s only affluent statistics are “# of new empty buildings” and “# of new suppressive persons in his valence”; perhaps, perhaps, perhaps… Austin org wouldn’t be a ghost town and there might be more active Scientologists in Austin now instead of less since I left in the Summer of 1984.

    • Fidelio permalink
      April 5, 2010 8:35 pm

      Steve,
      what a travestie!! Is there a limit to madness? Thanks and yes, what if? The gigantesque waste is stunning.

  8. Rebecca-Tribecca permalink
    April 5, 2010 4:30 am

    It is well documented from multiple postings that ONLY DM signs his approval for anything to do with C of S. Even as something as minor as the shade of a carpet.
    ONLY DM does work to further Scientology, so he claims ~~others are worthless.
    He is the ONLY person working. He is the only final authority on a purchase.

    Therefore ONLY DM signed off on this purchase.

    ONLY DM miscalculated insufficient space in this Portland structure. The SPIN and SMOKE and MIRROR nauseating “mandatory” INT event already showed this structure off as the new Ideal Org for Portland.
    ( Incidentally, you have to see MAA at Flag if you missed a DM event ! ~~ I kid you not, it is considered a serious ethics offense to miss one. Of course you can come out of Ethics if you produce a VISA/MC/AMex for the Library Scam or “Ideal Org Scams” and give a nice donation.

    Deep Deep regret and I funded some of these.

    But I am still reeling over DM atrocities on Heber posted on Marty’s blog. Just when you feel you have heard it all, a new atrocity posts.

    My God, there is a madman at the helm.

    • Mark permalink
      April 5, 2010 3:36 pm

      “My God, there is a madman at the helm.”

      ROFLMAO — there always WAS a madman at the helm!

  9. Gary Sekigahama permalink
    April 5, 2010 6:22 pm

    The masters of the “acceptable truth” are at it again. The bulding no longer meets their needs!? That’s true, it’s way too big.

    I would guess there are more of these going back on the market soon. Probably DM can then blame the local org and field for not expanding fast enough to fill the building. Funds are not gong to be returned of course, that would be supressive to even consider it.

  10. Moving Forward permalink
    April 5, 2010 6:58 pm

    It would be laughable if I didn’t know from personal experience how much hell the public and staff go through to raise the money for these Idle Orgs.

    I know that after San Francisco Org moved into their new building, the regging immediately began for *another* building because the one they moved into supposedly “wasn’t big enough”. No idea what happened on that whole thing, but how crazy is that, though?

    • lunamoth permalink
      April 5, 2010 8:18 pm

      Is that for real? The new building wasn’t enough? How can anybody R-factor staff and public of that with a straight face?

      • Moving Forward permalink
        April 6, 2010 2:41 am

        Yeah, that definitely happened. I remember the looks on the execs and the public who had been working for years on the building cycle. It was a serious ‘WTF?!’ moment.

    • April 5, 2010 8:52 pm

      The San Fran Org move was totally FUBAR and an apt representation of the Era of Furry Management.

      They had cool digs in the Mission District. Sure the area was run down and “down stat” but this was like the picture post card center of San Francisco that people come to see!

      So what it had a few winos!

      Any way they move the Org to smaller quarters in the downtown sector. In California no one goes down town unless they happen to work there. So you have virtually zero body traffic except maybe at lunch time!

      Not only that but the front of the building where Reception is is shaped in a inverse “V”. Frickin’ bottle neck city!

      However, it shows you what they really mean by “expansion” when they move an Org to a virtual dead zone into what is really a smaller building!

      • whotenanny permalink
        April 5, 2010 11:12 pm

        RJ-

        …without all that pesky foot traffic – you know people and their bodies just dirty up a new org!

      • April 6, 2010 1:18 am

        whotenanny,

        I love the handle.

        Any way what you said and what is obviously portrayed in the mags I’ve seen that look eerily like those architectural renderings that der führer use to make before he became der führer showing vapid empty ostentatious edifices that looked more like mausoleums than any thing habitable is probably Miscavige’s idea of an “Ideal Org”.

      • Moving Forward permalink
        April 6, 2010 2:56 am

        Hmm, sorry, but that’s not the way it was. Having spent plenty of time in the old SF building I can tell you they were not ‘cool digs’. Most of the building was unused. The building was not in the Mission district, at least the one they’d occupied for many years. It was smack dab in the middle of the Tenderloin, quite literally a block and a half away from crack central. That was a seriously OP building cycle in and of itself, not sure but I believe it was done in the 80’s. No foot traffic there.

        The new building is actually a better location, but it is not ideal, I agree. There are much better locations in SF. I think it was the prestige of it having been the original ‘Transamerica’ building and the fact that it is across the street from that famous landmark that made it appealing. Vanity vs. what is actually best for the org.

        As has occurred in many (if not all) of these cycles, the org had to pay mortgages on both properties at the same time, causing considerable stress. Being public, I was not privy to the finances, but they seemed really screwy. Did not make sense that the org had to pay a mortgage on something that was supposedly purchased with public (and staff) donations.

      • April 6, 2010 3:35 am

        Sorry I’m from SoCal and we haven’t mapped anything beyond Santa Barbara though we have a few scouts that we’ve sent to Monterey but we haven’t heard from them yet.

        Anyway, I’ve been to Frisco a couple of times and the area you were in wasn’t that bad.

        I mean compared to Watts or something like that.

        That said.

        The old TAB isn’t really much of an upgrade. Sure prestigious but body traffic isn’t that great and the quarters are crapped.

        Also why the Org was paying a mortgage is what makes the Idea Org scam a scam.

        The Deed of Title is turned over to the International Land Lord and they charge rent. So in reality the Org isn’t owned by the “dedicated” Suc…er I mean Scientologists who purchased the building but belongs to the Church of Scientology International which as we know is controlled by RTC.

        So not only do they have a new building that they can rent back to the public and staff but since they own it now, they can sell it and still make a profit even if they sell it for a loss like they just did in Portland since they didn’t spend a dime to acquire it.

        In one of Ron’s policies it would be the lowest possible level of “exchange”.

        A rip off.

      • Moving Forward permalink
        April 6, 2010 4:11 am

        Yeah, I agree, big rip-off. Someone tried to explain it to me, but it sounded like a finance scheme concocted by Anderson Consulting.

        The Tenderloin is named so because it’s infamous for crime. It’s not *the* worst part of the city, but close to it. The smell of urine around the corner from the old building was so bad that I’d go out of my way to come from a different direction. The crack-central area I mentioned was quite literally 2 blocks away. Locating the org there in the first place was a huge mistake. That building was owned by the Int Landlord office as well.

        So, the org really did warrant a relocation, but the purchase of a new building should have been done per LRH, not in the criminal-exchange way of DMology. It should have been financed by actually expanding the org and delivering Scientology. It should have been located in a high-traffic area also, but ‘landmark’ was a priority, apparently. One of the original buildings proposed was on Market near 3rd or 4th Street — VERY high foot traffic and shopping central. That was also a bit of a small space, although square-footage wise, I’m not sure how different from the current space.

        BTW, I have only driven by it, but if you want to talk about out-of-the-way locations for new Idle Orgs, Mountain View is a good one. It’s in a residential area, literally.

      • April 6, 2010 5:34 am

        I wouldn’t be surprised if Andersen concocted it before they were hit with the Enron scandal.

        What comes to mind is all those lofty institutions like Franklin S&L, Nugan Hand Bank and BCCI.

        To me it’s the perfect money laundering operation because even if they “loose” they win, as in Portland Org. They sell it a loss and still make money!

        As Jeff wrote the only people that loose are the staff and public.

        Anyway as far as I can see. This is only the beginning. A few years back an inside source told me that the Complex was mortgaged for close to 38 Million!

        The place is practically surrounded by Kaiser Permanente who is expanding by leaps and bounds.

        Flag I happen to know was wrested from the clutches of Resorts International who had planned to put a casino in the FH.

        Now from the inside intel I’ve gotten, a few years back mind you, but still likely valid RI is still interested and guess what Flag has been mortgaged too!

        The way things are going the Super Power Building will probably feature slots, craps and black jack in the corner stone lounge long before Super Power is released.

        The Super Power Casino!

        Catchy huh 🙂

      • Nomnom permalink
        April 6, 2010 4:47 pm

        The original SF org, when it was really booming (200 students in the academy at the same time) was in the theater district at Mason and Geary, one block from Union Square. A Sea Org mission came in and moved it in 1980 to the Tenderloin. Never recovered.

    • whotenanny permalink
      April 5, 2010 9:32 pm

      I’m having some trouble laughing at this for the same reason. If I didn’t know that staff where kept at the org until the wee hours of the morning, called in on their days off (or half days off), not allowed to go home until quotas were met and generally treated like second rate citizens in the interest of getting the money in the first place, this would be a whole lot more amusing.

  11. Fidelio permalink
    April 5, 2010 8:28 pm

    Jeff,

    your math is the killer – as always. Just thinking about all the Bridge steps NOT done because of that madness. Mind boggling.

    ML, Fidelio

  12. Just Me permalink
    April 5, 2010 9:32 pm

    I’m about to make what isn’t a terribly brilliant statement, but I just “got” what is so frustrating to me about these and so many other CoS success stories: There’s no way for anyone who participates in these Hill Tens to get any closure on anything. When something’s finished, about two minutes it’s “oops, not really finished!” There’s never any true acknowledgment, because there’s never any true accomplishment, as in over, done, finished.

    Makes me tired just thinking about it.

    Just Me

    • whotenanny permalink
      April 5, 2010 11:15 pm

      Yes, they have to just keep doing the action, forever. No closure, no product, no ack…

      Definition of insanity: Continuing to do the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome.

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