The Great Public Land Heist Has Begun – Are We Part Of It?

Image: Outside Online

Image: Outside Online

“Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Call me a conspiracy theorist – if you must – but a lot of stories have been hitting my news feed lately related to our favorite little patch of Northern Nevada that surely can’t all be unrelated.

First we had the announcement of a zoning change around Gerlach, that seemed to enable the Temporary Autonomous Zone concept so favored by Larry Harvey and Peter Lamborn Wilson, aka Hakim Bey. That seemed possibly related to Billionaire Burner Larry Page’s BMOrg-endorsed vision to have all kinds of new testing grounds for Google. Not just a TAZ – also a PAZ and a SPAZ (Permanent and Semi-Permanent).

Next, the town of Empire – a “quasi-ghost town in Burning Man’s back yard”, with its abandoned Gypsum mine and potential associated site contamination issues – was sold for $11.38 million.

Then, BMOrg breathlessly announced the long awaited closure of their Fly Ranch deal, with details “coming soon” (of course). Donors put up the money for the purchase of “Nevada’s Coolest and Least Known Attraction”, but they’re not telling us who yet (or, quite possibly, ever). The Burning Man Project (as far as we have been led to believe, that is the owning entity) now has a 3800 acre ranch in an area where the local government just approved groups of up to 500 people to do whatever they want, with very minimal oversight from the authorities:

“Unless somebody comes in and points a finger and says, ‘hey they’re doing that,’ we’re not out there driving around looking for it,” [County Planner Dr Eric] Young said. “We will have an occasion to be out there from time-to-time for various inspections, (but) there are certain things like that where there’s not going to be a county person standing there looking at it.

Online pundits say the De Haviland Dash-8 is the new aircraft of choice. Image: simairline.net

Online pundits say the De Haviland Dash-8 is the new aircraft of choice. Image: simairline.net

Next, we heard that BMOrg have created their own commercial airline, with planes carrying up to 30 passengers at a time. Burner Express Air is imagined to be carrying 2500 passengers per day in and out of Burning Man. Assuming that they only fly passengers in daylight hours, and every flight is full, that’s a minimum of 84 flights per day. Assuming planes start just after sunrise and stop just before sunset, that’s 12 hours a day – or one new planeload every 8 minutes. That’s their vision. $995 per person for a round-trip flight from Oakland, $495 from Reno. A couple of million dollars per day. Fossil fuel and noise pollution be damned! No spectators be damned!

Like most of the aviation world, the flights will be subcontracted out to other operators. Prime contractor Advantage Flight Solutions are hiring 50 new employees to cope with the anticipated load – which sounds like a lot for a week, but more realistic for something that is anticipated to be year-round.

Also in the area just recently, a long-standing case between Burners and a powerful local land-owner (whose $7 million boat, the biggest one on Lake Tahoe, mysteriously sunk at the dock) was finally settled. The court ruled that the abandoned art car, which had not been to Burning Man in at least 4 years and was in a state of disrepair, was not a valuable piece of art work worth $1 million. The Burners lost and had to pay the other side’s legal costs: about $50k.

Remember this Burning Man founder’s claim that it’s because of them that Elon Musk and Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof built their Gigafactory in Reno, in one of the world’s biggest free trade zones.

Screenshot 2016-01-28 11.38.13

He recently got a tour of the Gigafactory with Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and Councilman David Bobzien.

Apple also just announced plans to build a $1 billion data center in the Reno free trade zone.

Is there some Billionaire Burner version of Atlas Shrugged going on, Galt’s Goodell’s Gulch in the world’s hottest new tax haven? A utopian occult colony? A Monte Verita or Woodstock for the 21st Century? Or just “Esalen in the Desert”?

Whichever way you look at it, that’s a helluva lot of dots. I see connections between all of them. Others are pointing some of the dot-connections out too, including Burning Man Founders and the first-ever full time Burning Man beat reporter. YMMV; maybe we’re all wrong. Still, there are a few more dots to come yet in this post.

That recap of recent goings-on brings me to last week’s story from Outside Online (who previously did a must-read oral history of Burning Man called Hot Mess):

The Great Public Land Heist has Begun

Last week, the House committee on Natural Resources voted to adopt HR 3650, the summary of which reads:

“This bill directs the Department of Agriculture, through the Forest Service, to convey to a state up to 2 million acres of eligible portions of the National Forest System (NFS) in it that it elects to acquire through enactment by the state legislature of a bill meeting certain criteria. Portions of the NFS conveyed to a state shall be administered and managed primarily for timber production.”

It’s not just about timber. This sets the precedent for wilderness being sold to developers. Hillary Clinton has been accused of cashing in on this, as has Harry Reid. Donald Trump is opposed to it.

Why is private ownership of vast tracts of land you currently own bad? Well, it’s historically been demonstrated to reduce public access, and moves the land out of any unified, managed or regulated conservation program. Yes, there is a significant financial gain to be had by selling these lands, but that’s a one-off instance of profit from lands that currently contribute massively to local, state, and the national economy. The outdoor recreation industry alone, which relies on land access to exist, employs 6.1 million Americans and contributes $650 billion to the economy annually. The land where you and I currently go to camp, climb, cycle, hike, hunt, fish, and paddle is under threat. 

The Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership—an organization of hunters and fishermen—called the bill an “overt attempt to undermine public land ownership.” Its president and CEO, Whit Fosburgh, went on to state, “Make no mistake, these are the first votes on legislation that would legitimize the wholesale transfer or sale of America’s public lands.”

In fact, the heist is so blatantly anti-American that even Donald Trump opposes it. “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do,” Trump told Field & Stream. “I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land. This is magnificent land.”

[Source]

Federal lands, might get handed to the States and sold off to raise money? Hmmm, wonder if there are any possible connections between BMOrg and that?

Well, we have BLM Special Agent Dan Love, the head of security for the Federales at Burning Man, leading from the front lines in the Bundy Ranch stand-off with Cliven and his family. Harry Reid was forced to back down when his family connections to a Chinese solar plant planned in the area were exposed.

bundy cattle trespass solar

bundy cattle 2

Recently, though, the Bundy family got caught up in another stand-off with the BLM in Oregon at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge – this one linked to Uranium, the Clintons, and the Russians. It turned fatal when the Feds assassinated a patriot Lavoy Finicum before he could meet with a local Sheriff, Cliven turned himself in for arrest and is locked up without bail in Federal prison awaiting trial. About a week ago the BLM announced they were resuming their operations on the land.

Then we have Love again as the alleged main instigator of ChocoTacoGate. BMOrg pulled some big strings, bringing in former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in what the Washington Post called “a trippy alliance”. They hired Reid’s hand-picked former head of the BLM Bob Abbey to help smooth the waters with the many Government Agencies involved in Burning Man. Long-time BLM official Gene Seidlitz was moved out of the way. BMOrg fought the law, and BMOrg won.

I also noted last year the last-minute decision of the BLM to not allow access over one of their roads to Further Future 1. That land was also involved in a BLM land grab dispute, related to a nearby mine. From what I gather, there is a very large new gold mine quite close to Black Rock City and the Fly Ranch site.

Let’s recall too the ditching of local EMS provider Humboldt, for big commercial festival provider CrowdRX. Looks like they were in the right county for Burning Man (Humboldt), but the wrong one for the Burning Man Project (Washoe).

One last set of dots connected to all of this is in the form of Burning Man founder Will Roger Peterson. From his web site:

WILL ROGER PETERSON

BORN 1948

CURRENT POSITIONS:

FOUNDING MEMBER, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, BLACK ROCK CITY LLC

(BURNING MAN)

    DIRECTOR, NEVADA RELATIONS AND SPECIAL PROJECTS

FOUNDING MEMBER, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, BLACK ROCK ARTS FOUNDATION   CO-CHAIRMAN, CIVIC ARTS COMMITTEE

MEMBER, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, FRIENDS OF THE BLACK ROCK/HIGH ROCK    VICE PRESIDENT

MEMBER, SIERRA FRONT-WESTERN GREAT BASIN, RESOURCE ADVISORY COUNCIL (RAC)   CHAIRMAN

    REPRESENTING DISPERSED RECREATION

MEMBER, NEVADA RECREATION ADVISORY COMMITTEE (REC RAC)

MEMBER, BLACK ROCK-HIGH ROCK-EMIGRANT TRAILS NATIONAL CONSERVATION AREA RAC SUB GROUP  CHAIRMAN

Looks like he sits on several of the boards that would be making recommendations to government about what land is ripe for sale…

My gut instinct tells me, something big is afoot. Are we headed for the ultimate version of Brexit: the BURNEXIT? When the tech industry all vanish off the face of the map, and move to tax havens in the desert where they can take LSD every day for weeks to “increase productivity”? 

Burning Man Ranch Permitted to be Permanent [Update]

Re-blogged from ThisIsReno.com – also see this story at the Reno Gazette Journal.


Permanent Burning Man Staging Area Gets Nod From County

A Burning Man staging area north of Gerlach received approval today from the Washoe Board of County Commissioners to change the property to a more permanent staging area for the annual Black Rock Desert event.

A number of special use permits for residential and industrial uses were combined into a zone change that will allow for increased use on the 200-acre property, Black Rock Station.

According to a staff report,

The proposed amendment will supersede all existing special use permits and provide development standards for areas and all uses at the site. The amendment proposes to establish five separate use areas, including Civic, Residential, Industrial, Agricultural, and Future. Uses are grouped into one of these use areas. The industrial area contains significant buffering requirements and the entire site is subject to layers of mitigation to lessen the impact on the surrounding property owners and the community at large.”

County Planner Dr. Eric Young said the change came about after years of negotiations between the county and Black Rock LLC, Burning Man’s owners, negotiations that weren’t always cordial.

“We have really started to rebuild that trust,” he said after the county developed new development processes that were a better fit for the area. “Some of those residential uses (will be) temporary … They can only be used for 90 days in a calendar year. (In addition), there’s a cap of 500 people at any given time.

“We’re really limiting this to things that they need to get started now,” he added.

Traffic impacts and code enforcement were questioned, and Young said changes could be made to the zoning and use at the property. He said the owners have to maintain a plan with the county fire marshal.

“If the plan lapses, all activities on the site have to stop,” he said. “There is an extensive plan in place for fire and EMS service.”

Enforcement of zoning requirements would be based on citizen complaints, however.

“Unless somebody comes in and points a finger and says, ‘hey they’re doing that,’ we’re not out there driving around looking for it,” Young said. “We will have an occasion to be out there from time-to-time for various inspections, (but) there are certain things like that where there’s not going to be a county person standing there looking at it.”

black-rock-station


 

[Update 5/20/16 2:09am]

Google can’t “buy it”, no corporation can, because it’s a non-profit.
.
Right?

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Wrong. Someone could still buy all the Intellectual Property and Real Estate assets, which are owned by for-profit companies controlled by some of the insiders. In fact, that seems like it would be much easier to do now than it was a few years ago.
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I refer (reefer) you to these posts from a couple of years back…
https://burners.me/2014/09/14/selling-out-part-i/
https://burners.me/2014/09/14/selling-out-part-ii-who-could-it-be-now/
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And since then we’ve had this major story and this other major story.

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Don’t worry, the name “Decommodification, LLC” is just a funny ironic farce in the true spirit of Burning Man, and Danger Ranger created a “Dead Man’s Switch” to save us all!
.
Maybe so. I can’t say without any evidence, and despite the unlikely transparency and nearly six years passing, there still isn’t any.

 

Here’s what I have been able to find, from corporationwiki.com – a site I use frequently for real world  research. The site has always seemed legit to me, occasionally the information slightly conflicts with other sites but generally they have been accurate. They’ve never had a Ministry of Propaganda as far as I can tell.
.
The directors listed for Decommodification LLC these days are not the same as at the time BMOrg made the announcement that they had completely given it away for free. These days, it’s Crimson Rose (aka Nanci Elliot) and the Burning Man Project CFO.

 

Screenshot 2016-05-20 01.52.00
Anyway, Alphabet Agencies doesn’t need to buy something like this. Eric Schmidt can keynote at Further Future or any of these doofs in his laser shirt, any time he wants. What they need – to sell this idea to their public company board – is a local government that gives them a thumbs up for their pteradactyl experimental vision.

 

Now that the local government have told BMOrg (whoever that really is, through all the Nebulous Entities“you guys can do whatever you want and we’ll give you special use permits for unspecified future things and leave you alone”, one wonders how long it may take before the robots are running around.

bone tree burning man

The Skulls and Bones of the Nebulous Entity came from a nearby ranch

Gerlach School Community Garden

This Kickstarter seems like a good way for Burners to support our local community. Some of us might take fresh food for granted, but in Gerlach it’s 100 miles to the nearest school. All they want is water to get their garden back. There are 5 days to go and so far there’s been very little help – where’s the Burning Man Project when they’re needed?

Thanks to Burner MLewis for bringing this to our attention. Click here to support the project.

 


 

re-blogged from Kickstarter.com:

About this project

Gerlach Community School garden project.

Gerlach, Nevada is a small village situated next to the Black Rock desert (well known because of the Burning Man festival). At the turn of the century the town still inhabited up to 900 people, but when the nearby gypsum plant closed down in 2011 and economy went down in the region and people started to move away and presently the town inhabits 100 people. Eight years ago schoolteacher Elizabeth Jackson and her colleagues started an educational community school garden and greenhouse project in this barren environment. The management of the school acknowledged the importance and adopted the project as fresh vegetables are not widely available in this desert environment. The start of the project was promising and the school garden was so successful that even the town’s elderly benefited from the project as they were served the freshly grown vegetables from the garden during the town’s daily community center senior’s lunch.

Presently the number of children attending the Gerlach school is reduced down to only fourteen in 2014. As the number of kids reduced rapidly, the school board had to take the unfortunate decision to terminate the community garden project as funds were lacking and the water supply was cut off. Now the garden project has been abandoned and people have to travel over 90 miles in order to buy fresh produce at the nearest supermarket.


Why does the Gerlach School community garden need your help?
Fresh vegetables are becoming more and more important as part of our daily nutrition, especially for children and senior citizens. Through school gardens children are educated in how their food grows and what is needed to produce and maintain healthy fresh food on a small scale. But the project is not just educational, it’s also fun to see things grow from a tiny seed to something delicious and tasteful. In order to keep children healthy it’s essential to teach them that fresh vegetables are essential in your daily meals.

Role of the Laboratory for Microclimates:
Next to raising funds for the re-development of the school garden the Laboratory for Microclimates wants to explore alternative solutions concerning the collection of dew and rainwater. Nowadays there are different systems to collect dew water, however, the production process is expensive and can be done in a more sustainable way. Our water collection system consists of recycled PET bottles, grouped circle wise around a plant; the ‘Desert Flower’. A simple and gentle way to capture the maximum dew in the night and make it useful for irrigation of plants in dry regions like Black Rock Desert.
Goal: The Laboratory for Microclimates wants to raise enough money to revitalize the project and supply them with enough water to continue the project for the next five years. To increase the sustainability the Laboratory for Microclimates install desert-flower irrigation system to reduce the use of water.

Risks and challenges

The only risk in this project is that we don’t succeed in raising the money to fund the project, in that case people who invested in this project won’t be charged.
As we speak about the financial part, here’s what’s needed:
1: us$ 800 to jump-start the project the garden and greenhouse by having the gardens reconnected to the town’s water system.
2: US$ 100 for a period of 5 years for the payment of the monthly water bill.
3: US$ 800 to install a sustainable desert-flower hydration system by artist Annechien Meier of the Laboratory through which water-use will be reduced.
4: an additional 8% for the Kickstarter organization (5% to host this campaign and 3% for payment and processing fees).
In total this comes down to an amount of US$ 8,208.00
What will happen to your contribution?
1: Both connections to the town’s watersystem and desertflower irrigation system will be installed.
2: Through the Gerlach School a trust/bank account will be opened to facilitate the monthly payment for the water delivery.
3: A Facebook account will be initiated through which you can watch the progress of the project.
Initiative:
The project is initiated by the Laboratory for Microclimates, an art collective from the Netherlands. Through art and film projects they encourage people to change their own social and ecological environment; www.microclimates.nl. One of its members, filmmaker Gert-Jan Gerlach, visited the town of Gerlach this summer and decided that help was needed to revitalize the school’s project.

 

OUTBREAK? Burners Warned of Virus Risk

They say bad luck comes in threes. This year Burning Man faced an unprecedented closure on Monday and Tuesday, followed by an unfortunately fatal art car accident on Thursday.

It seemed like Burning Man might have sneaked home past the nasty Third Fate. The Diplo/Skrillex incident picked up a lot of press attention worldwide, but it was hardly a headache for BMOrg. Just more free publicity, and maybe even further justification for Larry Harvey’s ban on music guides. Exodus was one of the smoothest ever, with almost no significant delays reported by Burners.  More than 10,000 people left the festival before the Man burned, and the official population cap was down from the previous year, keeping the BLM happy.

Alas, ’twas not to be. The mainstream media is reporting on the danger of a potential outbreak of the lethal West Nile Virus, which yesterday killed a man in Long Beach. Officials say anyone who attended Burning Man this year could have been exposed to the virus.

From the Reno Gazette-Journal:

mosquitoMosquito traps set near Gerlach just before the annual Burning Man counter-cultural festival have tested positive for West Nile Virus, the Washoe District Health Department reports.

The traps were checked Aug. 22 and were sent to the state lab on Aug. 25 and they got the state results on Tuesday, said health department spokesman Phil Ulibarri.

On Aug. 6, the health department announced it found the West Nile Virus in the Kiley Ranch area of Spanish Springs, the first West Nile Virus case this year in Washoe County.

The Gerlach General Improvement District will take measures this week to kill the mosquitoes, Ulibarri said.

“We decided to help them with surveillance this year,” Ulibarri said. “We didn’t have the funding to go out there and do abatement.”

A person has tested positive for West Nile Virus in Clark County this summer. Nevada health officials have identified positive mosquito pools in Clark, Washoe, Elko and Mineral County, the county health department said. With so many pools with the virus, the state said other West Nile Virus cases are expected in humans.

From MyNews4:

RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) — For the second time this year, mosquito samples in the Washoe County area have tested positive for the West Nile virus.

The Washoe County Health District says mosquitos caught in nine traps that were set in the Gerlach area tested positive for the virus.

The health district says this is the first time they’ve set mosquito traps in the Gerlach area. As a precaution, officials say anyone who attended the Burning Man Festival could have been exposed to the virus.

Gerlach does border the Black Rock Desert, but officials say the chances of mosquitoes traveling from Gerlach onto the playa is minimal.

The first human case of the West Nile virus in Nevada this year was reported in Clark County Wednesday afternoon — but officials say it’s not a very common virus.

“West Nile virus is very serious, but people need to know only about one percent of those people bitten by mosquiotes that carry West Nile Nirus will become seriously ill. Seventy to eighty precent of people bitten by mosquito with West Nile will show no signs … or any symptoms,” said Washoe County Health District, Communications Manager Phillip Ulibarr

From EliteDaily:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 70 to 80 percent of victims do not show the usual symptoms of fever, headache, vomiting or rash, but no one from the festival has tested positive just yet.

Nine people have died from West Nile in Nevada this year, with 129 total cases confirmed.

There is no known cure for the infection.

The Gerlach General Improvement District is seeking to eliminate the virus by hunting down all infected mosquito traps beginning this week.

Mosquito traps in three other Nevada counties have also tested positive for the virus, and more human cases are expected to emerge.

 

Normally the Playa is not a place where you need to worry about mosquitos, but the large amount of rain this year may have encouraged their spread. The world is on heightened alert for bio-disasters as international health authorities scramble to contain an outbreak of another deadly virus, Ebola.

westnilevirus

 


 

[Update 9/5/14 9:25am]

KOLO TV has a video story, they say that 6 traps in Gerlach initially tested positive, then all 9 did.

Huffington Post says there’s no reason to be alarmed, because a local press person said it was fine.

just because West Nile was detected in Gerlach doesn’t mean it made its way to your painted van. The Huffington Post reached out to Washoe County press contact Phil Ulibarri who verified that, despite the positive traps in Gerlach, there is no chance the Burning Man desert was infected. “Zero,” he said when asked about the odds of such an occurrence.

So there you have it. The slowly gentrifying hippie-fest, while potentially still your worst nightmare, was at least not infected with a deadly mosquito virus.

HuffPo does not share with us Ulibarri’s qualifications as a virologist. The same spokesperson admitted to the RGJ that they lack funding to do an adequate study. If it helps you sleep at night, believe them, but if you have any of the symptoms, we suggest you get them checked out, just in case.

From SFist:

anyone who was at Burning Man and may have been bitten needs to be on the lookout for symptoms. As Mic notes, those include fever, headache, vomiting or a rash, however 70 to 80 percent of those infected are asymptomatic. Only about 1% of people develop serious symptoms, like meningitis or encephalitis, and those most at risk are people with cancer, diabetes, hypertension, or kidney disease.

 

[Update 9/5/14 1:12pm]

Alayna’s friend is being treated for suspected West Nile virus after returning from the Burn:

Friend returning from the burn is being treated right now for west Nile but waiting on spinal tap results to confirm….flu symptoms followed by sudden seizures….So it may or may not be a real concern to most, but be aware of your body’s signals, if you are sick go to the doctor to be safe. Could be a coincidence but i figure it can’t hurt to be extra cautious

 [9/5/14 11:44pm]

On Facebook Pip Squeek from Vegas has said she has been confirmed with West Nile virus, and came down with its symptoms right after returning from the Burn. There is no other confirmation of this yet:

I have been confirmed for West Nile, though not confirmed that’s where it came from. I got sick about 24 hrs after returning from the Burn. I as pretty near death and it was horrifying. Please don’t just shrug this off. Get medical attention if you start to have symptoms of meningitis. I have reported to the CDC so we will see where this goes

How Much For That Ranch In The Desert?

The Black Rock Beacon published a story about the Burning Man Founders’ cash out. The $10 million figure they use seems very much on the low side, unless it is per director. See The Great BMOrg Cash Out $28-45 million post – so far, no-one has attempted to dispute the calculations from our guest author A Balanced Perspective. These calculations did not include the estimated $2.5 million per year in royalties paid to Decommodification LLC, a private company owned by the founders which in 2017 will probably be sold back to themselves (ie., another entity in their complex web of for-profit and tax-free companies). This transaction is by no means a done deal, since the directors still have the power to vote against the transfer.

The cash out numbers we have estimated do not include any rent the organization pays for the use of their Nevada work ranch and other properties. This year, just before the announcement that Burning Man had finally “completed” their transition to a non-profit, the ownership of the Gerlach ranch was transferred to yet another private company in their complex, non-transparent corporate web.

Santafemous did some investigation of this property:

Beginning in 1999, Burning Man had a 10 year lease on an 80 acre parcel they called The Work Ranch (80 Jackson Way) and, in 2001,they purchased 200 acres next door (88 Jackson Way) called Black Rock Station.

“…this property originally served as a landing zone for all the stuff left on the playa after every event..the years of stuff now amount to an unorganized tract of land. We will completely remove and relocate operations to Black Rock Station…because Washoe County Community Development isn’t happy with some conditions on the property.”

…Some of the…properties are, “Black Rock Station (a fully functioning work ranch), the Gerlach Office, “Helen’s House”, the Black Rock Social Club and the Gerlach Showers. From these properties, Burning Man uses these properties for administrative operations, supplies storage, and staff support facilities.”

work ranch burning_man2

aerial view burning_man_80_acres

In a 2008 permit application, the ranch at 88 Jackson Lane was owned by Black Rock City, LLC

On January 9 2014, the title was transferred from Black Rock City LLC to Black Rock City Properties LLC for $0. On March 3, 2014, BMOrg announced the completion of their non-profit transition.

Black Rock City Properties LLC was formed at the end of 2013, presumably for the sole purpose of this real estate transfer. It has the same address as Burning Man’s HQ. Black Rock City LLC is listed as the managing member. Will Roger is the only listed director. This is different from Gerlach Holdings LLC, which lists all 6 founders as officers  – does anyone know what that company does?

So just before they announced they’d fully transitioned to a non-profit (which later turned out to be not true), they shifted the real estate holdings out of one company in their group, and into another. Why?

The government valuation information on the work ranch is:

2013/2014 Fair Value

$582,177 taxable

$203,762 assessed

According to a consultant from Piscataway Homes, Gerlach real estate is only going one way: down. Dramatically so.

2014/2015 Fair Value:

$487,244 taxable

$170,535 assessed

They purchased the property in 2001 for $70,000. In 2013 the taxable improvement value was $550,177.

Does Black Rock City LLC pay rent to Black Rock City Properties LLC? Although there is no direct evidence either for or against that, I think it is a reasonable assumption. The IRS Form 990 filings from the non-profits show that both Black Rock Arts Foundation and the Burning Man Project pay rent. Since both organizations are housed at BMHQ, this establishes the precedent that BMOrg is cross-charging rent (and other expenses) across its various entities. Occupancy was $5500 in 2012 for BMP, and $12,900 for BRAF. Office Expenses were $9,497 and $26,390 respectively.

The rent charges skyrocketed (62%) at the same time that BMOrg announced their transition plan, 2011. They’ve been growing dramatically every year since.

Rent (from Afterburn reports):

2013    $732,900

2012    $615,944

2011    $444,000

2010    $274,000

2009    $167,000

2008    $236,000

2007    $281,000

In 2013, Burning Man moved its headquarters from 3 floors of a $17 million building in Market Street, to a building in the Mission. Here are the details on that building from LoopNet:

660 alabama

The 2 lower floors are 11,555 square feet each; level 4 is 15,000 square feet. Burning Man’s headquarters address is Level 4, 660 Alabama Street.

Burning Man took up 3 floors in their Market Street offices. The floors there are 4500 square feet each.

Consolidating the work force onto a single floor that is slightly larger seems to make sense. The top floor at 660 Alabama has high ceilings, as you can see in the photos here. There are stairs in the offices, but these seem to go to a mezzanine, rather than to one of the lower floors.

bmhq stairs

bmhq mezzanine

This page from 2010 lists the rent for the upper 3 floors of the building at $65,100 per month.

Assuming the lower floors are priced less than the penthouse, a reasonable estimate for the rent is half the total: $32,550 per month.

Rents in San Francisco have been steadily increasing over the last few years, so let’s factor in 10% growth per year. This brings us to $43,000 per month by 2013, or $520,000 per year.

From the 2013 Afterburn report, total rent of premises was $732,900.

So my estimate is about $200,000 per year goes to rent the Nevada properties. If this ends up in the pockets of the founders, then this is another $1.5 million or so over their 7-year cashout. Presumably this is a revenue stream that will continue as long as the event is held on the Playa.

If the money doesn’t go to the founders, then why would they transfer the real estate holdings out of Black Rock City LLC, before transferring Black Rock City, LLC to the Burning Man Project? If the properties needed to be transferred at all, why not transfer them directly to the Burning Man Project? Why form yet another private, secret corporation?

If all the rent simply goes to the HQ building, then that is more than $60,000 per month. The company claims 30 full time employees and contractors, so they would be paying $2,000 per person, per month. Even in rent-hungry San Francisco, in the hipster Mission District, that seems unfathomably high.

Another possibility is that Burning Man rented the whole building, then sublet the other floors. Revenue data is not shown in the Afterburn reports, all we have to go on is Maid Marian’s claim of $30 million per year. This scenario still does not explain the last minute transfer of real estate holdings to another private company.

As always, if anyone else has other data, or a different take on the math, please share.

ranch burning_man4