SOLANA BEACH — Business owners in Solana Beach can breathe a little easier this month after their landlord waived April rent.
Daniel Powell, who owns 17 small businesses in the popular design district along South Cedros Avenue, informed his tenants in a letter March 20 that he’d be waiving the upcoming rent and all associated expenses. He said he made the decision in response to the constant stream of bad news and closures due to COVID-19.
“The thought came very clear to me to deliver some good news,” Powell said April 6. “It was like the Golden Rule, ‘How would I like to be treated?’ I felt very strongly it was the right thing to do. It felt like it was a message from God.”
Powell, who’s owned the buildings for more than 20 years, said tenants reached out to him almost immediately with an outpouring of sincere gratitude.
He shared one such text, from a tenant named Carla Manuel, who thanked him for embodying empathy, leadership, and compassion. It read, in part: “Thank you so much for waiving our rents and for helping us out going through these uncertain and hard times. I feel honored to be your tenant and grateful for all your support…I admire your strength and honoring your tenants as well as helping protect your community and being a leader for others to follow.”
Other messages he received included: “It was such a relief and a kind gesture. Things are dire. This is such a wonderful bright spot. We applaud your championing of small business,” “SOOOO GREATLY APPRECIATED,” “Thank you very much for being proactive during this trying time!” and “That was extremely generous. I have never experienced anything like it before. We are grateful.”
Powell said while most people think of a landlord/tenant relationship as adversarial, he sees it as a partnership.
“We both want each other to succeed,” he said. “We all know that most retail stores can be easily replaced by an Amazon type delivery program.”
Business owner Carly Blalock of Carly Blalock Interiors calls Powell “a great guy” and the kind of landlord that swings by the shops on a regular basis and attends their events.
“I appreciate Daniel always thinking about how his tenants can thrive in their businesses. We actually talk about that a lot,” she said. “His generosity is contributing to that in this moment.”
Powell said Cedros is a special place, with art galleries, cafes, tasting rooms, one-of-a-kind merchants and services. He added that 75 percent of his tenants are women-owned businesses, each employing an additional two to eight people.
Lorna York, who moved her art venue — Madison Gallery — from La Jolla to Solana Beach just under two years ago, said she too is indebted to Powell.
“I’m totally grateful to be in partnership with a human being,” York said. “I’m appreciative of his generosity in this time of my need. He wants to keep my business alive so that I can be there when this is all over.”
York, a breast cancer survivor, said she self-quarantined early because of her health past and has struggled with no income.
“Even though I’m global and I’m an online business, the whole world is in crisis right now,” she said, saying no one is interested in buying luxury goods. “When I first got quarantined I said, ‘OK, how much savings do I have? How long can I pay my basics?’ I had a very thriving business and then the brakes stopped.”
York said in her 30-year career as an art dealer and gallery owner – and even through two financial crises and 9/11 — she’s never not worked. She said she’s been filled with anxiety and her concerns have greatly exceeded the financial. Three of her family members in New York City – her daughter, son-in-law, and infant granddaughter – have all tested positive for the coronavirus.
“They got it three weeks ago and my 5-month-old granddaughter has been fighting for her life,” York said. “Her fever just broke this weekend. Mom and dad are good now, they’re on the other side, and (the baby is) getting there. She’s fought it hard this last week.”
She says health struggles have a way of causing you to focus on what’s important.
“If you don’t have health, you have nothing,” she said. “The new wealth is health.”
She said she hopes everyone emerges from these times kinder and more interconnected. And that gestures like the one Powell showed continue.
“It’s extraordinary times and it takes extraordinary people and he’s one of those extraordinary people,” York said.
Powell said he didn’t waive the rent to get thanked, but it’s been great hearing how much it has helped people out.
“I didn’t act to be acknowledged, but it was wonderful to hear from tenants that the kindness was indeed felt and appreciated,” Powell said.
Blalock said she wants to pay it forward by offering design advice free of charge.
“As we are all forced to stay in, and need to stay as healthy-minded as possible, everyone who needs some help in making their spaces functional and enjoyable, please let our team at Carly Blalock Interiors know,” she said.
Business owner Sarah Paschall, who owns Sarah Paschall Design, thanked Powell on her Facebook page and said she hopes his generosity sparks a chain reaction.
“I’m deeply moved by your kindness and support to help us get through this financial crisis together,” Paschall wrote to Powell. “I hope the flood gates of generosity open up all around the world and begin to flow.”
Tawny McCray is a native San Diegan and graduate of San Diego State University. She has known she wanted to be a journalist since writing for her Jr. High School newspaper in 1991. She has worked at The Star News in Chula Vista, The San Diego Union Tribune and ABC 10News San Diego. She has recently freelanced for Scripps Ranch News and The Poway Eagle and is a longtime freelancer with creators.com. She is working on authoring books with her twin sister, Nyla. She and her husband have two kids and live in South Park.