The Mission Inn Museum could lose its home at its namesake’s historic confines in Riverside if the hotel and the foundation that runs the museum cannot agree on lease terms.
Since 2000, the museum, run by the Mission Inn Foundation, has been housed within the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, which was built in 1902 and over the years has hosted several U.S. presidents and celebrities including Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, Clark Gable and Harry Houdini.
The hotel, run by the Historic Mission Inn Corporation, has been named a National Historic Landmark.
“The Mission Inn Foundation and Museum is being threatened with eviction from the Mission Inn hotel, our home of over 30 years,” the foundation said in a news release.
The museum hosts historical artifacts relating to the mission and offers guided tours of the grounds to guests as well as students.
“If the Mission Inn Foundation is evicted, this may all end,” the foundation said.
Last week, the foundation launched a GoFundMe campaign for a legal fund that, as of Friday, has gathered $1,110 toward its $10,000 goal.
A Change.org petition in support of the museum had gathered 850 signatures as of Friday.
The foundation claims that when the site was sold by the city to private buyers, “the Mission Inn Foundation was specifically written into the sales agreement to ensure that the community would retain access to its most treasured landmark.”
The foundation was to “retain museum space within the hotel, retain the right to give tours and to conduct other museum services for 50 years.”
The situation, however, is more complicated due to a move made by the state in 2013.
The museum has occupied its space under a 22-year lease agreement made in 2000 between Riverside’s now-dissolved redevelopment agency and the Mission Inn Corporation, according to a statement from the city. The lease agreement included two renewal options, each for 10 years.
The redevelopment agency then subleased the space to the museum at no charge.
But in 2013 the local redevelopment agency and hundreds of others across the state were thrown out of business by the California Legislature. Authorized by law since 1945, redevelopment agencies used a portion of property tax money to partner with developers to encourage development in blighted areas.
The state Legislature voted in 2011 to abolish the agencies in order to bolster state tax revenues for schools and public safety agencies. The action was later upheld by the California Supreme Court.
Cities were allowed to form “successor agencies” to complete business started by the defunct redevelopment agencies but could not enter into any new business.
As a result, in 2022, when the successor agency in Riverside attempted to exercise its option to renew its lease with the Mission Inn hotel, state regulators denied its bid.
“The request to renew the lease was denied, with the (State) Department of Finance stating, ‘Pursuant to HSC section 34163(c)(1), successor agencies shall not renew or extend the term of leases,’” the city said in its statement.
The city said it has attempted to work with the hotel and the foundation for two years to either relocate the museum and “generally facilitate a good outcome.” But now the outlook for the museum looks uncertain.
“To date … these efforts between the Mission Inn and the Mission Inn Foundation have not borne fruit,” the city said.
On Sept. 29, the Mission Inn Foundation was served with a notice to vacate the premises.
The Historic Mission Inn Corporation has made “numerous” new lease offers, which the foundation has rejected, Patrick O’Brien, an attorney for the corporation, told the Press-Enterprise.
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa did not immediately return a request for comment.
Karl Hicks, board president of the Mission Inn Foundation, told the Press-Enterprise that the offer was a single, five-year lease with no renewal options and “nothing after that.”