Maximum pressure on Colau to save the Raval social gym from eviction

City Council and property continue to run aground in the negotiation for the purchase of the Sant Pau and the deadline ends on Friday

4 min
The façade of the Santo Pau Social Gymnasium

Barcelona"We have been demanding for five years that Ada Colau should be personally involved in the negotiations. She can't hide anymore". This is the message that the Raval's Gimnàs Social Sant Pau (Social Gymnasium Sant Pau) launches, with the relentless countdown of the eviction set for this Friday as a sword of Damocles. The project, which now functions as a covid emergency centre and helps a thousand people each month with clothing, food and showers, and was saved by the skin of its teeth earlier this year, when the ownership of the building, the family Samaranch-Viñas, and the City Council were given two months to find a solution to prevent the eviction. That deadline expired weeks ago and now there is a new deadline for the agreement - and the agreement is not coming. And no one is making any more moves.

The municipal government argues that it has put a good offer on the negotiating table: 9.5 million euros to keep the building, which would keep the gym and build public housing, but the property says it has an appraisal that puts the value of the property in the vicinity of 14 million. Among the owners there are divided opinions: not all members of the family are willing to sell and give up the real estate project that they have been preparing for years in the Sant Pau ronda, 46, to build 48 apartments, nor to sell at the price appraised by the consistory. And in this impasse, with a difference of 4.5 million, the talks have stalled: some do not change the offer and do not consider the expropriation route that the opposition and the gymnasium itself are calling for, and the others do not give a definitive no to the proposal but do not accept it either. And the timetable is ticking. Now in the gymnasium they are preparing for the "festive" defence of the space in case there is no last minute twist and the judicial committee visits them on Friday.

"We have done our homework, we defend the project every day with work and we have sought all possible alliances to keep it", explains Ernest Morera, the soul of the Sant Pau. From the cooperative that manages the space they now point to the Colau government and especially to the mayor, whom they ask to take the reins of the solution to the conflict. Colau, however, insists that the City Council is "very involved" in the negotiation, which has already raised a "very powerful" offer to acquire the space and defends an "agreed on" solution with the property.

Jordi Rabassa, the councillor for Ciutat Vella, who is currently on paternity leave, has led the municipal government's representation in the conflict and defended the 9.5 million proposal as "good and at market price". Now both the gymnasium and the opposition are calling for the mayoress to take the helm. "It's a city issue. It is the mayor's responsibility", the co-operative remarked, convinced that if the council believes its valuation, it should not be afraid to start an expropriation process.

The opposition does not take the municipal strategy of throwing the ball on the roof of the property as a good one either. ERC and JxCat - and also Cs, although today they did not join the press conference called in the afternoon - demand more steps: to expropriate the building as has been done in similar cases, such as that of the stalls in Carrer Encarnació, in Gràcia. The Republicans point out that the budget pact for 2021 included an allocation of 30 million euros to buy unique buildings and that the Sant Pau would be a clear candidate to be included in this list. "There are more than enough funds to address the situation", said the ERC leader in Barcelona, Ernest Maragall, who called on Colau to find a solution to the conflict through "dialogue and negotiation".

For their part, the CUP and the Homeless People's Union have even urged the government of the Generalitat to apply urgent measures and to work together to protect the space and begin the process of expropriation of the property. In an appearance in Parliament, Basha Changue, deputy of the CUP-NCG, has called on ERC to maintain the same attitude and willingness to help the social project.

Friday, which is the day set for the eviction but also the day on which the municipal plenary session is held, ERC will address a question to Colau on the management of the Sant Pau case. This has generated some tension with JxCat, since because it is raised as a question and not as a proposition it will not develop into a turn of intervention, but the Republicans ensure that they have done it in this format to be able to question Colau directly.

What is clear at this point is that the two groups will support the act of rejection of eviction on Friday, which is expected to concentrate hundreds of people in the Sant Pau ronda. There will be users of the gym, and representatives of various neighbourhood associations and social and political movements of all parties that have already positioned themselves in defense of the equipment. Those responsible for the project are confident that on Monday they will be able to reopen normally despite the threat of eviction and despite the fact that the contract to operate as emergency equipment also expires at the end of the month. They assure they will continue to serve users with their own means.