Sunday, December 11, 2016

Oakland warehouse fire leads to crackdown


Oakland warehouse fire leads to crackdown on illegal artist spaces around the country

Dylan Stableford,Yahoo News 8 hours ago

In Baltimore, dozens of artists living in a building known as the Bell Foundry were evicted last week after the city said it received a complaint “about individuals living there in deplorable conditions.”
“The main electrical source had illegal, dangerous connections; there were extension cords used to feed multiple fixtures,” said Katy Byrne, a spokeswoman for Baltimore’s Department of Housing and Community Development. “None of the electrical systems was grounded.”
In Denver, fire officials shut down Rhinoceropolis, a landmark “DIY” performance space, and evicted five people who had been living in illegal lofts on Thursday after it was deemed “unsafe.”

While the Denver Fire Department did not immediately specify what those safety violations were, a 2015 profile of the venue by Denver’s Westword gives a hint:

“As Philadelphia mourns with the people of Oakland, it’s also important to examine how we can prevent similar tragedies form occurring here,” Kenney said in a statement three days after the Oakland fire. “In our city there are unlawfully converted buildings and underground clubs, and while [the Department of Licenses and Inspections] works hard to track down these hazardous locations and enforce the fire code, they can’t do it alone.”

Kenney called on residents to report illegal holiday parties “in unsafe and misused spaces.”

In New York City, the Loft Law — first enacted in the early 1980s during the booming Soho art scene — and subsequent city task forces have forced many operators of illegal living spaces to bring them up to code, and cracked down on those who fail to comply.
Those measures, coupled with industrial neighborhoods becoming more and more gentrified, mean that fewer and fewer illegal spaces like the Ghost Ship exist within the five boroughs.
But make no mistake, they do still exist.
The New York Times reported investigations prompted by the Oakland warehouse blaze in other cities, including Nashville, Dallas, Austin, Indianapolis, New Haven, Conn., and Dubuque, Iowa.
In Oakland, some residents are wondering if the city missed repeated warnings about the Ghost Ship.
“Officials fielded years of complaints about dangerous conditions, drugs, neglected children, trash, thefts and squabbles at the illegally converted warehouse,” the Associated Press reported, “with inspectors knocking on the door as recently as two weeks before the blaze.”

At a press conference late last week, officials said that it appeared the warehouse was not equipped with smoke detectors and had no exits on the second floor. And Oakland Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said a criminal investigation is underway.

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