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Indybay Feature
Oakland officials are responsible for Ghost Ship warehouse fire
by Lynda Carson
Sunday Dec 4th, 2016 1:42 AM
For years Oakland has only had around four building inspectors to deal with the thousands of code enforcement issues/ blighted issue complaints that occur on an annual basis in this city. Oakland needs more than four building inspectors to deal with all the code enforcement complaints in a city that has around 200,000 rental units!
oakland-ghost-fire.jpg
Oakland officials are responsible for Ghost Ship warehouse fire

Weakening of Oakland's building code enforcement laws has major consequences

By Lynda Carson -- December 4, 2016

Oakland - The City of Oakland including landlords and slumlords operating in town are at fault for the weak code enforcement laws that have resulted in the deadly fire at the Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse, located at 1305 31st Avenue, where nine people or more have died.

According to reports, city inspectors ignored code compliance and blighted conditions at the Ghost Ship warehouse.

For years Oakland has only had around four building inspectors to deal with the thousands of code enforcement issues/ blighted issue complaints that occur on an annual basis in this city. Oakland needs more than four building inspectors to deal with all the code enforcement complaints in a city that has around 200,000 rental units.

When renters call the building department services blight hotline at 238-3381 in Oakland, it may take as long as five days for an inspector to go to the address where the code compliance issue or blighted conditions may exist at, to verify the problem.

Often the city worker who takes the complaint over the phone, urges the renters to make their complaints anonymously, and fails to give the renters who file the complaints a tracking number. This takes the renters out of the loop, and often means that the issues are not resolved properly.

At times the code enforcement inspectors fail to contact the renters who file the complaints regarding code compliance issues or blight conditions, and the building services department generally never gives the renters who file complaints any paper work that would detail the status of the complaint, or what kind of fees or fines the landlord has to pay for not being in compliance with Oakland’s building codes.

In brief, the building services department is short on inspectors, and treats renters and their attorneys poorly. Additionally, due to the way they deal with renters who try to get landlords to come into compliance with the law, slumlords are often allowed to run rampant in Oakland until they cannot be ignored any longer, or unless the City Attorney steps in for political reasons. This is because the renters and their attorneys no longer have the power to make code enforcement inspectors, or the building services department to do their jobs properly anymore.

Landlords and slumlords really got the upper hand on renters and especially the building services department in Oakland after a 2011 grand jury report criticized the way the building inspectors were treating slumlords and landlords. The landlords and slumlords conspired to weaken the code enforcement laws of Oakland, and corrupt city officials accommodated the wishes of the wealthy landlords by weakening the code compliance laws.

As a direct result of the 2011 grand jury report, Oakland’s code enforcement laws were weakened, funding was cut from the building services department, and renters no longer have the power they used to have to resolve code compliance and blighted condition issues, with slumlords and landlords.

Because the code compliance laws have been weakened, and renters no longer have the power they used to have in getting the building inspectors to do their job properly, fires like the one that happened at the Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse, will occur over and over again.

The City of Oakland needs to step up to the plate and hire more building inspectors, and strengthen it’s code enforcement laws so that the renters can have the power without fear of retaliation to file complaints for building code violations, and blighted conditions. The building services department needs to stop treating renters like second class citizens who end up being stuck in dangerous slum like conditions, while paying Rolls Royce prices for rent.

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com

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§Partial List Of Names Of People Who Perished In Fire
by Lynda Carson Tuesday Dec 6th, 2016 1:37 PM
It is with deep sadness that I am posting a partial list of names that have been released at this point, of the people who lost their lives in the tragic fire.

(LC)

• Em Bohlka, 33, Oakland

• Micah Danemayer, 28, Oakland

• Chelsea Dolan, 33, San Francisco

• Feral Pines, 29, Berkeley

• Alex Ghassan, 35, Oakland

• Michela Gregory, 20, South San Francisco

• Edmund Lapine, 34, Oakland

• Jennifer Morris, 21, Foster City

• Benjamin Runnels, 32, Oakland

• Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye, 31, Oakland

• Cash Askew, 22, Oakland

• David Clines, 35, Oakland

• Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, Coronado

• Sara Hoda, 30, Walnut Creek

• Travis Hough, 35, Oakland

• Donna Kellogg, 32, Oakland

• Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, Hayward
§Updated List Of People Who Died In The Tragic Fire
by Lynda Carson Wednesday Dec 7th, 2016 3:40 PM
Updated List Of People Who Died In The Tragic Fire

Out of the 36 people who died, 24 names of the dead have been released to the public by the authorities.

It is with a profound deep sadness that I am posting these names. I have known friends that have lived in some of the warehouses in Oakland, and I am relieved that they are not listed among the dead.

It is my hope that the building services department gets it’s act together with more building inspectors. It is also my hope that city officials figure out how to make the warehouses safer for people without forcing residents out of their housing, at the warehouses, especially if the warehouse was not permitted to have residential housing. The housing crisis is too extreme to be forcing people out on to the streets.

Additionally, I hope that the code enforcement program reforms it's program in such a way that renters are protected when filing complaints for code violations and blight conditions. And that the agency reforms itself in such a way that it will automatically fully provide the renters who file complaints, with all of the existing and future documentation regarding the complaint in a timely manner: Including the enforcement orders placed on the landlords to come into compliance with Oakland's building codes, including any and all actions taken by the city to get the landlords and slumlords, to come into compliance without harming or allowing the retaliation against existing renters.

(LC)

Cash Askew, 22, Oakland

Em B (a.k.a. Em Bohlka), 33, Oakland

Jonathan Bernbaum, 34, Oakland

David Cline, 24, Oakland

Micah Danemayer, 28, Oakland

Billy Dixon, 35, Oakland

Chelsea Dolan, 33, San Francisco

Alex Ghassan, 35, Oakland

Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, Coronado (San Diego County)

Michela Gregory, 20, South San Francisco

Sara Hoda, 30, Walnut Creek

Travis Hough, 35, Oakland

Johnny Igaz, 34, Oakland

Ara Jo, 29, Oakland

Donna Kellogg, 32, Oakland

Amanda Kershaw, 34, San Francisco

Edmond Lapine, 34, Oakland

Griffin Madden, 23, Berkeley

Draven McGill, 17, Dublin

Jennifer Morris, 21, Foster City

Feral Pines (a.k.a Riley Fritz), 29, Berkeley

Vanessa Plotkin, 21, Oakland

Hanna Ruax, 32, Helsinki

Benjamin Runnels, 32, Oakland

Nicole Siegrist, 29, Oakland

Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye, 31, Oakland

Alex Vega, 22, San Bruno

Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, Hayward

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§No Smoke Detectors At Ghost Ship Fire: Chor N. Ng is liable...
by Lynda Carson Wednesday Dec 7th, 2016 9:35 PM
No Smoke Detectors: Chor N. Ng is liable...

Chor N. Ng of 3735 Magee Ave, Oakland Ca., 94619

https://www.redfin.com/CA/Oakland/3735-Magee-Ave-94619/home/1456538

Chor N. Ng is totally liable for the tragedy at the Ghost Ship warehouse fire because he did not install smoke detectors in the warehouse.

Since there were not any smoke detectors at the Ghost Ship warehouse fire, it stands to reason that there may not be smoke detectors at his other properties.

(LC)

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https://www.arivify.com/property/search/gCiBEdMw2

3735 Magee Ave, OAKLAND, CA - Owner: Chor N Ng - Arivify.com

Property record for 3735 MAGEE AVE, OAKLAND, CA which is owned by Chor N Ng.

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https://www.arivify.com/property/search/0UqGWg1gi

1305 31st Ave, OAKLAND, CA - Owner: Chor N Ng - Arivify.com

Property record for 1305 31ST AVE, OAKLAND, CA which is owned by Chor N Ng.

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https://www.arivify.com/property/search/j0ZF1HvEN

918 Webster St, OAKLAND, CA - Owner: Chor N Ng - Arivify.com

Property record for 918 WEBSTER ST, OAKLAND, CA which is owned by Chor N Ng.

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https://www.arivify.com/property/search/BmpoXWfDX

443 8th St #1c, OAKLAND, CA - Owner: Chor N Ng - Arivify.com

Property record for 443 8TH ST #1C, OAKLAND, CA which is owned by Chor N Ng.

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Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Confused
Sunday Dec 4th, 2016 11:11 AM
Are we really advocating for more inefficient government officials? They would only try to shutter these spaces.

As a community, we should consider safety concerns a matter of accountability. If we aim for a world where we truly care for each other, sans a foundation of harmful labor practices, let's start here.
The points made in the article here are largely valid for traditional rental properties with landlords who profit from substandard housing, be the rents "rolls royce prices" or not.

Warehouse spaces are kind of another matter. Many are not even permitted for residential housing, so bringing down the government hammer on them means removing a sizable chunk of housing stock. Often warehouse living is more affordable for people than standard housing, and the city already has been red-tagging a lot of the local warehouse stock lately, leaving hundreds with no where else to go within city limits.

The people who rented/managed the Ghost Ship warehouse (what an unfortunately prescient name) bear a large amount of the responsibility for this disaster. Apparently, fire safety was never a concern of theirs. The place has been called a tinder box by many who have been inside. From photos of the interior, it was filled with old dry wood as decoration, everywhere. Whoever was managing the place created a maze-like space with grossly inadequate and unmarked fire exits, terrible for a venue that holds large numbers of people. (And here the owner is responsible, too, in that the stairs to the second floor sound more like a sketchy steep gangplank than actual stairs and it's doubtful that any "fire exit" signs existed.) As the renters oversaw the buildout of what they thought was a cool art space, it appears that no basic fire safety steps were taken such as providing extinguishers and smoke alarms. It was massively irresponsible to have no concern for the potential death trap they created and managed.

To only blame the city is short-sighted and overly simplistic. The owner shares some blame and the renters themselves do as well.
by whoa
Sunday Dec 4th, 2016 2:13 PM
This is complicated. There is no one person or entity to blame. There is responsibility all over the place to be had or eschewed. But as someone who loves underground spaces, we can't have DBI and fire officials sanction every building if we want to be able to afford them. And the enforcement with cops is inevitable if you have DBI all over these spaces.
We have to create and engage safer spaces in our collectives. We have to make good, informed choices in our spaces and where we spend our time. And yes, we need building codes and fire inspectors. They do good, important work. But we also need artists in the Bay, and where the fuck are they supposed to afford to live around here?
by Fire Code Saves Lives
Sunday Dec 4th, 2016 5:09 PM
The Fire Code and all other codes every Building Inspection Department is supposed to enforce literally save lives. Obviously Oakland needs far more building inspectors and that should be a priority over the police department. Oakland's mayor (I know she is another awful Democrat-Republican, but I have no other source) says the building was licensed as a warehouse but not for housing or entertainment. See http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/12/04/oakland-ghost-ship-warehouse-fire-toll-continues-to-rise/ and https://twitter.com/hashtag/OaklandFire?src=hash
The death toll is at 33 and rising. Personal accounts are at
https://www.rt.com/usa/369141-oakland-fire-survivors-accounts/
https://www.buzzfeed.com/stephaniemlee/heres-what-it-was-like-inside-the-deadly-oakland-warehouse-p?utm_term=.awmMqyjPZ#.qdjvYaVAe

The survivors describe a cluttered place with no fire extinguishers, smoking was allowed in the building, the staircases were not fire escape stairs, housing and parties were allowed inside the building. It is the landlord who is responsible for the building. There will certainly be lawsuits, costing the taxpayers far more money than building inspectors.
A lesson to be learned: Smoking, alcohol and late-night parties are to be avoided like the plague they are. As soon as I heard about this fire, I asked what was going on there? Sure enough, it was a late night party complete with alcohol and smoking, almost a guarantee for grief.
by not the time for moralizing
Sunday Dec 4th, 2016 5:57 PM
"Smoking, alcohol and late-night parties are to be avoided like the plague they are."

Thanks, Dad. This is not the time for your moralizing.

Condolences to all those directly impacted by this tragedy.
East Bay Express reports:
Derick Ion Almena was the man behind Ghost Ship, the venue inside the Oakland warehouse where a deadly fire killed at lease 33 people late Friday night. Friends say he's an important, if contentious, figure in the East Bay underground arts and music scene. Former-friends criticized him for allegedly living inside the warehouse with his wife and children.
by oaklander
Sunday Dec 4th, 2016 7:12 PM
Knowing that dozens had died in his death traps, he moaned on facebook about his "work" being destroyed.

He's left town and lawyered up.

Fuck him! No mercy.
sketchy electrical wires and generators everywhere

under the control of asshole master tenants
by reader
Sunday Dec 4th, 2016 7:47 PM
The underlying problem is that the building codes exist -- because of that, many people automatically assume that they are enforced. If they cannot be enforced, and this is not widely publicly known, residents, renters, customers, etc., are having their lives put in danger by the City of Oakland. Yes the owner and manager are also just as much at fault and should be fined and jailed. But they are also not elected officials charged with safety and oversight of city services.

If we all knew that Oakland could not afford to actually follow it's own codes, we would enter the city's buildings with caution in mind -- Could I die in here? That knowledge was taken away from people by keeping the codes in place and pretending everything was fine.
by oaklander
Monday Dec 5th, 2016 10:34 AM
Schaaf has been gung-ho about swinging open the doors for developers and real estate speculators since her time on the city council, eager to silence Occupy Oakland, Black Lives Matter, and anyone who stopped to ask about economic justice.

Rents have gone sky high, and warehouse spaces like this often become a residence of last resort for people who want to live in Oakland.

Christ, people are living in mobile homes, backyard sheds, plywood and cardboard boxes, cars, tents, under freeways, and anywhere they can get out of the elements.

This is the havoc that Schaaf and her ilk have wrought on Oakland. Only in the last year or so, did she or anyone in power try to do anything to try to mitigate the massive damage her actions have caused for countless Oaklanders.

Going back full circle to the article here, this economic tidal wave happened with only 4 building inspectors. Schaaf saw fit to up OPD's budget right away. Housing and safety for residents not fortunate enough to live in mansions in the hills, no rush there.
by Sanfrancisan
Monday Dec 5th, 2016 10:35 AM
Flip flops all over the place here. I distinctly recall complaints on IndyBay when the City of Oakland tried to clean up some of these warehouse "squats". I use the term as a descriptor since it aptly describes the conditions found inside many of them. People screamed the City had evil motives, and was catering to gentrifiers. The chickens have now come home to roost and 36 people are now dead.
by Richard
Monday Dec 5th, 2016 11:29 AM
I am getting really irritated at the pointing of fingers toward Oakland officials. When is the time for people to take responsibility for their own actions?

If Oakland had condemned the warehouse and kicked everyone out they would have been labeled as evil government . The occupants were the ones that built makeshift stairs and filled the warehouse up with so much stuff it impeded exits during any emergency.

The occupants hoarded garbage and junk piling it up all over the place. The occupants knew living there was illegal and mascaraed-ed it by calling the warehouse a 24 hour studio. The occupants were getting electricity from the neighbor The occupants were getting water from the neighbor. The manager booked an event with 200 rsvps.

When are we as a society going to start taking responsibility for our actions. The manager and occupants tried to skirt the rules on the intended purpose for the building. They are at fault. I'm sorry, but the reason people died is because of management.
by Oaklander
Monday Dec 5th, 2016 12:30 PM
In case you haven't noticed, the city of Oakland does what it wants and didn't change policy regarding enforcement because some people complained. The people who live in these warehouses because they can't afford other options, or those who post to Indybay, are far from the mayor's favored constituency. She prefers monied interests, and those with a badge and a gun.

The city has shut down a number of warehouses in the last couple of years and are on track to shut down even more. They just hadn't gotten to this one yet, establishing it as a residence and then taking the legal steps to shut it down, too.

And fuck you for the chickens coming home to roost comment. You are a real callous shithead to come here and act smug like that, making snark over the bodies of dozens of people who died.

There's plenty of blame to go around. insensitive assholes like you have certainly done nothing to help.
by Daniel
Monday Dec 5th, 2016 2:22 PM
The gentrifiers may use this tragedy to launch a campaign against poor people's housing.
Another war against the poor, all in the names of these victims.

by San Franciscan
Wednesday Dec 7th, 2016 7:23 AM
Guess what? My memory's pretty good. Good Morning America confirmed the city raided this warehouse several months ago. I remember all the whining from activists and calls for resistance to what the city was doing. There were all kinds of accusations aimed at city government linking their efforts to gentrification. Yeah, the chickens came home to roost at the feet of numerous people, including the black hoodie brigade. Shame 36 people had to die.
by oaklander
Wednesday Dec 7th, 2016 7:21 PM
You're still full of shit if you're trying to assert that primary blame resides on activists or people with hoodies.

I don't know anything about a raid, presumably a police raid, at the Ghost Ship. Not saying one never happened but not sure what that has to do with anything. It was fun to learn that you get your news from Good Morning America, known for their hard-hitting exposés and deep commitment to those in need. You must live a comfy life.

But if you expect people to believe that city inspectors, police, whatever city power, was ready to shut this place down and then activists or a band of people in black hoodies formed a line and said "hell no!" — or simply just whined about it — and then the city backed down, that's cuckoo puffs. The city will assemble it's little army of crooked rapist cops any time it really wants to smash through resistance. Perhaps you were privy to a memo about officials kowtowing to activists wishes on warehouses that the rest of us didn't see.

City Hall does cater to gentrifiers, especially the mayor, and now you've got thousands living in cars, tents, backyard sheds, trailers, makeshift plywood shelters, anything. This is the dark underbelly of Libby Schaaf's vision for Oakland. She gave a green light for developers and real estate speculators to run wild through the place, she made sure the pigs got a $17M raise, and yet she's done nothing more than pay lip service to protecting long time residents. Add into the mix the subject of this article, that there are only 4 building inspectors in a city of 400,000, and it's little wonder some folks might end up in unsafe conditions.

You want to really blame someone? Blame those with the power and the money in this city. Blaming those with limited resources is seriously fucked up. "It's the poor's fault they live in decrepit conditions! If they only bowed down to the powers that be a little bit more, stopped complaining about gentrification, the housing crisis would magically vanish."

For a "San Franciscan" you sure seem invested in defending Oakland city government. You "distinctly recall complaints on IndyBay" as if they personally affected you, and you "remember all the whining from activists and calls for resistance to what the city was doing" as if you care when city leadership is protested. Sounds like someone got their wittle feelings hurt by mean ol' activists and people in black hoodies. Sounds like someone is so thin-skinned about it, they'd mock the dead. You're a sick and twisted fuck. Go back to your middle class dream land and don't forget to DVR Good Morning America.
by oaklander
Wednesday Dec 7th, 2016 8:17 PM
Oakland Firefighters Say Their Department Is So Badly Managed, Ghost Ship Warehouse Wasn't Even In Its Inspection Database

Whistleblowers say that the fire chief, mayor, and city council failed to advocate for sufficient resources.

("San Franciscan" would have us blame people in black hoodies and activists when the mayor and council ignored OFD in their worship of OPD as the solution to all problems)
by San Franciscan
Thursday Dec 8th, 2016 7:50 AM
Boy, you're thin skinned. As I said there's plenty of blame to go around, including the owner, the City, the residents and you activists. You all helped kill 36 people.
by oaklander
Thursday Dec 8th, 2016 11:45 AM
Yes, troll. "You killed people. Why are you being so defensive?" Classic troll shit.

But you're kind of switching your tune, eh? Something of a flip flop. First it was mean old activists unfairly picking on the city, because *for some reason* you are invested in defending *Oakland* city officials. Now you admit the city shares blame, even if you continue to pretend you have absolutely nothing to do with it.

At any rate, you've been shaken from your mind-numbing Good Morning America view of the world, at least for a moment, and you dropped the self-satisfied bullshit that the people with all of the power and money are responsible for nothing bad that ever happens in this world.
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