Oakland, Berkeley, And East Bay News, Events, Restaurants, Music, & Arts
Agree with both of the comments above. This appears to be the deadly result of the systemic disfunctions of at two city departments, Fire and Building, and probably Police as well, to set up efficient systems to share information and to manage staff to make sure the systems are used properly and staff perform efficiently and timely. Along with that, there seems to be a remarkable failure of management to prioritize responses to complaints based on even number of people at risk and potential worst case harm.
Nothing new about these operating problems at City Hall. Been like that for many years, even decades. Normally the only damage is economic or discomfort to tenants getting screwed by landlords for substandard living conditions, builders and developers delayed for months over minor items and inconsistent inspectors and charged huge fees for the privilege, or residents forced to live with blight. Construction inspection and plan review failures of the growing building boom here probably won't even be discovered until the big one hits.
Ever since the Feds came in to oversee OPD, there was much talk about changing the "culture" at OPD. Far too many of Oakland municipal government need cultural change as well as house cleaning of many layers of their management.
Instead we'll get mass grief counseling, legal lynching of the dumshit master tenant, and an inspector and maybe an asst fire marshal taking early retirement.
Since the is after all, one of the most deadly building fires in CA history and made headlines across the country for several days, something more dramatic might be done to give the illusion of change. That's shaping up to be big cutbacks in allowable number of artist live/work units along with requirements for putting in good stuff like sprinkler systems which are so expensive that most artists won't be able to afford the rents.
Just as we overhauled the City Ethics Commission, and voters overwhelmingly approved an independent civilian Police Commission this past November, it's time to establish an independent Commission of residents and business people to oversee rehabbing of the Building and inspection department. After that task, another commission to examine the Fire Department.
Some resources for "slouching towards safety" I've found in a few days of digging around:
*OSHA regulations for work spaces, 29 CFR 1910 subpart e - almost too vague, at least it's understandable to a (patient) layman. https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/29/pa…
* http://www.worldcat.org//architects-studio… Looks like a good book that condenses code requirements, I'll look at a copy at the UC Berkeley library.
* NFPA Life Safety Code 101 http://www.nfpa.org//all-code/list-of-code… A real gold mine. Register for free, and you can access all their content.
The trouble is the issue pretty complex for a one-page broadsheet, all that most of the young rave-goers have attention for. Boiling it down further, maybe some really basic rules:
* two exit paths minimum to the outside from any performance space.
* clear exit paths 28 inches wide or more
* Crash bars on the exit doors (not that expensive - abt $100 new, and I suspect, but haven't confirmed, they may be available via salvage at the usual locations for same.
* photoluminescent exit lighting (glows without external power or batteries)
These are all things that are visible to attendees. None of these visible? Complain, then leave, is Uncle Ryan's advice.
BTW, Gilman Street has all of this and has for DECADES, just as an example.
Maybe there could be a second list of "best practices" oriented toward property - I don't know, leaders? What the LoBot collective tried really hard to be... Some bullet points (and these could be applied to living as well as performance spaces):
* fire escape ladders for second-floor windows. https://wiki.ezvid.com/best-escape-ladders
* if windows are more than about 3 feet off the floor, steps to allow them to be used for egress. The building code has a maximum sill height of 44 inches for egress windows - conflicts with privacy and security. My own house doesn't meet that one.
* Some form of alerting system, even if it's just a bullhorn in the DJ booth.
* How to conduct a fire drill. Oriented towards promoters, bouncers and DJs, but have a live "mob" of your friends to do it, and a mini-keg afterward if you can all get out in under a minute.
* Fire-proofing partitions, particularly around exit paths. Drywall is cheap, and reasonably fire proof.
Please keep thinking about how to prevent another Ghost Ship FIRE. E-mail me privately if you want to help build a Movement.
While I think there is plenty of blame to go around, I'm not all that interested, me, in assessing and assigning it.
What interests me is improving the safety of alternative spaces. The spaces are not going away. Their economics are sketchy. Full code compliance is NOT happening, and may be counter-productive in the long run anyway - all the preceding has been pointed out, here and in other posts.
This NEED NOT mean doing NOTHING. I'm exploring, along with a prior poster in this thread, "slouching towards safety" - intermediate approaches towards issues of egress, electrical safety, etc. Something outside of Code Compliance and Fire Marshall inspection. Contact me via the link in this posting, and let's talk, hopefully leading to acting.
Every word in the building and fire codes is written in blood mixed with ashes. We ignore them at our peril. Let's have MORE beautiful spaces (while the Ghost Ship pre-fire pictures frighten me rigid, I can ALSO see the attraction - it did look mighty cozy), but no more martyrs.
A family friend lost her son in this fire. Other people we know are still missing.
I think a false opposition is being created in this thread. Some people say that people who knew about the situation should have taken preventive action. One might start that list with the master lessee, but not end it there. This horrible fire stands out in part because structure fires have gotten a lot more unusual--fire prevention has been an unsung triumph of government regulation.
Other people say these situations are unavoidable, there's no such thing as safe low cost space in Oakland right now. The only affordable space is physically unsafe space. The City (and other governmental entities) should work to create physically safe artists' housing and performance venues. Other cities (in the US and elsewhere)--starting with Emeryville (!) have been a lot more proactive in creating artists' housing.
I think both the responsibility perspective and the housing shortage perspective are valid.
I've been following this tragic event since it occurred. Going to clubs and shows down in LA, I realize, this EASILY could have been me or any of my friends and/or acquaintances.
I find ALL of the loss of life from this tragedy to be equal.....and find it disheartening that the person writing the article is sad moreso for the attendees who remain unaccounted for who are transgender people and people-of-color. In the 2010's, all we hear about is treating everyone equally and yet, in many scenarios, certain people continue to focus on certain victims instead of ALL of the victims. There are certainly circumstances when these types of people (transgender, gay, etc) are discriminated against and bothered, but it is definitely NOT at a club, a show or an event within the underground community.
I know LA may be a bit different than up there in the Bay area, but if we look at each other equally here within the scene (goth/industrial/EDM/elecronic/dark wave, etc), I can't imagine people up there looking at each other differently.
From the "before" photos of the inside of the building, this venue was a disaster waiting to happen. I have been to places like this, mainly for "after hour" parties and have left many of them after getting that "this can't be good" feeling. For those of you in the scene (the MUSIC scene....I could care less about your skin color, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, etc), please be more careful and vigilant out there. If something doesn't seem right....it may not be and it is better to be safe than sorry.
For all of those who have lost friends and family from this tragedy, my truest condolences.
Who is this "Aldigator" who thinks you can rent a one bedroom apartment for $1,400? What a ridiculous thing to say...
Well put, Mr. Patton. You might add, where is the Chief of Police? We don't even have one of those. Is this information covered under an FOIA request? Note also that the Planning and Building Director has recently left and an interim is in her place, a man frequently interviewed with fewer and fewer answers each time, just several "open investigations." I would say that "heads need to roll," but I'm afraid there's not one responsible head left in Oakland City government.
I was involved with the Rave community in the Bay Area for years and have known numerous artists and others that have lived in warehouses. Most of these people are artists, musicians and kids that don't have the money to afford the high rents in the area.
This guy didn't start the fire, didn't lure people in, and was probably just providing spaces for those that didn't have anything else. I can't imagine what he's going through.
Dear God, bless the people that perished and their hurting families.
This letter is written by an executive assistant to the Fire Chief. Where is the leadership and direction from the Oakland Fire Chief? In all of the press conferences and public official responses regarding this tremendous tragedy, the Fire Chief has been conspicuously absent. All of the public statements have been made by Deputy Chiefs. Where is the Chief and why is she hiding? If this catastrophe does not demand accountability from the top, what will it take? I suspect that in this extremely high profile complex situation regarding a Fire response to field operations and codes, the Chief is woefully incapable of answering questions. As I recall, she was hired by ex City Administrator Santana, who she worked with at the City of San Jose. I believe that in her previous role in San Jose, Oaklands Fire Chief was a numbers cruncher in charge of the Fire Department budget. Once again Oakland shows a lack of leadership from those in executive positions who hire and promote people based on friendships and relationships instead of experience and qualifications. No wonder instructions went out cutting off public access to information. What I suspect is that what we will eventually discover is that several city departments, especially Fire and Building Inspection, had plenty of opportunities in the past to identify and correct multiple code and health and safety violations or prohibit occupancy of this obvious fire trap. The problem is that the culture of work for employees in Oakland allows myopic single focus views of the job. Fire does an inspection, but does not talk to the Building Department. The zoning inspector goes out, but does not include building code inspectors who have a more technical expertise. Everybody only sees their own job, not how they are connected. What is missing throughout the organization are people with a more comprehensive big picture sense of their public duty and how they can use other parts of the organization to actually resolve the issues on their own desk. That direction of how to work has to come from the top and it obviously and unfortunately in this case, did not happen.
From what I've read/heard, the actual residents of the space knew the danger and were somewhat prepared -- there had been small fires there before. It was holding a party on the almost inaccessible second floor that was the height of insanity. Some people should got to jail for this, but a creative solution for some amount of housing or accommodations could come out of this. Could. There are a lot of competing interests and desires. It will take time.
Good point Jessica, years of grassroots community organizing went into this initiative, including Local Clean Energy Alliance, East Bay Clean Power Alliance, Berkeley Climate Action Coalition, Clean Energy & Jobs Oakland, Asian-Pacific Environmental Network, the Sierra Club and others.
Breanna, I think sorting this out, and "punishing" those who acted in such ways that totally disregarded life, IS one of the ways we try to prevent this from happening again.
This fire will probably save many future lives: hopefully it will be burned into our consciousness. Hopefully others will "just say no" to unsafe, sketchy shit like this. Hopefully people are checking out their surroundings a bit closer. Hopefully people never forget. Sadly its tragedies like this that show us, throughout our lives, how precious and frail human life is.
Derrick needs to STOP TALKING.....I read a couple asanine comments: one, he called the victims all "his children". Hmmm. Cool. But they aren't. You're kids are alive. You tell that to the 36 victims parents and loved ones. (You obviously get a FAIL at parenting....I don't care how cool you are or how amused you are by your " poetic ability"...you put your children in a very dangerous situation) Two, he talked about his life experiences: THAT YOU OBVIOUSLY DID NOT APPLY....AT 46 YOUVE LIVED LONG ENOUGH TO KNOW THIS STUFF CAN AND WILL HAPPEN. Yet, you snubbed your nose at that, you played chicken with other peoples lives. Please, just shut the hell up.
Can't we accept this tragic accident as such.? Quit trying to blame name etc.let's look to see what we can do to avoid an outcome like this.god bless peace out
If other artist spaces get red-tagged over this (which they shouldn't as this was an egregious mess) that will be Derick's fault too, along with all of the deaths. He knew it was unsafe and he made it obvious that he didn't care. And, of course, he got out. Unlike 36 other people who he was only too glad to take advantage of. Derick, if this is you, you should STFU. If this isn't Derick, you should also STFU. There is no justification for throwing a public party in that kind of space. You want to let your friends burn up in your house, that's between you and them. But as soon as you become a public space - even as an underground - that's different.
I'm sorry, but there's absolutely no excuse for this. If you want to be an artist and live on your own in a dangerous warehouse illegally modified for live/work purposes, then fine. But the moment you have your kids live there, or start renting uninhabitable and unsafe living space to others, or start holding paid events for tens or hundreds of people, then you are endangering people, and whether you profited or not, that's absolutely criminal. Just because you're a "starving artist," which doesn't seem to be the case with almena, doesn't give you license to endanger other human beings.
And let's be clear here, the promoters and performers at these events are also liable, even if they're performing for free, it's criminal to have the public see your show at a thoroughly unsafe space. If they hadn't been there before, they should have just cancelled when they saw how unsafe it was. I remember going to a warehouse party in SF in the early 90's, where there was a second floor accessable by a wooden ladder, and I said to my friends: I'm not going up there, how the hell do you get down if there's a problem? Some of my friends went up anyway, nothing happened of course, but still promoters and performers should know better and bear responsibility.
Furthermore, the city's negligence on this matter is inexcusable.
Original reddit post unedited: http://howldb.com/p/oakland-fire-survivor-writes-harrowing-account-about-how-he-escaped-on-reddit-daily-mail-0rf4py
The skipped (or I missed it) the beginning of his original post where he said there was someone telling people to stay upstairs. Clearly evacuation was needed but someone instructed people not to evacuate. This is an important part of the situation. Needs to be told.
There's a great deal of interesting comments present. However, even at a time like this, the old adage applies: "opinions are like A"& H%&!*...everybody's got one..." Listen, folks, at the end of the day two things are black and white (no pun intended with the particular political climate we are in currently). 1. reality suggests various forms of greed was holistically very much present within the composition of not only this "urban, cultural, underground safe space", but many others where you would not expect to find it, even when humbled by the presence of such pure, creative and minimalist guests. 2. Attorneys hired by victims' families will cast a "wide" net of financial liability, based on black and white "real responsibilty", according to laws we all must live by. The fire was gender, color, religious, cultural, social-blind. So too will be personal injury/death, etc. law, once applied.
Without further ado, and as another old adage dictates: "follow the money.....", cause that's what the lawyers are doing yesterday for the victims' families, as well as the building owners, tenants, city and county officials, etc. running for cover. Only difference in the immediate aforementioned is acquirement and protection of assets.
There's gotta be other solutions than renting space in a dilapidated warehouse. I think all parties need to assume responsibility (owner of building for allowing this, guys who ran the collective, people that chose to live there, city for turning a blind eye). How much were people paying for space in a warehouse with substandard conditions? Why can't you rent a $1,400/mo one bedroom with 2 roommates? There are places like that out there.
I read the article and it doesn't really say that this man owns the building. It gives the impression that he was leasing it and living in it and rented it out for music/dance parties. None of his arrests were for arson. It would seem to me that the owner of the building is responsible for its condition and should never have been rented out or less to anyone.
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