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Comment Archives: stories: News & Opinion: Seven Days — Web Only

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

In NY there have been loft residences since forever. You can note them when you go into the building because there's a BIG notice as you go in the door "A.I.R. 6th (or whatever) Floor" so the Fire department KNOWS right away there's an "Artist In Residence" if there's a fire or other emergenccy.

But they're functional industrial lofts with sprinkler systems and fire doors, and the fire department inspects the premises regularly.

The ghostship seems to have been more like a crash pad in a building that would properly be considered abandoned and condemned in NY much like the aparment I rented on Delancey St, with a view of an abuttment of the Williamsburg bridge in the early 1970 from a slumlord.

Electricity wirred in from a light fixture in the hall and when anyone upstairs drained their bathtub it backed up in ours. When we fixed that it, instead, ran out an open pipe and onto the ground in the 'back yard' two stories down. NO! It was NOT in ANY WAY a legal rental, but we rented it.

Posted by gymrathippie on 06/19/2019 at 9:09 PM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

This article is spot on. I can't understand how some people see otherwise. This greedy manipulator narcissist was the antipathy of someone supportive of the art community. In fact this creep almost singlehandedly destroyed the work/live options for artists thruout the country with his arrogant disinterest in the safety and well being of his sub tenants and music performance attendants. I hope he does serious time when this is resolved.

Posted by kevin carr1 on 12/17/2017 at 11:22 AM

Re: “Berkeley Progressives Have a Chance to Prove They're Not NIMBYs

Let's be real. WE NEED HOUSING. Caring about design is nice and all and should be considered when we have extra housing stock (like in the case of Detroit which can choose to be more picky because they have too many homes). In the bay area we do not have this luxury. When we have houses jam packed with more people than should be allowed and, even worse, people living in the streets because the prices or rents are too high, for reasons of human decency, we need to hang up our want to have nice and pretty city blocks and build more to help people out.

Posted by JOHN DESFOSSES on 12/07/2017 at 2:46 PM

Re: “Berkeley Progressives Have a Chance to Prove They're Not NIMBYs

This is not going to make the neighborhoods happy.

Wander through most any residential neighborhood in the flats, from El Cerrito to East Oakland, and you'll find block after block of pleasant, mostly well-cared-for older homes rich in character and variety while showing only one or two common architectural styles.

Then you run into an eyesore apartment building, probably from the post-WWII era. Usually cheaply built, out of character with the rest of the neighborhood, a profit-driven investment for non-resident owners. "What a shame," you say. "It doesn't fit in at all, does it. The rest of the block is so pretty."

City staff can't force a builder to respect a neighborhood; only an open political process can. Berkeley's City Council and affordable housing advocates just gave up on open processes. "But it's for a good cause!" It always is ...

Posted by MikeE on 12/06/2017 at 5:28 PM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

I understand the writer's perspective in this article. Almena just did video interviews where he basically states he's the victim and everyone else but him is to blame. That's not the truth. This is from a certified electrician who saw the building. "Robert Jake Jacobitz: On my contract with him and verbally I warned him of a fire argue with him about a fire more fingers than I have on my hand the last argument we had he finally finally had me cut a fire door in that he owes me for still and I understand he barricaded up that night. I've done my interviews with the FBI ATF DA's office got my subpoena I'm the one is going to be telling Derek he's going to s*** when he sees me in court do you don't know I'm coming. so you won't be able to play uninformed surprised victim he was well-informed multi times about the very real possibility of Fire as my second hand information from the horse's mouth not hearsay."

Posted by Mary Cummins on 12/05/2017 at 7:13 PM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

The only thing deserving of "scorn" here are people like you - Robert Gammon (a journalist I used to respect) - who, rather than investigate a story, decide it's easier to stick to the status quo and continue to heap blame where you find it easiest. Almena, the media villain, deserving of all of your self-righteous scorn. You should be ashamed, and please stay away from this story and our community's grief. You are not worthy of commenting on this matter anymore.

Posted by ConnorMorrison on 12/04/2017 at 11:59 AM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

Rereading the above, I realize I was using some strong language. The anniversary is a rather heavy time. Pardon the oversight but please take the points.

Posted by Jonah Strauss 1 on 12/03/2017 at 10:07 AM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

Robert, everyone already knows Almena shoulders the primary responsibility, so I don't understand the source of your fervor. Regarding Harris, I'm sure you have the resources to dig a little deeper than what went into the sentiment you're expressing here. There are pretty significant differences -- just ask community members. Remember that the DA has a PR goal, and charges may have to change after deposition this week.

The article comes off as pretty mainstream in its reactionary tone, which was the standard MSM approach a year ago. Your Oakland Magazine article (January?) was along similar lines, though I can see you've toned it down since then.

You've got the tacit agreement thing between tenants/landlords/City described accurately, and you are certainly correct that tenants who build out non-conforming spaces -- typically with owner permission -- have historically taken great pride in their work and in its long term safety and stability. That was nice to see acknowledged in print after all these months.

Regarding the building department, you are a little misinformed, which is surprising coming from the editor of the Express. That is most clear here:

"But requiring city employees to determine which spaces are clearly dangerous and need to be shut down like the Ghost Ship and which ones only present minor hazards that need to be fixed is not so simple. Such a protocol, if it were established, also could expose the city to further liability, especially if people were to die in a fire in a warehouse that the city had deemed to be not that bad."

While technically true, this last sentence is fearmongering, no better than internet whackos who call for widespread evictions. Warehouse & non-conforming unit safety advocates have been meeting with select City officials for many months to design an appropriate path forward, one that is hardly touched upon in the Anniversary Report and in the Mayor and Administrator's rhetoric. Both parties share the same concern for life safety, and recognize that there are very few (if any) spaces left like Ghost Ship since the community did its own cleanup in the first half of 2017.

There are clear and simple ways to define what is and is not a life safety hazard. And contrary to Rich Fielding's historical approach, a collection of common code violations does not necessarily equal a life safety hazard. I look forward to seeing a hierarchy of compliance priorities in the future -- such as that used by community safety organizations -- adopted by Code Enforcement. There is no reason that such a practice would increase liability, as imminent life safety hazards do indeed require temporary relocation for repairs. Even in highly problematic cases where tenants can not be moved, such as 2551 San Pablo, the City can always order a 24-hour fire watch (which I believe would have saved that building).

If you need to worry about it, worry instead about the hazards that Code Enforcement is often careless about attending to, namely the pervasive violations in conventional multifamily housing available to low-income folks. You'd be alarmed at the callous approach of inspectors. From water damage and mold to uneven floors and shoddy electrical work, there are many violations that landowners are allowed to explain away or never be cited for -- provided, of course, that the tenants are poor and typically people of color.

Posted by Jonah Strauss 1 on 12/03/2017 at 5:46 AM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

Who the heck writes these articles these days? What generation are these writers mostly derived from? What happened to writing articles of actual substance, and not just repeating 3 things, 6 different ways, in order to be able to hit the word count necessary, to look like a real news article?

Posted by Nicole Celli on 12/03/2017 at 2:07 AM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

Second floor was built out of redwood springboard floor by previous tenants. Same for roof. Was not designed for the building.

Could have had ceramics in there and sprinklers everywhere. Since it was an electrical fire, it would have still went up.

Derrick "rigged" the electrical because it was actually causing problems before.

This article is semantics.

Posted by Marcavius on 12/01/2017 at 2:52 PM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

Any person, entity, anyone who could have stopped this ship from sailing bears responsibility. Fail after fail. This includes PG&E.

Posted by Andy Kershaw on 12/01/2017 at 6:04 AM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

Dear East Bay Express:

Hire some writers who know how to write. And spell. Spell-Check isnt enough.

Posted by John Michaels Grabowsky on 11/29/2017 at 1:37 PM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

"Theres also strong evidence that the buildings owners, the Ng family, were aware of the dangerous conditions inside. " Yeah, but they received a $3 million dollar insurance payout. If they aren't charged they'll be off to China tomorrow.

Posted by Vincent Blafard on 11/29/2017 at 12:38 PM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn


Jury-rigged and jerry-rigged mean essentially the same thing.…

But the origin of "jerry" is problematic.…


Posted by Robert Gammon on 11/29/2017 at 12:20 PM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

Isn't that 'jerry-rigged'?
Jury rigging refers to judicial abuse, not building with inferior materials or workmanship.

Posted by Chris Roberts on 11/29/2017 at 12:10 PM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

To a certain extent, blaming the City for the fire, is akin to blaming the police for not arresting the drug dealer who sold heroin that caused people to OD. On a structural level, yes, the state apparatus is responsible for the suffering. But the thing is, most of these spaces and the people who run them, know that what they are doing isn't legal, and actively avoid getting caught. It's the game we've played for years.

And it isn't exactly true that city officials have turned a blind eye until now. It's an easier story to tell, but it's not accurate. Every few years, they'd make an example of some space, and OPD or the Fire Dept. would show up and kick people out. But this level of enforcement wasn't a priority for the City. I remember a cop once told me, when he was responding to a complaint about an illegal warehouse party, "Someone just got shot 5 blocks from here. I don't want to waste my time with your party. Just don't make me come back."

Posted by Sarah Lockhart on 11/29/2017 at 11:12 AM

Re: “Why Derick Almena Deserves the Most Scorn

Finally the EBE publishes the truth instead of some nonsense about how the City is to blame ( and they do hold some culpability) for Almena's greed and ambition. The tenants were idiots, and Almena took advantage of them. Oakland should NEVER have turned a blind eye, and is still doing it.

Posted by Ernest Montague on 11/29/2017 at 7:58 AM

Re: “PG&E's Assault on Solar Power

There should be restrictions on emitting such large amount of CO2 greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. The latter is the issue the governors should be constrained about, rather, they should praise all the benefits that solar companies bring out. As a user of the services of LA Solar Group, I would advice you to purchase their solar powered panels, as they provide panels with great mechanical engineering designs.

Posted by Jack Burns on 11/30/2016 at 9:09 AM

Re: “Oakland Can't Afford to Wait

Mayor Libby Schaaf, de la Fuentes, et al were around for, and directly participated in the destruction of building services and related positions in the great outsourcing that took place in the eighties. Thus essentially took permanent insourced jobs and turned them into under compensated, un-unionized or poorly unionized portable hourly labor. This was the beginning of the "urban working poor" as well as the elimination of the nonprofessional fair wage job.

This is the mayor who now is suddenly discovering the undercompensated should-be retirees who have nothing after years of work and service and no rent control or ownership. These shifts in labor sourcing accompamied the mergers and acquisitions frenzy of the eighties.

I made a few dollars temping then working at ABM and Johnson Controls as a temp for managers who allocated previously local jobs like the military or correctional outsourcing. The fundamental issue was did this create efficiency or effective monopoly and disenfranchisement. It was defimitely the latter. It was about bundling services that could only be done by leveraging monopoly. Attempts to use courts and criminal. prosecution to thwart this behavior was largely squelched by Feinstein, Rice, et al. This was the same time that the charter school movement took off, not unrelated. Also, the same time that Trump turned up his unearned fortune.

Posted by PaulKevinAnderson on 03/21/2016 at 12:02 AM

Re: “Oakland Can't Afford to Wait

Add this to the list. Oakland should own and manage Eastmont Mall, particularly as it has had government lesees. Insource the management of rent related services which account for 90% of the rent according to the source below. I worked at Johnson Controls in SF as a temp briefly while the acquisitions and mergers and outsourcing "revolution" disemployed most of the safe working class. I lived in the Fillmore and the Mission District. My boss lived in Tiburon (He was a nice guy.)

Johnson Controls contracted banks into grocery stores and the rationalizing of work through pooled corporate janitorial and other services. What began as a work rationalizing exercise became a corporate service bundling operation which never worked for the employees. It might have made sense if it were all worker owned, but it was not. As a result of the hyper rationalized outsourcing even within the local economy, workplaces became ever more alienated, and workers rents increased more quickly than pay. These were economies of avoiding responsibility to workers and local management, not productivity and only incidentally, scale.

Janitorial workers and even low level managers no longer have any connection to their workplaces. They are brought in like brasseros or ununionized building tradesmen (even though many are unionized), and paid minimally.

How does this figure into local public ownership of retail space?

"Retailers pay around $2 per square foot, or $18 to $20 per square foot for triple net leases, which includes taxes, insurance and maintenance costs in addition to rent, said Gooding."

The triple net lease blows retail space cost through the roof, raising retail prices and rents in other sectors as well. We are getting nothing by making these minimally conributing slave drivers rich at the public expense. Only government can insource services at scale at the rate needed to reverse this policy of impoverishment.

We need to own Eastmont Mall to fix Eastmont Mall. Instead, what is the mayor doing? The new minimum wage will not be structurally differnt than the existing system. They are not enough. Short of responsible and respinsive worker ownership, public (government) ownership is preferable. Corporate rationalizing is not humanly sustainable. There is no 'app' for this, no startup substitute..

Posted by PaulKevinAnderson on 03/20/2016 at 4:10 PM

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