Monday, December 5, 2016

Oakland Ghost Ship Fire So Wrong

This Oakland Ghost Ship tragedy is so wrong on so many different levels. It begins at least in part because there is inadequate acceptable housing in Oakland or San Francisco for those with even moderate incomes, let alone many artists whose earnings are not moderate. So anyone who owns or leases a warehouse can turn that into living quarters. An old firetrap warehouse becomes a cheap place to live. It is cheap because, yes, it costs money to comply with fire codes and own and maintain a safe building-but how much really? Indeed, here we are in 2016 and there are such things as fire escapes, fire exits, stairways built to code, wiring and of all things, sprinkler systems--none of which apparently were any part of this building. The question is not whether the cost of safety was too high--it wasn't. The question is whether anybody gave a damn here. From all we now know, it does not look like they did. Not the City or the owners or the promoters. 

There are so many components leading to this disaster. It is unclear from what has surfaced whether Derick Ion Almena is the owner of the warehouse or a property manager of some type but it is clear that warehouse was scrutinized by the City for its garbage problems long before this fire. If the City was there looking at the garbage, why is that the only thing they were looking at? How is it that this 'death trap' was not shut down by the City? Was the City tacitly allowing this to continue as an accommodation to these artists or to Mr. Almena? Is there some reason that the City never managed an interior inspection here? Or did they?  At this point there are many more questions than answers.

What about Almena? What was his role? If he owned it and wanted it to be living space there was a lot that could have been done to make this a safe environment. From the sound of things, none of it was. There was no way to escape from the top floor of this warehouse--not even a legitimate staircase, and according to reports, furniture, junk and debris blocked exits. Why not at least install a metal and brick staircase or metal fire escapes? The oldest and most dangerous of buildings at least have sliding metal ladder fire escapes. Why not have some parameters about maintaining clear exits? How about having the owner work with promoters on safety. Just basic safety limits would have gone a long way. What about fire extinguishers? Were there any?

We are not talking about big investments here. We are talking about responsibility for human life even at a level that may not not be enough to comply with Code. If the argument of some is that  compliance is too expensive, what exactly is the income he receives from the people who lived there not to mention the income from this event compared to the cost of compliance?

And all that being said, what are the responsibilities of the promoters of this event. Our office looks forward to learning more about exactly what transpired here. 


Monday, April 11, 2016

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