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Oakland’s Mayor Issues Order to Protect DIY Venue Tenants

Libby Schaaf announced an executive order to provide more time to implement safety upgrades in the city’s warehouse spaces

Gabrielle Canon

Photo of Ghost Ship venue courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Oakland's mayor, Libby Schaaf, announced an executive order on Wednesday that will provide more time to ensure safety upgrades are undertaken on the city's unregulated DIY venues, while protecting their residents from eviction.

The order comes in response to calls for both accountability and preservation of the warehouse spaces many artists live and work in following the tragic Ghost Ship fire, which claimed the lives of 36 people during a DIY music event.

Since the fire, evictions from these spaces have been on the rise, stoking fears that the city's response to the tragedy will only lead to displacement and upheaval of the already-vulnerable underground artist communities.

"Buildings in Oakland should be safe places to live, work and play. In the wake of the Ghost Ship tragedy, unpermitted living, assembly and work spaces are under heightened scrutiny," Mayor Schaaf said in a statement. "We must unite as a City to improve the safety of non-permitted spaces while also working to avoid displacing vulnerable community members."

Under the executive directive, if a building is not up to code—as long as it doesn't pose life-threatening hazards—owners can enter into a 60-day compliance plan with the city, during which violations can be fixed, zoning can be approved, and displacement of residents can be avoided.

The mayor has also called for a five-day notification period before inspections, and has asked that inspectors "generally work in the spirit of cooperation with property owners, tenants and master lessons to correct code violations that are not deemed to be an imminent life safety risk."

Over the next two months city officials will also begin reviewing eviction-related ordinances and funding for tenant protections with the aim of avoiding increases in displacement while new safety enhancements are being sought.

The mayor also encouraged the city council to call an emergency meeting on Tuesday January 17 to approve amendments to city ordinances that would help enable implementation of the order.

"We will never forget those lost in the Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire," the mayor concludes in the order, "and we will learn all we can from this horrific tragedy to make Oakland a safer and more resilient community."