Oakland artists express concerns over evictions following fire

- The City of Oakland ratified a local state of emergency on Thursday afternoon and held a moment of silence for the 36 victims of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.

The declaration allows Oakland to request state and federal funds to help recover from the tragedy.

Before the unanimous vote, the council took time to listen to a line of artists worried about their future. Some in the community fear the city will crack down on non permitted residences in commercial spaces, prompting evictions.

“There are people that lost their roommates to the fire that now don’t know how to pay the rent because they don’t have the roommates money and there are landlords that don’t care,” Matt Hummel, an Oakland resident, said.

A woman who identified herself as Rachael said she is more than willing to work with city officials to come up with a solution for tenants who call live-work spaces home.

“We want to be safe,” she said. “We want our loved ones to be safe. Many of us did lose friends in that fire. This is not a situation that any of us want to be in.”

Many who spoke called for a moratorium on inspectors red-tagging buildings. They said landlords who fear liability are handing out evictions.

Daniel Franco hopes the city will grant amnesty to tenants and their landlords.

“People are already getting evicted here in Oakland,” Franco said. “The Bay Area as a whole needs to solve its housing problem. People wouldn’t be doing this if they had other options.”

Lynette Gibson McElhaney said the council is listening.

“We don’t want to do something now that will penalize most of the law abiding citizens of this community who are safe and who are operating safely,” she said.

Council members said they intend to work with landlords to make sure Oakland does not see mass evictions. They also want to work with property owners to help them come into compliance.

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