City issues report on steps taken since deadly Ghost Ship Fire

OAKLAND (BCN)-- Oakland City Administrator Sabrina Landreth issued a detailed report today outlining the actions the city has taken following the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire nearly a year ago to make unpermitted spaces safer.

Landreth said in a 17-page memo to the City Council that the fire during an unpermitted party at the warehouse at 1309 31st Ave. in Oakland's Fruitvale district on Dec. 2, 2016, that claimed 36 lives "highlighted deep and complex issues that Oakland has been wrestling with as a community."

She said those issues are, "The impact of the housing affordability crisis, the importance of maintaining a vibrant arts community in Oakland and the need to ensure that our housing and public spaces are safe and habitable."

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement, "One year ago we made a promise to make Oaklanders safer. We delivered on that promise."

Schaaf said, "Safety is the priority; preserving cultural community and fighting housing insecurity is the context."

She said, "Our city has developed long-term sustainable changes to make Oakland safer today than it was one year ago and it's work we will 
continue to do."

The deadly fire occurred at a warehouse that had been illegally converted into a living and event space.

Schaaf issued an executive order on Jan. 11 that charged Landreth with directing applicable city departments to implement new protocols and policies aimed at improving safety of non-permitted spaces while avoiding the displacement of residents.

Landreth said in her report since that time the city has investigated 32 warehouses or commercial spaces where unpermitted residential occupancies were suspected.

Landreth said 11 of those cases have been closed or resolved but cases are still open at 21 properties where violations have been confirmed, 16 of them at residential properties and 4 of them at non-residential properties.

She said the city is working with the owners of those properties to bring them into compliance to address violations.

Landreth said the city is seeking access to one remaining property to investigate potential violations.

Landreth said her report addresses the steps the city has completed in six primary areas, including bringing buildings into compliance, increasing fire and building inspection capacity and improving 
inter-departmental communications.

She said the other areas are referrals and data sharing, streamlining the permitting process for events and identifying housing resources.

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has charged Ghost Ship warehouse master tenant Derick Almena, 47, and creative director Max Harris, 27, with 36 counts each of involuntary manslaughter for their alleged roles in the fire.

Their preliminary hearing, which will determine if there's enough evidence for them to stand trial, is scheduled to begin on Dec. 4.