Dozens of Oakland residents given 72 hours to vacate red-tagged live-work space

Dozens of Oakland tenants will be kicked out of their homes this weekend after the city red-tagged their building and deemed it unsafe to live in.

Tenants at 1919 Market Street have until Jan. 31 to vacate the building. Some tenants said they were notified about the evacuations the second week of December and not given a full 60 days’ notice. They also said the building did not receive a yellow-tag warning before the red-tag notification.

Joy Newhart, a tenant of the building and a dancer, said building is home to many artists and the space allows them to concentrate on their artistic pursuits.
“It’s very upsetting,” Joy Newhart said. “There’s no reason people who have safe units in this building to get thrown out.”

On Thursday, the City of Oakland’s Planning and Building Department red-tagged the warehouse, which is classified as a live-work space.

According to spokeswoman Cathy Kenny, the city received a complaint from a tenant on Dec. 2014, which resulted in one unit being inspected in Jan. 2015. A subsequent notice of violation was issued and ultimately led to an inspection of all units in Oct. 2015. The following month, the city declared the warehouse a public nuisance and revoked the certificate of occupancy.

The following is part of a statement sent to KTVU on behalf of the City of Oakland:

“The City has significant safety concerns about the building at 1919 Market Street as Illegal construction of work-live spaces has led to serious fire hazards and other issues that pose safety risks to tenants and visitors. Inspections by the Oakland Fire Department and Code Enforcement found the building to be unsafe.”

Some of the safety concerns include, illegal wiring, unprotected stairs, lack of adequate fire sprinklers, a non-existent fire alarm and inadequate exits.

“Yes there are problems with the building and we all knew that when we moved in, but it is not a dangerous building,” Newhart said.

“If it was really that dire, why did they let us live here all of 2015,” Rebecca Lippert, another tenant, said.

Lippert said after looking for another home in the Bay Area, she has no option but to leave.

“I’ve lived here for 13 years,” Lippert said. “I can’t find anything comparable in Oakland to rent.”

Xander Mattingly is unsure of where he will live after the eviction deadline. Before he moves, he is tearing down all the additions he made to his family’s loft. He dealt with things like no heat or a leaky roof, because his 2,000 square foot loft cost him $1500 a month.

“I’m losing a home that we built and I’m not the only one that feels that way,” Mattingly said. “There’s a lot of people that put a lot of time and effort into building what they have and this is their home.”

Attorney Ed Singer represents the building manager and property management company 1919 Bayside, which began overseeing the warehouse at 1919 Market Street in May 2015. Singer said the building has never been a legal residence and his client plans to bring the building up to code. He said both the city and 1919 Bayside looked at different options with the goal of doing as much work as possible while keeping tenants in place, but because of the scope of the work necessary, the building ultimately had to be vacated.

Singer said the company will abide by all the laws in regards to tenants’ rights to return to the complex upon completion of the renovation and units will be priced at whatever market rate the law allows. It is his understanding work will take more than a year, with completion scheduled for 2018.

In addition, the city said staff from the Housing Assistance Center contacted tenants to provide information and resources to assist with relocation and they remain available to assist tenants.