Richmond's Burnt Ramen residents abruptly evicted

A week before the holidays and in very cold temperatures, Mykee Ramen now sleeps in a van outside of his home of 18 years.

"Mayor Butt made me homeless,” said Ramen.

Like the now infamous Ghost Ship in Oakland, Ramen’s home “Burnt Ramen” was a live-work artist space, which hosted music and other events. On Friday, Richmond code enforcement and fire inspectors came through and red tagged Burnt Ramen, which means the warehouse is not habitable and all five live-in tenants had to get out immediately.

"They red tagged the building. In this neighborhood that's an open invitation to loot the place and they know that,” said Brendan Bailey, who has lived at Burnt Ramen for eight years and is unable to retrieve his belongings.

Ramen bought the building in 1998 and said the previous owners also lived inside. He said it’s zoned as multifamily residential, but some city sites list it as commercial. Ramen said the building has been inspected several times in the 2000s and tried to get the building zoned for commercial use, but didn’t receive much help from the city of Richmond.

“They said it would cost a lot of money and I’d fail,” said Ramen.

Ramen said he’s willing to do what it takes to make Burnt Ramen up to code, but doesn’t know what issues the city has with it.

"Eight inspectors and one police officer were running through taking pictures of everything,” said Ramen.
“I don't see why they couldn't come up with a list to comply with."

KTVU met Monday with the City of Richmond’s fire chief, mayor, and planning director. Richmond officials said a full list of issues will be sent to Ramen on Tuesday or Wednesday, but there were clear violations that red tagged the building.

"We did note the facility didn't have power to it. It had been cut off by PG&E,” said Fire Chief Adrian Sheppard.
“Power supplied was using batteries."

In addition, Chief Sheppard said people were living in crawl spaces, bars and chicken wire covered windows, and doors lead to secret rooms, which would make it confusing for guests and firefighters in the case of a fire.

The City of Richmond said Burnt Ramen has been on its radar for years, but Friday’s inspection was prompted because of the deadly Ghost Ship fire.

"I got an email two days after the Ghost Ship fire from somebody in Richmond. I think their words were 'This is Richmond's Ghost Ship. You better check it out,” said Mayor Tom Butt.

City officials said the unpermitted parties, like those hosted at Ghost Ship, are the greatest concern.

"From what I read, only one person who was living there actually died. The rest were people who came for a party,” said Mayor Butt.

Richmond City Planning Director Richard Mitchell said the city found out about Burnt Ramen’s parties through social media and that it was boasting 40 or more people at some events. Mitchell said Ramen needs to apply for a use permit.

“Once a use permit is secured, the property owner must work with licensed professionals (architect, structural engineer, general contractor and the City’s Building Department) to bring the structure into compliance with building and safety codes that apply to the proposed use,” Mitchell said via email.

Mayor Butt said the city has worked previously with the owner of a converted self-storage space called Bridge Storage and Art Space on Maine Avenue, which allows art studio space and hosts events.

The fire chief said there are a lot of issues to be considered at Burnt Ramen. Ramen said he believes the building is zoned as residential, but said he was collecting rent from five tenants. The fire department says four or more tenants requires a different series of fire inspections. Collecting cover charges and hosting events with numerous guests also puts Burnt Ramen in a category requiring event permits.

"He [Ramen] is agreeable, seems like a nice gentleman. We want to work with him. We just want to make sure these buildings are safe for people to enter and of course exit,” said Chief Sheppard.

Burnt Ramen has a GoFundMe account, which has raised nearly $6,000, but the Fire Chief said a lot more will be needed to bring Burnt Ramen up to code for the type of use it wants to be for the community.