Despite city’s attempts, Oakland warehouse owners still evicting tenants

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

OAKLAND — Evictions from live/work spaces in Oakland continue with alarming frequency in the wake of December’s Ghost Ship fire, despite efforts by city leaders to work with landlords to prevent displacement in a city where affordable housing is a rare commodity.

“We are facing evictions weekly. The number of spaces out there that are untouched are decreasing,” said Tom Dolan, an architect and author of Oakland’s regulations governing warehouse conversions into legal live/work spaces.

Dolan has been working with the DIY Safety Group, which coalesced in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire to make immediate safety improvements to warehouse spaces. But many landlords seem unwilling to bother with the time and expense needed to upgrade and permit their buildings, choosing to sell them instead.

“It’s kind of a race against time to come up with some resolution with landlords,” he said.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf had hoped to offer some resolution to landlords in mid-January, when she issued an executive order directing city staff inspecting buildings to only order residents to leave if there is an imminent hazard to their safety. The order came after reports that tenants in dozens of warehouses and other unpermitted live/work spaces were getting the boot following the Dec. 2 Ghost Ship fire in the city’s Fruitvale neighborhood, where 36 people lost their lives.

In a report to the City Council, staff said the city had identified 18 buildings as “potentially having unsanctioned occupancies that have both living and working spaces,” but Claudia Cappio, the city’s assistant city administrator, said it was able to eliminate three from the list that already had its requisite permits and was up to code.

Of the remaining 15, another three are listed as only hosting unpermitted events, not living spaces. Three more include retail stores with unsanctioned bedrooms but are not warehouses in the traditional sense. In at least one building, the landlord has given tenants 90 days to move out, despite it being listed as “working with” the city to prevent evictions.

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