Wednesday, November 22, 2017
 
Oakland Fire, an Avoidable Tragedy, Prompts Range of Emotional Comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. Dec. 5 (DPI) – Firefighters are still pulling bodies from the rubble of an Oakland, Ca., warehouse that caught fire and killed at least 36 Friday night. Readers on comment boards  across the internet focused on not simply the senselessness of the tragedy, but also underlying social and political issues – like affordable housing, and social inequality, particularly in the prosperous Bay Area  – that seemed to underlie it.

After all, Oakland is as progressive a city as any in the nation, and the fire occurred in a building that should not have been occupied by people in the first place.  The warehouse had long been commandeered by artists and bohemians as a kind of clubhouse, including studio apartments; the owner and tenants had none of the permits that allowed it to be used as a party venue, much less as residences.

Pre-fire photos of the interior confirmed many things: that it was indeed a bohemian retreat, and that is was a fire trap.  Multiple reports this weekend suggested that the City of Oakland’s inspectors had tried to enter the building in recent weeks for code violations, but that information, many readers said, hardly absolved the city, which accused the city of turning a blind eye. Apparently there are dozens of such illegally utilized buildings in the region, in no small part due to the high cost of housing in the Bay Area.

The New York Times in its follow-up coverage focused as much on the lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area as on the fact that the building was being illegally occupied. The most popular reader comments – and there were few comments overall, only 40 as of this afternoon – suggested the owner and tenant were most directly to blame:

Main cause: complicity between master tenants and the building owner, who each let dangerous conditions fester b/c it served their needs. But I appreciate how this article is attentive to the reasons that creative artists put themselves at risk to find live/work spaces in a totally gentrified town. The bay area, which has a reputation as progressive, has completely dropped the ball on affordable housing and nurturing the diverse — and poor/bohemian/non-corporate — artists and art communities that built this city. This is terribly sad: it seems the majority of attendees did not make it out alive. Finally, where WAS master tenant Derick Alemany during all this, and now? One report says he was collecting money at the door. Did he flee in the fire? I know of the FB post, but are his whereabouts known? A coward, with blood on his hands.

Why wasn’t this place shut down by the fire Marshall when concerns were raised?
And this raises the point that the fire Marshall isn’t being s big-old meano when he shuts down a party for overcrowding or unsafe fire condition. This is what they’re trying to prevent.

No one expected this kind of disaster to happen here because we have codes and inspectors to prevent exactly this type of disaster. Something is seriously wrong with the Oakland Fire Marshall’s office. Maybe they need more inspectors or a new Chief but they share accountability for this tragic loss.

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