News

Oakland mayor promises measures to prevent future 'Ghost Ship' warehouse tragedies

With warehouse search completed, security perimeter to be downsized, streets re-opened

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Wednesday announced a series of measures her administration will take to try to prevent future tragedies such as the fire at a warehouse in Oakland's Fruitvale district on Friday night that killed 36 people.

"This has been a devastating tragedy but it would be another tragedy if we didn't learn any lessons and take the opportunity to make improvements and make the city safer," Schaaf said at a crowded news

conference at the city's emergency operations center.

Schaaf said she and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth have engaged the help of the National Fire Protection Association to focus on the safety of buildings, the safety of events and making improvements to complaint systems.

She said new regulations could require that buildings have smoke alarms, carbon monoxide monitors and stronger emergency exit systems and more closely monitor event permits and illegal events.

The fire at the "Ghost Ship" warehouse at 1315 31st Ave., which was used as a live/work space by an artist collective, sparked at about 11:30 p.m. Friday during an electronic music show which didn't have a permit from city officials.

Schaaf said she and other city officials will also work to clarify the responsibility of city employees to properly report and analyze dangerous

living conditions or illegal events along with a clear process for doing so.

In addition, the mayor said the city will work to expand the Oakland Artist Housing and Workforce Task Force that she established in the summer of 2015 to continue engaging with the arts community in creating safe, permanently affordable homes and workspaces.

Schaaf said, "We will learn from this tragedy and make this city safer with a thorough, methodical review."

But she added, "We will not let our emotions lead to hasty decisions or witch hunts."

In response to a question from a reporter, Schaaf said she doesn't know the last time city inspectors went inside the warehouse, which allegedly had dangerous living conditions, but said, "I don't need to know that information to know that we need to improve."

In response to a question from another reporter about the Alameda County Grand Jury criticizing the city in 2014 for flaws in its fire prevention and inspection procedures, Schaaf said she beefed up resources for inspections and changed procedures when she took office in 2015.

But she added, "I'm not satisfied with those changes and that is an area where we will do a full analysis about how we can improve. I commit to you that will be done."

Later in the news conference, Oakland's interim Planning and Building Director Darin Ranelletti said inspectors in his department haven't been inside the warehouse for 30 years.

Ranelletti said an inspector went to the warehouse site in 2014 to investigate an anonymous complaint that a new building was being erected without a permit but he said the inspector didn't see any evidence of new construction so he closed the case.

Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio acknowledged that, "It would be good to have a regular inspection program" for buildings such as the warehouse that have been converted to new uses.

Cappio said many such building conversions have taken place in Oakland in the past 15 years.

At the warehouse, two more victims of the fatal warehouse fire in Oakland over the weekend were publicly identified Wednesday by the Alameda County coroner's bureau.

Jason McCarty, 35, and Wolfgang Renner, 61, were both killed in the fire late Friday night during a show at the Ghost Ship warehouse on 31st Avenue near International Boulevard, according to city and county officials.

The release of their names brings the total number of publicly released names to 28. Crews have completed their search of the rubble and found a total of 36 bodies.

Of those, 32 families have been notified, three notifications are in process and one victim still needs scientific identification. While the county has not officially identified eight victims, their names have been circulating on social media as friends and family grieve their loss.

With the search completed, city and county officials expect they will shrink their security perimeter and reopen streets in the area Wednesday.

Nine victims were identified on Tuesday night. They were:

35-year-old Billy Dixon of Oakland;

34-year-old Johnny Igaz of Oakland;

34-year-old Amanda Kershaw of San Francisco;

29-year-old Ara Jo of Oakland;

23-year-old Griffin Madden of Berkeley;

21-year-old Vanessa Plotkin of Lakewood;

32-year-old Hanna Ruax of Finland;

29-year-old Nicole Siegrist of Oakland, and,

22-year-old Alex Vega from San Bruno.

Other victims that have been previously identified by the coroner include Oakland residents Cash Askew, Em Bohlka, David Cline, Micah

Danemayer, Alex Ghassan, Travis Hough, Donna Kellogg, Edmond Lapine, Benjamin

Runnels and Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye.

Also previously identified were:

Chelsea Dolan of San Francisco;

Nick Gomez-Hall of Coronado;

Michela Gregory of South San Francisco;

Sara Hoda of Walnut Creek;

Jennifer Morris of Foster City;

Feral Pines of Berkeley, and,

Brandon Chase Wittenauer of Hayward.

— Bay City News Service

Comments

3 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Stoneridge
on Dec 8, 2016 at 10:03 am

"Oakland's interim Planning and Building Director Darin Ranelletti said inspectors in his department haven't been inside the warehouse for 30 years.

Ranelletti said an inspector went to the warehouse site in 2014 to investigate an anonymous complaint that a new building was being erected without a permit but he said the inspector didn't see any evidence of new construction so he closed the case."

So an inspector from his office DID go to the warehouse, but decided not to go inside because there is tacit approval for squatters living in substandard housing in Oakland.

By the way, the mayor didn't say anything would change. There is already a requirement for sprinkler systems in multi-family dwellings, so why wasn't there any in this case?? There is already a law against living in substandard housing like a warehouse without plumbing, so why didn't city officials close this building down?

Nothing will change because Oakland city officials value ideology over law and order. I'm not sure why they wouldn't just change the laws to permit living in substandard housing if that's how they want to do things...


1 person likes this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on Dec 8, 2016 at 10:19 am

@Steve: "So an inspector from his office DID go to the warehouse, but decided not to go inside because there is tacit approval for squatters living in substandard housing in Oakland."

I think that you're putting your own spin on things. The stories I've read in the newspapers said that a city inspector did go to the warehouse in 2014 but was unable to get in because no one was there to unlock the doors and let him in.


1 person likes this
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2016 at 11:41 am

FrequentWalkerMiles is a registered user.

"I think that you're putting your own spin on things. The stories I've read in the newspapers said that a city inspector did go to the warehouse in 2014 but was unable to get in because no one was there to unlock the doors and let him in. " -Sam

In reality, that's the tacit agreement in action. The inspector didn't pursue the issue further with follow up steps, and the residents knew the "game" enough to not acknowledge the official looking person at the door knocking. It's as if no one lived there if the door is not answered.

According to a former resident interviewed by Chronicle, they were instructed to hiding their pillows and bedding if there were officials, including fire department personnel around for any reason. But honestly, does it really fool anyone that if you don't see pillows on beds and mattresses then there is no way people are living there long term?


Like this comment
Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Del Prado
on Dec 13, 2016 at 10:16 am

The root of the problem is that there is a lack of affordable housing for people with little or no income. These starving artists have to find a way to put a roof over their heads so they really don't have a lot of options. What we need in this welfare state is more taxes to build free or low-cost housing for everyone. Make the rich pay their "fair share" and support our communities.


1 person likes this
Posted by Flightops
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 13, 2016 at 7:29 pm

Flightops is a registered user.

Build free housing and they will come. Maybe take care of our seniors first who probably have lived here and paid taxes their whole lives and should be at the front of the line if freebies are being given away.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 15, 2016 at 9:18 am

Pleasanton is not much different when it comes to turning the other way. A few years back it was brought to the hosterman council the fact that a downtown house had an illegal garage with upstairs rental unit. It was less than one foot from the property line, more than 20 feet too high and had no permits. It was a death trap due to the location of the only stairs. The fire Marshall finally red tagged it when a neighbor brought all of this out. The building department said the owner would be required to retrofit with sprinklers, use the right thickness of Sheetrock, move the stairs, etc. At a public council meeting hosterman said she wanted the building to be retroactively permitted without changes and without the fees for the nonexistent permits. The head of the building department said, on the record, that hosterman did not have the authority to override state fire statutes even though she tried.

So don't think that just because we live in the upscale community of Pleasanton that we are not actually just as lax as Oakland when it comes to following the law.


Like this comment
Posted by LanceM
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2016 at 11:49 pm

@Resident - I'm completely confused. You say that because a Pleasanton council person tried and failed to do the wrong thing that we are as lax as Oakland?

Your logic makes no sense.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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