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Artists Could Face Evictions With Cities Cracking Down On Illegal Warehouse Conversions


Cities across the country are cracking down on illegal warehouses in the wake of the Oakland Warehouse Fire, which killed 36 people. Nashville, Philadelphia, Dallas, Austin, Indianapolis, New Haven, CT, and Dubuque, IA, are scrutinizing event spaces and even shutting them down, reports the New York Times.

Complaints over an artist live-work space called Bell Foundry in Baltimore prompted the housing department to condemn and board it up. Philadelphia asked warehouse owners to be extra vigilant and make sure their sites are safe.

New York faced a similar tragedy back in 1990 when a fire at Happy Land Social Club in the Bronx killed 90 people. This year, New York shut down a party of 4,500 at Gowanus Bay Terminal and a 6,000-person event site in East Williamsburg. While New York has had a long history of similar warehouse live-work artist spaces, gentrification in industrial spots like Bushwick has led to fewer spaces.

Los Angeles also vowed to crack down on unsafe warehouses, including one at 931 East Pico Blvd, but city attorney Mike Feuer told the Los Angeles Times the city needs to address housing shortages as well.

San Jose warned Citadel Arts Studios, which doesn’t allow people to live there, to make sure that remains the case, reports the East Bay Times. Richmond, CA, officials are looking more closely at an underground performance space called Burnt Ramen in a commercial warehouse. Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said he would focus on shutting down or fixing up illegal buildings, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco is already planning spot checks on 15 to 20 locations the city has deemed potentially unsafe.

Back in Oakland, landlords fearing for tenant safety have started to hand out eviction notices to artists. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said she won’t be a part of policies that lead to mass evictions, but the city has yet to provide further guidance about how to deal with the many artists with nowhere else to go, according to the East Bay Times.

Oakland will have plenty to deal with after recent reports revealed building code enforcement inspectors had not entered the Ghost Ship over the last 30 years despite two dozen code complaints, according to the Los Angeles Times. Schaaf said she will improve the city’s building and fire inspection protocols, but won’t scapegoat any city agency or employees over any potential wrongdoing.