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Illegal Uses At Ghost Ship Were Apparent From The Beginning

Oakland's "Ghost Ship" warehouse after the fire

An illegal use of the warehouse dubbed Ghost Ship in Oakland was planned from the very beginning based on lease documents, the Bay Area News Group reports. In a lease signed by tenant Derick Almena and landlord Eva Ng, the use of the building as an artist collective was clear even though it violated zoning laws. The building would have been allowed to legally run an art collective if a conditional use permit was acquired, but no one ever applied for one.

Almena’s partner, Nicholas Bouchard, had informed the landlord about illegal modifications Almena had already started two months after the lease was signed and asked to be withdrawn from the lease. The landlord threatened financial penalties against Bouchard instead.

The lease specifies that living space was not permitted, but Almena rented and provided several living spaces.

The December fire at Ghost Ship, which killed 36 people, was caused by an overburdened electrical supply. It has been since revealed that police, fire and building officials knew about the safety violations in advance. The landlord was told about the electrical dangers more than two years ago.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s criminal investigation remains ongoing. Victims’ families have begun filing lawsuits against the landlord, Almena and others.

The fire has prompted a crackdown on illegal conversions across multiple cities.