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Oakland Mayor Announces Protections for Tenants at DIY Spaces Following Ghost Ship Fire

In the wake of the deadly fire that killed 36 people at Oakland, California’s Ghost Ship warehouse in December, DIY arts venues across the country have faced increased pressure from landlords, law enforcement, pro-Trump internet vigilantes, and the public. Today, Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf issued an executive order intended to promote safety at DIY spaces while avoiding evictions and tenant displacement. The order comes a little over a month since the Ghost Ship tragedy.

“We must unite as a City to improve the safety of non-conforming spaces while also working to avoid displacing vulnerable community members,” Schaaf said in a statement. “In the aftermath of the Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire, property owners have become more aware of the potential hazards of allowing unpermitted uses in former warehouse and industrial buildings and have, in some cases, evicted current tenants in an effort to reduce personal liability. Such evictions have resulted in displacement of people with few options for alternate housing or workspace due to the current affordability crisis.”

Schaaf’s order urges city employees to work cooperatively with owners and tenants of unpermitted spaces. If buildings are not up to code, owners will have 60 days to enter a city compliance plan to fix violations without displacing residents. If live-work spaces aren’t zoned for residential use, officials are directed to help property owners gain appropriate zoning. The protections don’t apply to buildings with violations deemed imminently life-threatening.

The mayor’s plan also orders city agencies to notify residents of inspection visits at least five days in advance. If evictions are necessary, tenants must be informed of their rights, such as relocation assistance. Additionally, the plan calls for a review of Oakland’s existing eviction and tenant protection ordinances, in hopes of identifying possible changes to help prevent displacement at DIY spaces.

Read Schaaf’s complete statement and executive order via the PDF link in her tweet below.