There are no words to convey the heartbreak felt by those closest to the Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse fire. At the moment, 33 are confirmed dead, with search crews still sorting through the ashes of the site. As stories and details of the fire are shared, and while thousands await news of missing loved ones, a phrase keeps coming up: “It could have been any one of us.”

For those of us involved in artist spaces one way or another, the tragedy is impossible to process. I, too, have been inside a warehouse like that, we think, living, working, dancing into the night. According to the Oakland Fire Department, this fire has taken more lives than any in the city’s history.

And yet for many of us, these spaces are what have kept us alive. In a world that demands its inhabitants to be a certain way, think a certain way, or live a certain way, we gravitate to the spaces that say: Welcome. Be yourself. For the tormented queer, the bullied punk, the beaten trans, the spat-upon white trash, the disenfranchised immigrants and young people of color, these spaces are a haven of understanding in a world that doesn’t understand — or can’t, or doesn’t seem to want to try.

The first such space in Oakland I came across, in 1994, was Phoenix Ironworks, a giant former foundry in West Oakland cluttered with furniture, mannequins, makeshift structures, and large-scale, incredible art around every corner. A skate ramp owned by the editor of Thrasher took up part of the space; most of it was a labyrinth of over 50 pianos forming walls and hallways. Parties at Phoenix Ironworks were the stuff of legend: bands played, and, if the mood was right, a giant Tesla coil would be wheeled out into 8th and Pine Streets to create loud, bright lightning across the sky on the furthest forgotten edge of the city.

Inside Phoenix Ironworks in Oakland's Bottoms, circa 1990.
Inside Phoenix Ironworks in Oakland’s Bottoms, circa 1990. (Images via Immortal Piano Co.)

I spent long hours inside Phoenix Ironworks, rehearsing with my band and getting to know its residents. And in the years since, I’ve lived in, been to, helped build, or performed at dozens if not hundreds of similarly unsanctioned DIY artist spaces, warehouses and punkhouses in the Bay Area and around the country — and the world. There are thousands like me who are a product of such environments. Chances are that you are, too.

We know the risks. We know that police and landlords can shut us down at any time. We know our creative alterations to these living spaces are not one-size-fits-all. And we are all too aware of the clashes in piling personalities of divergent backgrounds in close proximity.

The bigger risks, the more unlikely ones — that such a treasured place could become an inferno in mere minutes — those don’t always cross our minds.

Q.Logo.Break

Today, I know two people on the missing list. As I scroll through news and social media for updates, hoping to see the word “SAFE” next to their names, I also see words like “death trap” and “unpermitted.” Outsiders reporting on the tragedy inevitably get it all wrong: they mischaracterize the party as a rave, the music as EDM, and implicitly criminalize the victims as attendees of an illegal event. Hours after the fire, the tragedy is politicized.

How can we explain?

They don’t understand why we don’t just live in a $3,000/mo. apartment where everything is safe and sterile and clean; why we live in a warehouse, or a garage, or an attic or shed or laundry room; why there is a mattress on the floor with a space heater where there normally would be a Queen size bed with a duvet and a nightstand and central heating.

They don’t understand why we congregate here at night, pushing salvaged furnishings out of the way to make room for the drum set and amps, packing our friends’ bodies in like sardines, moving as one to music that never gets played on the radio. Why we play music here for each other when we could be trying to get booked at “real” clubs. Why we avoid conventional nightclubs and their bookers, bouncers, security, soundmen.

Inside Oakland's Ghost Ship warehouse, before the fire.
Inside Oakland’s Ghost Ship warehouse, before the fire. (via Tumblr)

They don’t understand why the floor is so rickety, the lamps don’t have shades, the wall is painted three different colors and the table is made of scrap wood. Why we forage meals from dumpsters, and eat together from huge pots of rice and vegetables and spices. Why, on Sundays, we cook up even more as a group and set up tables in the city and serve it to those in need.

They don’t understand why we work day jobs as little as possible, and perfect our art as much as we can.

They don’t understand that we do not fit into the boxes the world tries to sell us. That their world is unacceptable, and that even for all the ragged edges, we need our own world on our own terms.

They don’t understand how beautifully tight-knit these new worlds are; how the community around missing loved ones these past two days has supported each other in incredible ways, even amidst unimaginable grief. They don’t understand how our music scenes become families.

Q.Logo.Break

I feel strange typing these words, because I no longer live in communal artist spaces like this. But they stay with you. They shape us, make us more fearless, give us confidence, validate our dreams. We never forget what those spaces gave us, especially those of us who turned those dreams into a life, and re-fit ourselves back into a once ill-fitting world.

The people lost to the Oakland fire will never get that chance.

And yes, there are conversations to be had about Oakland’s housing supply, and about the market forces that push artists into unregulated spaces. There will surely be a crackdown on the many similar warehouses in the rapidly gentrifying city, spaces with names I don’t want to publish so as not to raise their profile at a critical time. There are those discussing how to preserve them, and especially how to ensure they aren’t dangerous to residents and visitors. All of these conversations are either already happening, or will be in overdrive in the coming weeks.

But for now, it just hurts. For Oakland, and for many of my friends, to be sure. But for all of us who understand.

It Could Have Been Any One of Us 13 December,2016Gabe Meline

  • concerned

    tragic loss for the SF/Bay Area community.

  • simon magus

    Well spake

  • kate robinson

    thank you for this crucial perspective. this is the hugest loss of my life, completely gutted by the loss of my friends, yes, but also the symbolic weight of this tragedy on our spaces and communities that, definitely, as you say, save our lives.

    • Dusty Rhodes

      It didn’t save over 33 lives this weekend. That’s the reality that, from my perspective, has to be factored in.

      • kate robinson

        were you a part of this community? i’m not trying to say that safety shouldn’t have been better considered, but there are a lot of reasons why it wasn’t at the top of the list. yes, there was a lot of irresponsibility involved, but at this exact moment it is important for people to understand why those things went overlooked.

        • Dusty Rhodes

          I’ve lived and worked in Oakland for 20 years, I worked as a public servant in Alameda County to protect children. I practice a non-traditional spirituality and share the values and motivation to be creative, increase awareness and make the world a better place. I understand why people don’t prioritize safety, and none of them are good. I’ve seen too many tragedies, injuries and loss of life, when people don’t insure safety. This situation is so sad because there was a failure on many levels to assure safety. I’ve kind of calmed down since yesterday. I was reacting to the glorification of psychological and spiritual benefits over the practical emphasis of safety.

          • Susan Foley

            Wish I could have coffee with you, you are a sensible voice in the uproar.

          • Super Amanda

            I’ll buy a second round for all!

  • wilburthefriendly

    You can have artist space AND a fire exit you know

    • Carmen Park

      wilburthefriendly huh? you know there are kind, dear people who are gone now…people that are literally irreplaceable. have some grace and some sympathy.

      • wilburthefriendly

        Sympathy for who exactly? My response is for the author’s whimsical reverie for illegal housing, not against the deceased. I only have anger for the kind of people who are so self centered they can’t see the danger these spaces present- this narrative shifts the blame from where it belongs- the building owner who killed these people- and gives a pollyannaish approach to the loss of these fine people who would have been saved for the installation of a fire egress.

        • ShillUnderling

          The owner of the building rented the space to Ian. The owner is out of the conversation. How about placing some anger at the gentrification that forces people to stay in places like this because all they can afford is $500/month? Legal warehouse spaces were a dime a dozen 10-20 years ago, but now they are torn down for luxury apartments charging $3k. Where are these people supposed to go?

          • wilburthefriendly

            Again, not the argument. As the promoter and subletter of the space, Ian will be locked up good and tight, as he should be. The owner of the building will be sued into oblivion, as he should be. The issue is not whether or not people should live in warehouses, nor gentrification, but rather that every space should have fire escapes- especially if you are going to have shows in them. The idea that a living space need be dangerous to inhabit, because you know, art, is specious, precious and twee. This article is a paean to unnecessarily dangerous spaces, illegal spaces, because the author has a spot in his heart for the lean times that lent him so much, like, authenticity, man. Get bent with that. Be angry. The implication that the author knows about other dangerous spaces in Oakland and isn’t going to rat them out is also just SO VERY.

          • Lantoro7

            Shame. It’s one thing to be cunty to people during a painful time; it’s another to be both cunty and intellectually dishonest.

          • wilburthefriendly

            What a well thought out and totally predictable response. Please point out any dishonesty.

          • Kevin Smith

            Beats being burned to death because you can’t find the fire exit……

          • Gerry Thrash

            I agree. Thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families and friends….but these things don’t have to happen. They just don’t.

          • wilburthefriendly

            That’s my only point. There is no reason to deify unsafe spaces in print after this carnage.

          • themisterlister

            “print”

            that is precious

          • wilburthefriendly

            Yes, as by definition “in print” refers to any published piece

          • TalkingSenseToTrolls

            I see it’s difficult for you to empathize with this community or mindset. It’s also really not productive to mock the author and to act like you have an understanding of what it’s like to live in a warehouse. Secondly, yes it’s extremely obvious to everyone that a fire escape sign would’ve saved innocent lives. We know that. No need for snark or arrogance. Be an ally and try to understand this perspective without showing your obvious ignorance of this situation. This article just articulated what many people are going through and where they come from. Go read other articles that pick apart the lack of oversight. That’s not why this was written.

          • Kevin Smith

            This article is ignorance…

          • wilburthefriendly

            I lived in a warehouse in Boyle Heights in LA for 2 years with artists and fire escapes. Exactly what nobody needs is for people to understand that it’s okay to have a space with no fire escapes and others who continue to whistle past the graveyard. The fact is it is irresponsible to wistfully wax on how any space that is cramped and not up to code is in any way useful. That is why I am here. I am here to speak to the mindset that you need this kind of space to make “real” art.

          • wilburthefriendly

            And your assumption that I am not an artist exposes exactly the kind of hive mind garbage that this article espouses.

          • Geoffrey Fell

            I assumed you werent an artist because the way you write is very dry.

          • RealMroakland

            Really! Real artists are too busy doing twirly dances with finger cymbals to write more than a 200 word incomprehensible mission statement. He clearly can’t be an artist with that woefully coherent syntax.

          • Geoffrey Fell

            So is it incomprehensible or coherent?

          • LiberteEgaliteFraternite

            I bet you would hunt down wilbur the friendly and have him placed into a reeducation camp by the thought police for having common sense and a reality based view.

          • Susan Foley

            How will he feel if one of the places he has in mind goes up in a fire this weekend? Could happen you know.

          • Malby

            Oh please. Perhaps begin working–not “as little as possible”?

          • Geoffrey Fell

            Make art in your moms basement.

            If you need an art space to be creative, you probably arent very creative.

          • Kevin Smith

            Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo….. hundreds of cheaper places…..

          • basenjibrian

            But, but….these are not the special places that Oakland is! They have only white people. Only Trumpalos. My special snowflakeness would melt in Buffalo.

          • LaLeidi

            These people can go back to their hometowns or to a city that has affordable rents and is not overcrowded. Housing prices are too damn high because there are more people who want to live here than there are places to live. If you move here, you are part of the gentrification problem, not a victim of it!

        • RealMroakland

          Nononononono! If you point out what a waste this preventable tragedy is, you’re disrespecting the victims who crossed paths with this sociopath at the wrong time! And everyone who barely escaped with their lives! You must glorify the carnage, you insensitive cad! It looked like a boat inside! A boat made of old palettes! Totally worth it! To roast in some idiot man-child’s childish fantasy world! You are clearly not artistic in the least.

          • wilburthefriendly

            Generally if you are going to paint or be in a space where painting happens, like an artist loft- know about fire safety. Solvents, rags, spontaneous combustion- mixed with bad wiring and no egress, equals exactly this. Also, Ian can rot under the jail.

          • Dusty Rhodes

            wlburtheriendly – well said and by who agree with you. In fact, there doesn’t have to be a party! May I ask a question? From the illogical way some of these underground artist/musicians speak, they sound indoctrinated. Is there any cult like aspect to segments of this group? A charismatic but abusive leader, blaming another specific group for ones own problems and vilifying them, isolating from the larger community, having a unique language others don’t understand, seeing the leader or group as the only salvation, rigid social structure, isolation from family and friends, and having a hierarchy with an inner circle and a leader who controls daily life and, usually, intimacies. Channel 7 broadcast a reporter catching up with Ion and Allison getting on the elevator at the Marriot. Fancy. Under an alias. Asked what he wanted to tell people he said, “they’re my children, my family, my friends. What am I supposed to say?” He walked off to take the stairs. That’s cult talk. I felt infuriated and sad and disturbed to see him. I’m a therapist/social worker and I had a friend who was in a cult. I hope I’m wrong.

          • wilburthefriendly

            I have rented out a loft space above my business to artists and have found there is often a pack leader who metes out praise to the weaker minds to get their loyalty, and often uses it to his or her advantage- be it money or what have you. People here are actually defending the need for unsafe structures and spaces outside of the “system”. Well, the “system” would have saved these people. And the minute you took a cover to get in, it’s no longer an “artist space”, it’s an illegal club. It’s insane and indefensible. I’d say snap out of it, but seems that people are snapped up in it pretty deeply. Many in the Bay are trapped by their verbiage- trapped in a circular conversation of being antiestablishment, not understanding they aren’t artists at all, but rather under the thrall of a manipulator who convinces them they are for his own benefit.

          • LiberteEgaliteFraternite

            you cannot convince delusional narcissists of reality other than their own immediate gratification and need to rebel against any laws or authority. Don’t confuse them with facts.

          • RealMroakland

            You’re on to something, but that’s also typical of communication with very manipulative people, in general. Reportedly, meth is also involved, which inevitably leads to certain attitudes and behaviors.Probably people who could cohabit more easily in that situation were probably more impressionable, anybody more self assured and assertive would likely have a more difficult time getting along in the milieu.

          • Alejandro Moreno S.

            You’re a special kind of stupid.

          • basenjibrian

            Ah, one of the acolytes spews. Don’t worry. I’m sure you can find another artistic guru eager to take your money,

          • John Tan

            Just read his Facebook post after the tragedy. About how everything he had is gone, about poverty of self-worth, all that self-centered me me me crap. Pretty much like a cult leader.

          • Susan Foley

            I wondered that too, about the cult aspect. Some of the art I’ve seen from the place has that flavor too.

          • Alejandro Moreno S.

            You are such an asshole, and a stupid one at that.

          • LiberteEgaliteFraternite

            Sarcasm at its finest.

        • Alejandro Moreno S.

          No, this article isn’t about the blame at all. This article is about realizing that ”There but by the grace of God go I”. Stop interjecting your own conjecture of what this article is about.

          • basenjibrian

            Many of the commenters here, including your special self, are very much doing just that. Blaming people who are asking questions that need to be asked.

      • Kevin Smith

        All your grace and sympathy is worth exactly NOTHING. The ONLY thing that would have mattered is a FIRE EXIT ! Read the story of the 3rd to the last guy that made it out. He made it clear the only thing that mattered was a fire exit when he was choking on black smoke and could not see…..

  • Carmen Park

    thank you for this, is was my life until a month ago, this has been my life almost the entire time in CA….there are no words yet you found them. thank you.

  • Tim Burke

    Sorry that your friends were in the fire, I am a Detroit based artist. My Place was set on fire by an Arsonist i didn’t lose people i lost stuff so i know your grief is much worse if you lost your friends. hang in there. My prayers are with you.

  • Paul DeMartini

    Thank you Gabe, this is a gorgeous piece.

    • Kevin Smith

      Yeah, a real steaming pile….

    • Dusty Rhodes

      I think he expresses a philosophy and lifestyle that is not sustainable. Why? Because it’s too great a risk for over 33 people to die in a completely avoidable fire. It’s time for the underground artist community to take stock and reprioritize safety.

  • Susan Shalit

    Very well written. A sad ending. When I look at the picture, my heart goes out to all the energy and life put into that environment. Hope there are not more repercussions suppressing creativity.

    • Malby

      “More repercussions suppressing creativity”? What is WRONG with you people? 30 people died from this idiocy.

      • Kevin Smith

        Yes, so much delusion in the bay Area !

      • John Young

        Artistic live/work/performance spaces can be creative and SAFE as well as economical. This tragedy did not have to happen.

      • RealMroakland

        This is the way amateurs and crap artists think. I like to give them a wide berth at all times.

    • Dusty Rhodes

      I’m speechless…. You’re worried about being suppressed when your colleagues have needlessly lost their lives. WAKE-UP!! There is a problem in paradise. Safety. Safety. Safety. I’m sure you’ve seen the community open their hearts and their wallets. We get it. We want people to be happy AND safe.

  • dywrite

    “The bigger risks, the more unlikely ones — that such a treasured place could become an inferno in mere minutes — those don’t cross our minds.” You are talking about adults, not teenagers with no life experience. You can be an iconoclast and still be sensible and make sure that you and your friends are safe in your space. The other thing I don’t understand is who “They” is or are: “They don’t understand…” you repeat, but never identifying who “They” might be.
    This same scenario has been played out hundreds of times. (not with the horrific consequences) If you recall the SoHo district in New York, that was the same sort of enclave. Then NoHo, and on and on, as the gentrification pushed the creative community out further and further. More recently Brooklyn went through the same transformation.
    I grew up in San Francisco and it wasn’t all that long ago that areas like South of Market, and former family neighborhoods like Bernal Heights and Potrero Hill were accessible and diverse. But real estate in the entire city has soared to prices that are out of reach for most of the eclectic and colorful characters and artists, musicians, writers and families that made San Francisco special.
    Citing “They” as the cause is not solving anything. I don’t have answers, but we should all be working together to take steps to respond to the juggernaut that is homogenizing our country. (imho)

    • Kevin Smith

      You know, Lobster was so cheap, a 100 years ago they fed it to convicts. Then it got popular and expensive. NOTHING STAYS THE SAME … EVER !

    • Dusty Rhodes

      There has been an incredible outpouring of affection, support and money from the community. I envision cooperation improve the situation. But if the artists/musicians don’t want assistance from “them”, it won’t happen.

      • Alejandro Moreno S.

        Why would you even mention something like that? You somehow seem to ”know” what ”those people” are like. Your statements drip with judgement and preconceived notions.

        • Dusty Rhodes

          Because I’m hearing people from the underground artist/music community say (in this article, in comments and interviews on TV) that the white establishment is the enemy, say they are oppressed by the larger conventional community, say they want nothing to do with “establishment” due to their higher artistic calling, that they are strong and proud non-conformists who would lose their identify if they worked in tandem with authorities and agencies. I know from living and working in Oakland for 20 years serving the public that there are resources available and caring people who want to help. I don’t see the underground community relating to those resources and caring. I’m concluding on the information available the last few days, that the underground community prefer to blame and castigate the establishment rather than cooperate with it. I have a feeling, Alejandro Moreno S. that you don’t know who you are and who you are with. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be throwing hostile stereotypes at everyone and seeing hostility in everyone. I mention what I perceive as self-isolation and the futility of creating “them” in a us vs them scenario, because it is holding people down to their own detriment. This fire is an example of that. Peace.

          • Ex-Oligarch

            Dusty — to Alejandro, you seem to be the “them” in his us vs. them world. I don’t think you’re going to get past that. Of the many comments on multiple sites that I have read, yours are among the most evenhanded in the criticism they offer. Why Alejandro has decided to take such a hostile approach to you is anybody’s guess, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it has something to do with your attempts to find a middle ground between sympathy and responsibility. We live in a culture that encourages polarized, all-or-nothing posturing. Perhaps Alejandro is personally effected by this tragedy, and is not yet ready to consider the steps that will be necessary to avoid similar disasters in the future.

            As an active member of a DIY community, and as musician who has played many similar shows, I know that my friends and I will be much more aware of fire safety going forward. I do want to mention, though, that in my experience most art and performance spaces are run by responsible and caring people who abide by the fire regulations, even if their venues may not be fully permitted (especially in big, bureaucratic cities like Oakland). Ghost Ship seems to have been unusual in that respect.

    • themisterlister

      the gentrification of sf was pretty cemented by the early 70s, when are you imagining that it was a diverse and colorful population?

      • Ex-Oligarch

        I lived in the bay area in the early nineties, and what dywrite says about affordable neighborhoods was still true then. Army Street, Noe Valley and Lower and Upper Haight were still within range of a student budget. In fact, as recently as 8 years ago I knew people who had found affordable rentals in the Mission. The early seventies is way, way to early, and if you don’t believe my anecdotal testimony you can prove it to yourself with the historical housing price statistics.

        • themisterlister

          i cannot find the statistics that speak to your experience 🙁

          i am envious of your friends and whatever they found there, though

          all affordable housing i have seen in sf in the las 15-20 years has been illegal sublets in rent controlled buildings, or illegal build-outs in industrially/commercially zoned buildings

  • Malby

    You’re right. We don’t understand.

  • Kevin Smith

    You write like it was all cookies and cream and a bed of roses to boot. But this is what someone had to say about that space:

    “Owner Derick Ion is unstable and dangerous. He does not honor agreements and gets violent, demanding thousands of extra dollars for imagined grievances. If not appeased, he has been known to violently react and steal anything that has not been removed from the space. DO NOT DO BUSINESS HERE. Additionally, the place is an absolute deathtrap – one incident, and anybody unfortunate enough to be inside will be trapped in a mountain of trash and improvised construction.”

    So much for your “nirvana” lifestyle…..

    • Dusty Rhodes

      I’m preparing to hear about some very dysfunctional, if not abusive, situations have occurred in that space. I hope not.

  • Oakland_artist

    I’m sorry but this is bullshit. It’s a bloody tragedy that so many had to die unnecessarily and it’s insulting to the dead to try to shift blame from those that put them in danger to “the system” or the shadowy “they” or “them”. I was in several art/music scenes on the west coast since I was 16 and I played at a ton of alternative spaces. We played at places that didn’t have liquor licenses or cabaret licenses but I was young and dumb. We played this one place with sketchy electrical and I was shocked repeatedly, maybe it was that event that changed my mind at 19 but we never played anywhere that had questionable electrical circuits, this include legit clubs that pushed outlets as well. We checked out the places we were going to play or our friends played. Some were dangerous and sketchy and we never returned, some were spaces where they we trying to do something for the community of artist or musicians but had the common sense to have fire extinguishers, cleared exits and at least one that was clearly marked. The ones that treated their space as a legit space were safe. The ones that treated their space as their own little scene or a drug dive or flophouse ended up being just that. This idyllic view of these places is naive and honestly complete crap. Gentrification and the housing crisis didn’t stop them from doing the right thing. Being poor isn’t a shield to hide behind that exonerates you from responsibility for your guests. I did art and music since moving to LA at 17 and I had to pay bills like rent and gear, how I did it was working. We worked temp jobs, shit jobs but we had to keep the roof over us and our practice space. Yeah, I had lean times where we illegally lived in our practice space for 2 months, but we knew we were pushing our luck. Anyone can call themselves an artist and a great many in the bay area confuse being a shifty bum and being an artist. I’m sorry to burst your punk ethic but it’s bullshit. You actually have to produce art to be an artist, you have to actually do something not just hang out and do drugs. So many here in the Bay Area think attending a camp at Burning Man equates artistry, you made a fuzzy fur coat, that doesn’t make you a fashion designer. Yes, there are artists that do awesome work at Burning Man and throughout the year here, but they work their asses off. They are also intelligent, empathetic people that put others first and their studios are safe. I understand why you want to work a day job as little as possible because I did but I had to. I understand not fitting into the neat box of the square world but I had to in order to keep a home, keep food in belly and strings on my guitar. It’s expensive here, I have had to leave twice because of employment/housing issues but I had more sense then put myself into dangerous situations just because I wanted to dodge responsibilities. You may find this blunt, but it’s the truth I witnessed in LA, Portland, Seattle and here. There’s always someone trying to nudge a dodgy situation so they don’t have to do the right thing and they do it in the name of the all holy scene. This poor artist con is a fantasy.

    • Dusty Rhodes

      Thank you for expressing so well the perspective that I share, and with the common background of the artist/music scene. I think the Ghost Ship venue was one of a minority of dangerous venues waiting for tragedy. I read some people wouldn’t perform there. I hope the underground art/music community is able to hear your wise words. I wish you luck and happiness. Peace. Om.

    • Alejandro Moreno S.

      Do you enjoy feeling better than those other people who didn’t have as much ”sense” as you do? You yourself said you were once ”young and dumb”, but then you seem to conveniently forget that and belittle an entire community basically because they were ”young and dumb” too, just like you once were. Clearly what your real problem is, are the people who don’t live up to YOUR standards of what an ”artist” is – ”anyone can call themselves an artist and a great many in the bay area confuse being a shifty bum and being an artist.” Why do you need to say this? Because this seems to imply that you know for a fact that at least some of the people who lived there must have been shifty bums and therefore weren’t ”real artists”, they weren’t ”smart” and ”mature” enough to be like you. Because why else would you need to make that statement…unless you actually have something against young artists who at one time were just like you when you were ”young and dumb”. ”I understand why you…”, ”I had to in order to…”, ”I had more sense than…”, ”it’s the truth I WITNESSED…”. My myself and I. I, I, I. See, this IS all about you. And because you couldn’t figure out how to not give in and stay alive, you’re mad at others who had the same fantasy that had actually managed to pull it off for a while. So what you really are, is mad at yourself, and envious of them because you couldn’t pull it off long enough to live the freedom that they did. But now you get to proclaim how sensible, realistic and grounded in reality you are because your still being alive is somehow proof of that (in your mind). Nothing could be more erroneous and self-serving. Maybe the real poseur then, is actually you.

      • Dusty Rhodes

        That’s a lot of unfounded conclusions and projections. I’m speaking because I had a similar to reaction to the article. The author, well, Oakland Artist described it well. Is it true that the underground art/music scene is mainly teens and twenty year olds? I don’t get it. My main thing is to be safe. Do no harm.

      • Malcolm Keks

        wow. you’re an idiot. can you go back in time and die in the fire?

        • N. Chaplin

          Uncalled for.

        • kels

          Disgusting.

      • Benjamin Acevedo

        Seems to me that more people agree with the OP than disagree. I agree with the OP, there is a huge sense of entitlement from the “artist” community. You make a lot of assumptions about the OP. I love you that you call the OP a poseur, it’s like watching SLC punk in real life.

      • John Tan

        “All about you”…?

        Well, the leader of the Ghost Ship posted about how “everything I worked so hard for is gone”, “as if I had awoken from a dream filled with opulence and hope” and how he’s feeling “standing now in poverty of self worth”. All while over 50 people were burned to death in his place.
        Eerily similar to James Arthur Ray, that fake spiritual guru who said it was a test for him after 4 followers died in a sweat lodge…

        • first of all, 36, not 50, souls were lost in this fire

          secondly, when he posted that, he didn’t know a single person had died . i’m not defending him, but these people who died were artists, teachers, daughters, sons, parents … and likely wouldn’t have been there if they’d realized the danger . we need support for co-op communities, artists or not … because co-op communities are willing to cohabitate, thereby using fewer resources than half the number of people living in individual homes

          • K.R. Morrison

            Yes…..

      • kels

        Thank you, the heartless victim-shaming here is galling. I’ve been in spaces like this–though never lived in one–and I know that for much of my queer family, they have provided another kind of “safety”. There is a conversation to be had in the art/fringe/queer/diy communities about how we can make spaces like this safer and more accessible for differently-abled folks. Victim-shaming and politicizing is not productive. Lots of folks are housing insecure or homeless. Take a minute to remember how blessed you are to live and work in a safe environment.

        • K.R. Morrison

          You are awesome. Comments about this great article are breaking my heart. I have a dad that helped me. If I didn’t, I would have lived in a spot like this.

    • Boo

      Amen

    • Citizen

      Well said.

    • Super Amanda

      Well said. THANK YOU. This is a participation award article (we all are to blame trophy) that essentially cleanses the blame from where it should be.

    • Chris Lux

      So basically, your saying the only difference is you didn’t die. Your whole “I played sketchy places and then I realized they were sketchy so I stopped”. How many of those sketchy places did u call and report? People died and people who ran that death trap are at fault. No one is denying that, but watch your tone. Allot of people are really smart sitting behind a computer. People are upset and don’t need your little story about how smart you are.

      • Dot Beech

        “…watch your tone.”

        Mary!!!

      • theghostwriter

        My thoughts exactly. Dude played “sketchy” places and lived illegally in his storage space. Maybe spare us the moralizing. These are complicated issues, and the people behind their keyboards with all the answers could maybe just take a breather on this one instead of using it as an opportunity to tell the world how much better they would have done it.

        • nicholasstix

          “These are complicated issues…”

          No, they’re not.

          “the people behind their keyboards with all the answers could maybe just take a breather on this one instead of using it as an opportunity to tell the world how much better they would have done it.”

          Truth hurts, don’t it? This problem was solved, very simply, 105 years ago.

          Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Look it up.

          Nicholas Stix, Uncensored

          • theghostwriter

            thanks for proving my point

          • nicholasstix

            Non-response.

            Nicholas Stix, Uncensored

          • theghostwriter

            what kind of tool signs every post with a screen name and a slogan? You may as well just sign it “douchebag”

          • nicholasstix

            A man who isn’t an anonymous coward, and who has a brand.

            Nicholas Stix, Uncensored

          • theghostwriter

            LOLOLOLOL

          • Deb Pierce Roman

            You could do the same

          • nicholasstix

            The only point you seem to be making is that you support mass slaughter, because it somehow pleases your vanity.

            Nicholas Stix, Uncensored

          • theghostwriter

            “my vanity,” says the guy who signs his own posts with a pithy descriptor. You are everything wrong with the Internet

          • nicholasstix

            In your evil world, where you support mass slaughter, someone who is trying to save lives is “everything wrong with the Internet.”

            Nicholas Stix, Uncensored

    • Super Amanda

      You deserve a Pulitzer for this. Well done!

    • NSSM

      It seems to me that reading this post, your comment really reflects your own experience and in many ways totally overlooks the societal challenges that face not just the great creatives that overcome such times of hardship, but generally expected as part of the journey. its a great article that doesn’t really address the gentrification/regulations for affordable housing, but focuses rather on the chosen families, community spaces, and the beauty of such collectives.

    • Coffae

      Well said. All of us were children once, and some of us wonder why we didn’t die doing the things we did that were dangerous; all the way from sticking our fingers in a light socket. Let’s remember these people not just in prayer, but also give their lives (more) meaning in that we all need to look out for ourselves, keep our eyes open, and not put ourselves in risky situations even in the name of art. Everyone who was lost has someone mourning them, and so it is with you. Be safe so you can create another day.

    • lohphat

      THIS.

      Fire codes exist for a reason. They’re a result of past tragedies where common sense could have avoided loss of life.

      I was at an “art event” at a posh hotel in LA this year. 30+ people crammed into a space designed for 15. One exit.

      One of the acts was a “dancer” using standard sterno-fuelled props.

      Just after she lit her finger torches she spilled the bottle on the carpet. Her costume and wig went up in flames but she was able to pull them off in time. Sadly a guest was burned with 2nd degree burns on her arm, and another performer was injured.

      There was almost a panic stampede out of the space — you’ve heard them before in the news where people are killed in the mad dash for the door. It was THAT close.

      When we went to the bartender — remember this was an established hotel bar — and asked for an extinguisher, none of the bar staff could locate one. NOT. ONE.

      My friend who was the other artist injured now swears NEVER to do a show where there’s fire w/o a fire-safety monitor and *proper* extinguisher IN HAND.

      Folks, rules exist for a reason — you’re not “edgy” ignoring the rules. You’re lazy and willfully ignorant of the potential outcomes.

      Stop blaming “the man” and “gentrification” for not being smart.

      • K.R. Morrison

        No one is blaming “the man.” Jesus. Read the article again! I hear a writer just bringing up where the marginalized go, at a cost. The thread on here devastates me as much as the fire. Take out our American reality, put in its place fair rent, fair living. Still, crowds of artists would have been there. Why are responders like you missing the point?

  • wellcraftedtoo1st

    Sorry, doesn’t convince and won’t convince the grieving loved ones of those who died horrible deaths.

    You want your shared, cheap space? Fine, set it up.

    But only fools skimp on exits and proper wiring and alarms. And invite hundreds of people into such a space.

    You can have artist space AND basic safety.

    So many dropped the ball on this tragedy, including–big time–the City of Oakland. This did not have to happen, and can’t be rationalized away with whiney references to rising rents.

    • jealousblues

      agreed, if you have a venue you have a responsibility to the people you bring inside of it.

      • themisterlister

        people who use words like “responsibility” don’t get invited to the fun parties

        • Meredith

          Fun parties where you can end up roasted alive.

          • kels

            NOT FUNNY.

        • Wade Born

          Agreed!!! Please tho…. people know the risks…but a few veteran “warehousers” with SOME knowledge of Safety precautions….goes a long way.Forethought & explanations of exit locations before “parties” is a good idea.

      • PathWithHeart

        “whiney”references to rising rents??? Fuk you and the chicken you rode in on.

    • Dusty Rhodes

      I agree and said so in my comment. I can’t agree that underground parties take priority over safety. That cheap rent and not working a supportive job take priority over safety. There’s plenty of blame to go around, prison time and fines for owner, organizer and promoter, and million dollar settlements from Oakland. And that pales in comparison to the loss of innocent life. We can do better than this. Having worked for Alameda County for a couple of decades, I can imagine a scenario where they followed the law, timelines and protocol and will not be liable. But the million dollar payouts are more likely. This tragedy is a nightmare. Oakland is my City, I care about the people who live here. I’m bereft that so many died needlessly. Condolences to all affected.

      • imagin u been on the wild goose chase of these types of places.. does ur city have any athority to barge in a building to inspect them at random?

        maybe a task force at councle needs to be created to develope a stratagy to work with the arts community to get bassic safty standards inplace via loan programs ect? am i crazy?

        • Dusty Rhodes

          I think going forward there will be more communication and caring. I’m sure policies will change and more forceful enforcement of codes and responses to complaints will occur. All I know about local enforcement is that tenants have rights and there is a procedure that must be followed before civil rights of privacy and evictions can occur. If, as I’ve read, the renter hid things, lied about things, wouldn’t cooperate and wouldn’t allow people in, it just delays things. I also know there’s a pretty high level of wrongdoing that has to be met before action is taken. Its a slow and laborious process for people who want to see things done right.

    • obadiahorthodox

      “…whiney references to rising rents.” Really? Complaining about a greedy system that puts profits above people is being “whiny” ? Give me a break. There are literally millions of poor in this nation who can’t afford rent because of greed. FUCK OFF.

      • Kevin Smith

        Your delusional. It’s not greed, it’s supply and demand. Someone will live in every apartment, it’s just a matter of how much they will pay. You think you get special discounted rights to living space others do not? YOUR THE GREEDY PIG who thinks you should get special access ! What something others want too ? Your gonna have to pay for it fool !

        • Seriously who comes to a page like this when people are grieving and says this kind of stuff? Please find a cliff to jump off of.

          • Kevin Smith

            Which is worse, being, burned to death or jumping of a cliff? You slimy worm..

          • Seriously any asshole sitting here reaming people that burned to death is too miserable a wretch to live. Off yourself and save us from your inhumanity.

          • basenjibrian

            Why is Kevin Smith the real asshole here? I would say the clowinish and cheap ass fool who ran this building is far more of an asshole and far more inhumane (he profited off the firetrap for years) than people calling him out on the situation. Despite his mediagenic crocodile tears.

      • PathWithHeart

        Thank you. Insane greedy rents are actually a thing.

        • Kevin Smith

          Do your part to fight high rents. Move away … less demand is the only thing that will lower rents

          • basenjibrian

            And he can donate his housing unit to a worthy poor person as well! Show your lack of greed, Path! You First!

        • Dusty Rhodes

          It sounds like you think high rents are something new. Most people have had to deal with them. I lived in a garage in graduate school. I lived with 6 other people in Honolulu. I worked jobs I didn’t like. It just comes across that, well, it’s the entitlement thing. I can’t relate.

          • Citizen

            Thank you. The original poster can talk down about day jobs, but they sound like an apologist for very entitled people who ignored basic safety. I have no problem with anyone living an “alternative lifestyle”. But no one is owed the right to live in a warehouse that is not residential nor host group events in a fire trap. I wish we didn’t have to have strict enforcement of living and fire codes. But do you know why we do? Because some very entitled people lack common sense. My condolences to the victims and their families.

          • jabwg

            People losing sight of the real liability issue here — members of the public were invited into this firetrap as a concert venue. That wasn’t about “high rents” or about “needing studio space.” It was about trying to profit off people who didn’t even live there, people who trusted the venue owner/venue runner for basic safety. I have zero sympathy for anyone who thinks that’s acceptable.

          • Ian Ulibarri

            Your are only half right, but happy to have a line in the sand. People also lived and worked there. This kind of comment proves the main point of the article, which is that people don’t understand the situation. It’s not black and white and accessibility to affordable real estate, and permits, is what creates the demand for such a building in the first place. The “promoter/manager guy and Ghost Ship might be the worst example, and clearly the worst case outcome. But criminalizing tenants and attendees at was a private party, and an ensuing witch hunt, is not going to make Oakland better or safer. Compromise and help with bringing similar spaces into compliance might.

          • Ian Ulibarri

            So how would graduate school have gone had you been forced out of that garage you were living in, or not had it as an option?

          • kels

            Working people suffer from housing insecurity and homelessness too.

      • wellcraftedtoo1st

        Oh, the rents aren’t “whiney”, of course. The rents are horrendous, and indefensible as well as this fire.

        But the author of this piece writing on and on about a tragedy of this magnitude and somehow trying to “explain” it with multiple references to rising rents and such makes me see red.

        Rising rents are happening all over the country, and many parts of the world. Rising expenses cannot be used as any kind of rationale or justification for the sheer negligence that took place here–on the part of the owner of the property (who sounds like a first-class ass and who knew his “building” had many problems), and the City of Oakland (which was on notice that code violations existed and many were using the space), and, even, the tenants and former tenants (some of whom left b/c of the safety issues!).

        It’s not always easy to get a city inspection office to act on violations, but it can be done (I know, I’ve done it), and should have been done here.

        This isn’t the time and place to argue about Bay Area cost of living (what’s left to say??).

        This is the time and place to figure out why the fuck this happened, and to make sure it never happens again.

      • basenjibrian

        I suggest donating your house or apartment to a poor brother or sister for free.

  • suckatash

    Yeah. It could have happened to any one of us. Pfffft. Fire codes. What evs.

  • I’m truly sad about what happened, and I wish there were more caution and forethought towards the safety of creating spaces like this, but it seems it went unchecked. Creativity has a tendency to pile and spread and in this case kept people physically trapped. Having thrown many warehouse art parties in my day, I realize the upside in finding an affordable space to create and thrive, and wanting to share it with others, but I hope as the art community heals we can also look for ways to protect it from this ever happening again. My prayers go out to everyone.

  • Warehouse dweller

    Thank you. Somehow you managed to touch on the subject I’ve studdered attempting to articulate.

  • RealMroakland

    Funny that this could happen to anyone, when there are now dozens of reports of people warning Ion of how dangerous the space was over the years, and plenty of testimony from people who moved out in a short time for the same reason. Absolutely no care was taken in this construction,and now dozens of people have paid with their lives. Art spaces do not need to be dangerous hellholes, that’s a pretentious fiction thrown around by boojie hacks who don’t want to admit how old and privileged they are. “Creativity” doesn’t prevent anyone from keeping exits clear, and marked, and any artist with a modicum of legitimate training will be very safety conscious in their work space – poseurs and hacks are another story. Why was there no other way down from the second floor? Is a fireman’s pole not ‘pirate-y’ enough for this decorating genius? It is criminal, and dumb, and extremely limp to justify it all just because this situation flourished for years. Typical KQED snowflakes in action.

    Also, the noise complaints from the neighbors were unlikely to be issuing from dirty, dirty yuppies. In Fruitvale. Funny how you can do whatever you want, as much as you want, as long as it’s in a ‘hood mostly occupied by POC.

    • Dusty Rhodes

      Just to clarify, but the vast majority of Bay Area liberals are not self-entitled, undisciplined and illogical. We work very hard to support ourselves and our families. Please don’t lump us all together. Thanks!

      • RealMroakland

        No, I’ve just seen a lot of really inane discussion on here before. It’s bad. Not generalizing to the entire population.

      • LiberteEgaliteFraternite

        oh but they are…narcissistic and delusional as well.

        • Dusty Rhodes

          Well just your basic every day garden variety type! Not personality disorder. I’m not big on stereotypes being applied to everyone of a group. Especially groups of tens of millions of people. It’s a disservice to me and to them. I’ve known too many people too intimately, and I know that’s not true. Most people are basically good and caring and want to be happy. There does appear some real projecting going on. I work to keep it reigned in. Oh well. Par for the course.

    • Alejandro Moreno S.

      Do you feel better now ”Real” Mr. Oakland? Do you enjoy being right, especially after dozens have died needlessely? Do you feel like you’re too painfully smart and so therefore you’re entitled to sneer, condescend and step on people? Do you feel big and strong hiding behind your keyboard and screen? If ”typical KQED snowflakes” are so beneath you, then why do you waste your time here? Because obviously we are a waste of your time since we don’t deserve to be blessed with your words born of a wisdom clearly not of this realm.

      • RealMroakland

        Oh wow, that really got to you. Huh.

        • basenjibrian

          LOL. The whine is deep in this Alejandro.

          • RealMroakland

            He’s so mean and angry, it must be a mood disorder or something. But he thinks it’s really “activism”.

  • Mark Stebbins
  • Benjamin Acevedo

    It’s horrific and tragic this happened but if I had people over at my house, I’m responsible for them. If they fell into my fire pit in the back or down the stairs or if there was ice and they slipped on my sidewalk, it’s my ass. Having a venue is a responsibility. Those people came assuming it was safe. It was the residents there to make sure that happened. Trying to paint this as “artist’ vs gentrification is a smokescreen. People’s family and friends died because Ion and Allison and everyone that lived there couldn’t think about basic safety issues. That’s the hard facts here, anything else is sticking your head in the sand. This happened in what was my front lawn. I lived across the street from this for two years and like Don Quixote tried to get the City of Oakland to take notice of what was happening there. Many of the direct neighbors tried. Unsafe is unsafe.

    • Dusty Rhodes

      Please forgive me if I’m totally off base. I’ve read some things and heard some things that remind me of quasi-religious or cult groups. Please, tell me I’m wrong. But I wouldn’t be surprised. As far as the City of Oakland. What was their reasoning? Could they not prove their suspicions? Did Satya Yuga at Ghost Ship become proficient in hiding the truth? Be well and safe.

      • RealMroakland

        The city of oakland is pretty incompetent and corrupt. Very slow to act on even more blatant situations. They will have excuses, like being short staffed. PD is a good example of the ethic at hand.

        • Michael

          They (Oakland Fire Dept) had been trying repeatedly to get access to talk about the reported hazards.., the manager would act like no one was there, and ignore phone calls. Its not the Fire Departments fault here…

          • if this fire hadnt happend i would imagin this place woulda been shut down within the next 6 months anyways cause once fire inspectors get involved it goes down hill fast the stair case from what ive read woulda had it condemed on the spot…

          • John Tan

            And then there’d be a “sit-in”, the anarchists, activists, and other -ists will get involved out of solidarity. People will complain about the ‘fascistic’ authorities ‘trying to crack down on spaces for creatives’.

          • RealMroakland

            My experience was that oakland would try to get serious about an issue, after literally years of nagging, an would start to take some action, which would for whatever reason just peter out in less than 6 months. This was a pattern across different departments, and issues ranging from dumping to open air drug markets. Nothing was followed through to a degree that the problems were lessened for more than a few weeks, in almost all cases. I haven’t heard about the fire department being bad, but the city will undermine things in any way it can. Probably understaffed, like the PD.

        • Dusty Rhodes

          The people living there would hide their clothes and things when there was inspection so it wouldn’t look like someone was living there. Someone who left for concerns of fire safety was interviewed on TV that she was told to tell inspectors and neighbors that people were there working through the night. I wonder, if every one was kicked out of a reported 200 warehouses, there would be complaints of heavy handedness. Full disclosure, I worked for Alameda County for a couple of decades. If someone won’t cooperate, if someone lies and deceives, it makes it very difficult if not impossible for code enforcers to do their jobs. There are procedures and timelines to follow and every effort is made to be sure. It’s a long process because tenants have rights.

          • Sar Wash

            Is there a way to blacklist, imprison, or automatically evict any tenant that has this type of violation or complaint?

        • Super Amanda

          Why should the city be babysitting an evil criminal hippie like Derick?

        • MzUnGu

          A corrupt city is the product of its corrupted residents.

          • Culper Agent 355

            MzUnGu, that is unfair. Many people in local government jobs got them years ago, through cronyism. And they are not held to contemporary performance standards through fear of reprisal. So yes, there is corruption and some workers do not do their jobs thoroughly. But people, citizens, also work the system. They refuse to answer the door, they lock the place so no one can enter, they lie, etc. What are the officials to do? They sealed the fate of these people and should be held accountable.

          • MzUnGu

            Corrupted citizens torrorated/allow the corrupt officials to exist. Merely the corruption of previous year adds to the corruption of the present.

          • basenjibrian

            Omoited

          • basenjibrian

            It’s not “corruption” at the City. It’s endless procedures established because of court rulings, proceduralism, activism, etc. John Tan nails it.

      • simple u get a letter from city saying were comeing X date to inspect plz open up for us… u can push them off for a while and depending how under staffed inspectors are u can either clean up stuff and hide the living there or ignore them at the door and they prolly wont do squat for a while eventualy u will have to let them in. but by then theres no proof and they just find a clutterd building and put an order to clean it up. then just repeats it self every so often. i imagin its all complaint driven as theres prolly not enough staff to enforce the by laws just like in any other city…

        • Cam Lufkin

          It can take years to condemn a place, especially if the owners can hide that someone is living there. Extreme hoarders get away with it all the time, and that is basically what the managers were. They even hoarded people, when you look at it that way. And when there is a chain of property managers and owners, it is easy for paperwork to fall through the cracks. Apparently the police were aware people were living there but police also have a chain of paperwork to file. And even when paperwork IS filed, there are always leeways in deadlines, a number of warnings given, and complaints that were filed by neighbors were mostly about trash on the outside.

          None of this is done quickly.

          Until something like this happens.

      • Susan Foley

        Bottom line, Oakland wasn’t trying very hard. An inspector is confronted with a closed door? Well, I guess he’ll just go back to his office and move on to the next thing. Gaining entrance is hard, doing the job right or at all is hard, walking away is easy. There are a ton of neglected issues in Oakland, and this one didn’t look very important.

        • basenjibrian

          If you have 35 other cases, why yes you will. What is he supposed to do, call in the SWAT team and bust down the door? Can you imagine what the reaction of the righteous rage-gasmers who dominate Oakland would do in such a case?

  • Halley Bass

    So well said! Thank you for this tribute <3

  • Schroederville

    GABE MELINE!!! This is your old friend Sheryl (Shelf Life) Schroeder!!! I saw your name and did a little dance! Get in touch! Would love to hear from you… great article on this horrible tragedy.

  • jealousblues

    I dont get this “the world is against us” stuff I keep reading.
    I think most people understand and think a lot of it is cool but are saddened by what happened.

    I think a lot of people get the allure of such places, even if their perspective is different than yours.

    I think a lot more people care than you realize.

    • Dusty Rhodes

      I think they want to be outsiders. It’s really them against us.

      • Alejandro Moreno S.

        Your source of intelligence is distorted and toxic.

        • Dusty Rhodes

          Ad hominem attacks, as well articulated as yours is, are not particularly helpful. I should have said, “I think they want to be outsiders (serious observation). It’s really them against us (flippant comment trying to be humorous using the language of the article), But there’s a grain of truth to it.” I wonder what would happen if I, a mature, professional white straight person, were to attend an underground concert? Would I be welcome? I like music. I like people of all types. I like fun and camaraderie. I like what would be to me a cross subcultural experience. Would I be welcome?

          • themisterlister

            if you wanted to go to an underground concert you would have gone by now. there is nothing stopping you but your own self.

          • Dusty Rhodes

            I don’t do a lot of things I’d like to do. I only marginally knew about this, and thought I would be unwelcome or out of place. It’s my own current shyness and innate lack of confidence that stems from health and money issues. But I’ll check it out and if/when health and money permit, I’ll go. I love music. I love people. I’m sure there are venues that are safe. I’ve done many sub culture, alternative and non-conformist types of things when I was healthy and had money.

          • Juliette c

            As a mature, professional, white straight person who has been to these types of events. Yep, you would be welcome.

          • Jorg Donde

            I second Juliette’s comment.

  • catherine L

    It’s
    a heartfelt piece, and once again, it’s hard to understand how so many
    people can be so cruel and pugilistic in response.

    I was at a lecture
    today where the people knew everyone in the Oakland building. They were
    giving a talk about squatting and making spaces. And a main thought, not
    their only, was that the people who don’t understand living outside the
    norms will shut down every illegal or non-code living space.

    It’s
    not to say that it’s OK to live in spaces without exits or sprinklers
    just because they were artists. But we need to say it’s OK to make
    spaces that don’t conform. And there’s risk –social, political, safety
    codes, intellectual, physical– when we make spaces beyond the
    conventional norms. We take risks to do what we think is important. The
    system has never been built for it. And sometimes, really terrible
    events like this happen. But I hope everyone continues to make
    supra-culture and sub-culture spaces and lives, but learns how to do the
    easy stuff about safety.

    Keep sharing the love. Keep saying “stop with the hollowness” when people share hate and derision.

    • Dusty Rhodes

      It’s amusing that you think you’re the first to not conform. 60s communes. 70s ashrams here and abroad. Paris art scene in the 20s.
      The Bohemians of the 50s. The spiritual movement in the late 1800s? There have always been artists, mystics and non-conformists, and those who appreciate and support them. I don’t think your art is worth being burnt alive. People who live in houses, have jobs and raise families, are not therefore hollow. Most are full of life and love and creativity and even bliss. We care about and help each other, we have amazing spiritual experiences, and we serve our communities in amazing ways. I know because I’ve worked professionally with them for over 20 years.

  • Christina Rae

    I don’t really understand a lot of the replies here and to be fair I do not know the space and have never been to Oakland. I did, however, spend my post-college life in Brooklyn, going to lots of parties in warehouses. I had artist friends who lived in warehouses – building everything they needed, including bathrooms and separate rooms. Thousands of people have had experiences like this. This is not a random one off, so yes, it really could have happened to any of us > any of us ever involved in any kind of scene like this. I realize there are many, many, MANY people who can’t even imagine such a scene, but to many others it is life itself. And when people die, someone has to be demonized and vilified and made to pay. It won’t stop it from continuing and no amount of trying to explain why it exists will help those who judge and refuse to understand comprehend what it is about. In NYC there are thousands if not millions of illegal rentals and landlords violating any number of laws to make or save $$$. There may not be as many poor artists living in warehouse spaces in Brooklyn anymore, but there are poor artists living in warehouse spaces across the country – living communally, making art, having parties, gathering together, and living their lives. I am fortunate that all of the stupid and dangerous things my friends and I did in our post-collegiate lives in Brooklyn did not get us killed. This group of people were not as fortunate and it is truly awful and I cannot imagine the sheer horror being experienced by their loved ones. Nothing that happens will make that horror any better, will not bring them back, and will also probably not prevent people from doing this again.

    • Dusty Rhodes

      I can’t believe every one of those illegal warehouses were fire hazards. The problem isn’t so much illegal as unsafe. That has to be addressed. If the people living under the radar can’t or won’t keep places safe, the authorities have to take action to protect people from their own negligence and self-destructive behavior. It’s sad that it takes a tragedy like this, which was avoidable, to effect change. I’ve lived suboptimal places, lived alternative lifestyles, and worked jobs I didn’t like. I did it because I had a purpose I wanted to reach. I was fortunate that way. I’ve worked in the Oakland Community for decades serving the public. I know we can do better than this. Safety has to be the top priority. Unless we want to risk another catastrophe. Which I don’t. The entire community, and I think the nation, is pouring out their support for those lost and injured. Perhaps that can be harnessed for agreeable change.

      • Ruthless M

        They had open flame in the warehouse, that alone staggers my brain. Candles are death in those places

    • Sar Wash

      In this case it is the renter and squatters who should face murder charges. The owner did not know about their criminal behavior.

  • Dusty Rhodes

    I am sorry for your loss. Since you brought it up, there’s a lot of difference between a $550/mo space and a $3,000/mo place. This tragedy is a wake up call. The underground warehouse live/work party scene will be re-evaluated. Safety has to come first. This is a tragic loss of many people. There will be prison time, fines and millions paid out to victims and families. I personally am deeply sad and yes, angry. People can live in illegal settings, but they can be safe. Or safer. Take care of yourself.

  • Lish Lash

    This was a private warehouse, not a venue or even an art space. I saw it a year ago, and the place was packed with flammable junk crammed into a confusing maze of live/work areas, separated by narrow corridors with no clearly marked exit routes. It looked more like an indoor homeless camp than anything resembling a public venue. This was not a typical warehouse club, nor was it a well maintained collective artists’ studio, it was a rat’s nest storage space that hosted sporatic private parties.

    • Susan Foley

      Thank you for this perspective! Of course now in retrospect after this horrible tragedy it’s become the Holiest of Artist Collectives. I’ve seen some of the photos of the interior before the fire, and I can’t imagine how a serious artist could work in that chaos.

    • Thank you for this perspective!

      Almost done!

  • Music scenes and comedy scenes have a lot in common. This easily could have happened in the comedy world. More importantly, the common theme here is a subculture that seeks to draw it’s own boundaries and live with innovation while struggling to stay financially afloat in our ever rising, over priced- society. All young artists can find common ground with the Oakland community affected by this tragedy.

  • addison

    My dos centavos. Lived this lifestyle decades ago so yo comprendo. It’s “alternative”, affordable and has all the beautiful vibes of a creative community, etc. Wonderful. But then there’s common sense. My sister-in-law survived a house fire as a child which killed two of her sisters, and put her mother and another sister & brother in hospital & PT for months. My sister had life long huge burn scars. We discussed at length how similar tragedies could be prevented. Sister taught me a great deal. One of which is that fire spreads extremely fast. [See Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island]. Responsible folk must make serious preparation “just in case” of fire. Just as one must prepare for earthquakes in California even if one never happens. I was one of those artistic types back in the day who lived in illegal spaces and went to warehouse parties and danced to bands in funky run down lofts. I was always considered a bit of a Nazi as I collected money not for beer but … get this … fire extinguishers…which were kept in every room “just in case”. With large parties again me the “Nazi” always verified that there were at the minimum several easy access exits — whether windows or doors that opened out not in. I had a guy change the hinges on a couple of doors at a party where I was involved w/planning. “Just in case” people need to get out of here. People thought I was crazy. That’s OK. Artistic types are not frequently known for practicality. This Ghost Ship tragedy breaks my heart. Surely they could not afford to install sprinklers in the building…but I do wonder if there were even simple fire extinguishers? Not that expensive…May the Higher Powers allow these young souls to rest in peace. May the families & loved ones heal & find closure. Heartbreaking. So sad.

    • John Tan

      From survivor accounts, they had fire extinguishers but it wasn’t enough to fight the blaze. The place was filled with wood & art chemicals like paints, shellac, oils, etc. It’s one thing to use it as a living & work space for 10-20 people, but to use it for parties with over 100 people around makes it even more dangerous.

    • Cam Lufkin

      According to survivors, there were some fire extinguishers. mostly belonging to people who lived there. At least one person said he couldn’t figure out how to use the one he managed to fine. The others said that there just wasnt time. The fire burned too quickly and was too large too fast. One person said she had her fire extinguisher in hand, but it would have been like trying to put out the giant flames with a squirt gun.

      Bless you for all you have done in your own environment. Once you or your loved ones have been through something like that, you never stop living it.

  • jabwg

    Well, I’m one of those boring, “less-committed” artists who holds down a day job and pays for the firefighters who fight the fires that are started by electricity stolen by the special communal snowflakes. So, I probably have “no right” to comment here.

    I also live in a depressed Rust Belt city that would LOVE to have artist colonies like the ones in Oakland. There’s no gentrification here and the rents are highly affordable. There are good museums and close proximity to major art centers. In fact all the cities here have been trying to attract artists for years, with only sporadic success. Why? Because, well, our cities just aren’t COOL enough for you. There’s also snow. So, stay in Oakland where the rents are high and the “scene” is awesome. Smarter people would migrate — as people of all professions have had to migrate throughout history.

    Don’t want to migrate? Then organize. And organize something other than parties in your treasured hole-in-the-wall spaces. The very first bit of organizing your community should have done was worry less about what artists were playing at what party, and worry about predatory people like Derrick Almany, and run those people out of your community on a rail. Instead of complaining about market forces, and expecting things to be handed to you because you’re special, you should have put the brakes on this warehouse being used as a living space and a concert space. It was DANGEROUS. You people chose not to see that. Now you’re devastated. Families are devastated. But you should have done something. You should not have legitimized the dangerous things that Almany was doing… which everyone knew was happening.

    If you won’t migrate, and you won’t organize your own community (except for parties), then don’t expect ANYONE outside of your community to take you seriously.

    • themisterlister

      i am very curious about these major art centers out there!

      i had been laboring under the misconception that the only vibrant marketplaces for art in america were new york and los angeles

      • CB

        Everywhere there are people there are those who appreciate art. It’s part of who we are.

        Thriving art communities – albeit smaller and with a higher crafts-to-fine-art ratio – exist in affordable cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Charleston, and Austin. Some of these cities (Detroit and Austin stand out) have collective communities as well. There are incredible museums in these cities, art markets, and art festivals. It’s not just SF/LA and NYC.

        • themisterlister

          i guess my definition of a vibrant marketplace for art is very tied up in the question: “do people go there to spend obscene amounts of money on fine art?”

          thank you for your reply

          • RealMroakland

            That would be Chicago, for one. Bigger legal living spaces, much cheaper than CA, too.

          • themisterlister

            thank you

            as luck would have it i am headed out there next year; what are some good galleries? is there a gallery district?

          • RealMroakland

            It may be a little different since the last time I was there, but there are 2 gallery districts: you’ll want to go to the West Loop, around Greektown, and River West. River West is the old farty-er of them. Also used to be a lot of apartment shows around Division/Milwaukee area, and Pilsen along S.Halsted was coming up (Podmajersky was pushing an artists’ neighborhood to develop around their properties, but if they’ve sold out, it’s probably all condos now). Zhao bros have an art center in Bridgeport that’s pretty eclectic, and the Co-prosperity Sphere is in the same neighborhood – they used to have some good events. A lot of established galleries folded in 2008/2009, but there’s probably a bunch of new things that have come up more recently that I don’t know about. The Renaissance Society at U of C only has one show at a time, but has excellent speakers to go along with that, usually worth checking out, if it’s convenient. The grad show at SAIC is worth seeing if you’re going to be there in springtime. The Art Institute itself is first class, so don’t miss that. If you’re going to be near the Magnificant Mile, do visit the Arts Club of Chicago, and MCA.

        • John Tan

          Don’t forget Omaha!

        • L.D.

          Savannah! And no snow! 😉

      • Oh no, not at all. Literally every state has at least one well-known haven for artists.

      • Wade Born

        they do it everywhere EVEN here in Toledo

        • themisterlister

          glad to hear it!

          what galleries are dope there?

          (a quick googling suggested the galleries there were mostly showcases for student work or non-profit organizations)

    • LaLeidi

      I am born and raised in Oakland, and I seriously doubt many, if any, of the people involved with this venue are from the area. Confirming my suspicion, there was a document going around of contact information for missing people and their loved ones, and only a couple had local area codes. No doubt, these wannabe artists move to a working-class Oakland neighborhood because it sounds cool to them. It takes some kind of nerve to move to a place and then complain about the demographic changes taking place there!

      • kellyhwilliams

        go away, you know nothing about anything.

        • RealMroakland

          Kels is your sock puppet, kelly?

      • Ian Ulibarri

        My two friends who died working there that night are both Bay Area natives.

      • kels

        Have some heart for the survivors and those who lost loved ones. Nobody deserves to die in a warehouse blaze.

        • LaLeidi

          I didn’t mean to imply to people deserved to die. I’m just pointing out that it’s preposterous to blame gentrification for these deaths. People chose to move to Oakland, they built this death trap, and they invited the public in. Those people are responsible for their actions. A lot of those people are alive and well.

    • kellyhwilliams

      disgusting comments in light of this tragedy. you’re a disgusting person and wonder why no one wants to migrate to a shithole town to form a “community” with someone like you? it’s a real headscratcher.

      • jabwg

        “Disgusting” because I’m suggesting that artists actually band together and look out for their actual safety and interests instead of leaving it up to predators like Derick Ion? Whatever.

        However, as long as we’re talking “shitholes,” ask everyone who is cleaning up the tragic mess in Oakland today if the Ghost Ship is a “shithole” or not. The artist warehouses in my “shithole town” have smoke alarms… and artists who are ALIVE.

        • kellyhwilliams

          yeah let’s have all the trans and queer artists up and move to your fucking hick backwoods town so they can be murdered on the street instead. cool genius move.

          • Ruthless M

            When you generalize people you fear into one lump you are no better than they are

          • kellyhwilliams

            wrong. also i don’t fear this fucker. i hate him.

          • basenjibrian

            My, oh my. Left wing tolerance ahoy. What a precious, kind, tolerant, broad minded individual.
            You’re as bad as the tool on another thread who suggested that ALL “racists” must be “extirpated”. We can’t allow thought crime.

          • kellyhwilliams

            i’m tolerant of a lot of things, but i don’t need to be tolerant of shitheels. this includes yourself.

          • N. Chaplin

            When will anyone get it through their head that the longer we go on thinking we’re ‘better’ than anyone, for any reason, we’re just perpetuating a standard of inequality and a culture of hatred? That aside, @disqus_Adt4RkFIbC:disqus raises a valid concern. Living in predominately straight and white conservative cities, queer and trans people, particular queer and trans people of color, are often subject to continual threat of violence. The Bay area is THE most liberal place in the United States. There’s a reason so many marginalized people migrate to it. Having my queer gender non conforming life threatened in public spaces by conservative working class white men in the place where I grew up was a big factor in why I migrated to San Francisco thirteen years ago. If you’ve never been to the Bay area, you can’t imagine how different it is from the Rust Belt, or even the relatively liberal social climate of the Northeast. It’s like a different country. I’m sorry I ever left and I’m moving back there because I can no longer take the intolerance I see around me every day. Even microaggressions such as dirty looks and offhand comments from strangers add up and wear on a person. Most of this country is a hostile environment for those of us who don’t fit in boxes.

          • kels

            When you ignore marginalized people’s need for community and safety you are no better either.

          • basenjibrian

            So the solution is for each individual “marginalized group” to separate itself into little hateful enclaves, muttering darkly about “hating” everyone else. or killing the thought criminals, as I heard repeatedly?
            Jeez. What a disaster Group Victim Leftist thinking has become. Kelly here is as fascist as the Trumpalos.

          • kels

            Who’s Kelly? Lol! Thanks for the laugh, your comment is hilarious! Brb, gotta run to my fascist enclave to plot the next attack on the thought criminals. We are having a Leftist Victim Potluck later and you aren’t invited, sorry 🙁

    • AnonymousPhdStudent

      Rhetoric fail. The sad thing is that you could have gotten your point across without being so passive aggressive, condescending, and dismissive of people who you don’t even know. You’re doing a great job recruiting for your Rust Belt artist scene.

      • jabwg

        I’m not part of a “scene.” Not every artist requires communal living for their creativity.

        • Lisa Gillooly

          The reason for high rents is the areas are being gentrified. The reason these areas are being “gentrified” in the first place is because of the pioneering spirit and fearless creativity possessed by artists. Artists bring a vitality to an area, an area begins to thrive, and then the establishment jacks the prices and kicks them out.

          • Susan Foley

            It’s not gentrifying because of art. It’s gentrifying because of an abundances of tech jobs.

          • Lisa Gillooly

            oh really. Is that what happened to all of the lofts in Soho? How about Brooklyn? Artists bring vitality to communities. It is true. It’s a simple point.

        • N. Chaplin

          The Bay area arts scene is non judgmental, loving and multicultural in ways you probably can’t even imagine. I’d honestly rather risk my life squatting in Oakland or SF to be around people who support one another’s choices and creativity than move to the middle of the country and freeze my ass off with a bunch of judgmental white people. I’ve been to the Rust Belt. There’s a reason the rent is cheaper.

          • Dusty Rhodes

            I’ve lived a non-conformist life in spiritual and academic communities. I understand and share in the motivation for creativity and belonging. At the same time, pursuing your vision does not need to exclude safety. Please stay safe. Good luck on your future success!

          • wilburthefriendly

            If you think the rust belt is white people, you are smoking all the crack

          • basenjibrian

            Well, there you go then. You can’t complain about gentrification and high rents and all that. You help create the problem.

          • N. Chaplin

            Gentrification is a different issue. There’s a big difference between moving to a place because you love it and moving to a place thinking you’re going to change it. The tech bubble is largely responsible for gentrification in SF. Poor people don’t cause gentrification. We’re just constantly displaced by it so people with money can level neighborhoods that have existed for over a century to put up shoddily built high rises and overrated restaurants and laundromats with liquor licenses, etc. That’s gentrification. Not economically +/or socially disadvantaged artists trying to survive.

    • Ian Ulibarri

      Again here, good points. But it isn’t a binary situation. To qualify, I grew up here, lived in a warehouse in my 20’s, do electronic music, and now pay rent in an expensive SF apartment. In my 40’s. Two friends died in that fire.

      We HAVE had a mass exodus of creatives over the last 4 years out of the Bay Area to other cities. Near all the ones who stayed, are in Oakland, and almost completely draind out of SF. Several legit venues were evicted. Oakland rent has skyrocketed too. Sounds like you understand the value of urban culture and the benefits.
      The current system of governance and economic condition here does not support it. And I may be aging, and somewhat out of the loop at this point, but not everyone knows this Derek guy, or what an ass he is. In fact, I’ve been to hundreds of warehouse parties, in the Bay Area, and never to this place. But if anything will coalesce a community to run the bad ones “out on a rail”. I suppose it will be a tragedy like this one. There are complex issues.

      • Susan Foley

        Art colonies, legitimate ones, are in always cheap, unfashionable, isolated places, because, as people have observed here, most artists don’t have much money. Laguna Beach used to be an art colony, long ago; so was Carmel. Now they are “colonies” mostly for expensive art galleries. Real art is made somewhere else.

        Oakland used to work when it was cheap. It is not cheap any more. So now the artists have to relocate. It’s that simple. Maybe the Rust Belt; maybe someplace in California but more isolated. Check out Redding. It’s economically flat on its tail, lots of big empty buildings even “downtown,” easy to access from SF on Highway 5, nice weather, beautiful surroundings. There will be lots of candidates. But here? Not any more, sadly.

  • Alejandro Moreno S.

    This is exactly what I’ve been thinking. If I were 20 or 30 years younger, it’s highly likely I would’ve been a part of that community. This could’ve happened to me. This is directly due in part to the housing crisis in the bay area, in part due to the disenfranchised not being welcome elsewhere and needing a haven and a refuge of their own. We can also blame the landlord, and we can blame the city, we can even blame the residents themselves on not insisting on safety precautions. The bottom line is we all share the blame, our society is to blame. As the greater community at large, we need to own this and not just play the blame game. Then learn from this so that we can change things going forward for such communities. These kids mattered. And there are more just like them, just like you, just like me.

    • Dan Bennett

      Society has fire codes, building codes and enforcement officers. These codes and rules exist because society learned these lessons long ago. Society isn’t to blame for someone’s criminal behaviour. Those criminals (and perhaps the apologists to a small degree) deserve all the blame.

    • Sar Wash

      Wrong. Blame the residents who murdered these people. This has nothing to do with the improving housing market or the landlord (who did not know about the dangerous and illegal behavior of the residents).

  • Jérémie Aramcheck

    Those spaces are where I have been existing all my adult life, I am not living in one anymore either, but involved in a studio/gig space in a warehouse here in the UK. Our space is part of a larger commercial warehouse and has got sprinklers, etc. and is being yearly inspected by the fire brigade, but “my” spaces have not always be thus… I have lost the count of how many times I have found myself having the time of my life surrounded by friends and peers, in a cramped squatted basement with only one exit… and yes, now that I am in my 40s, and after the tragedies of Paris attacks and the stampede at a show of my friend’s band in Chile, I have been much more aware of the safety side of things, and I am sure following this horrible fire, a lot of people who run such spaces will be looking at the safety aspect, and rightly so, but still, in those very normative times, those fragile spaces where we can exist as the weirdos with little commercial value that we want to be, so spaces are to be beloved, and fought for…
    Far from me to exonerate people from their responsibility in this case, or any other, building owners especially, but there is a need to acknowledge that living is taking risks, a risk we take every time we embark in a hour long road trip for a gig, or, yes, cram ourselves in spaces not primarily designed to hold parties or shows… but as my 21 year old son explores his cultural life, and start spending more times in those amazing spaces, this tragedy is certainly not going to stop me encouraging him, but I certainly will encourage him to use common sense and keep his wits on…

    • Crystal Anderson

      ( Oh hey another Expat! ) Beautiful response and I agree with presenting a world view. I never was part of a collective as I preferred the Emily Dickinson approach to creativity. But solitude did teach me that I was responsible for me. If you are part of a collective, you are responsible for each other – but that includes doing things to safe guard each others’ lives.

  • Geoffrey Fell

    Please dont try to romanticize the modern artist. Its futile and myopic.

  • Cweston

    Pure drivel. The “I’m different – just like all my friends” nonsense is spent. These people died because the landlord and his tenants broke all the building safety codes that “the system” put in place to protect them. They did it to save money. Period. They hosted raves and all-night parties to make money. Period. The dealers were there to make money, too. It’s called stupidity. It’s called greed. It’s called arrogance.

    These laws were not part of some right-wing conspiracy; they were developed by knowledgeable people to avoid this type of tragedy.

    Grow up.

    • LiberteEgaliteFraternite
    • kels

      From the article: “And yet for many of us, these spaces are what have kept us alive. In a
      world that demands its inhabitants to be a certain way, think a certain
      way, or live a certain way, we gravitate to the spaces that say:
      Welcome.
      Be yourself.” Queer/trans/marginalized youth face exponentially higher suicide, arrest, and assault rates. Have a community and home base saves lives. People gravitate towards spaces like this seeking another kind of safety. Not excusing the chief tenant or landlord for their flagrant disregard for safety. But these spaces save lives.

  • themisterlister

    “the spat-upon white trash”

    nobody spits on us here, this is our country

  • LiberteEgaliteFraternite

    http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/12/04/oakland-warehouse-fire-who-is-the-man-behind-the-ghost-ship/
    narcissistic new age greedy addict slum lord who ignored please by residents to make safer and provide heat and water. Let’s call it what it really is.

  • Michael

    I realize things cost money, but smoke detectors are cheap, even free, as are Fire extinguishers, and it’s not like the hazards hadn’t been brought up to the manger of the place…and a pallet staircase? Flammable stairs leading up to barred windows, the only way back down? Doesn’t take a Fire Inspector to figure out that’s not a safe deal…the manager and owners should have let the Fire Inspectors in when they tried to get in…maybe some people would be alive today….RIP

  • Mr. Peabody

    To the author of the article: So the underground music scene made you into who you are today? In other words, a self-aggrandizing, pretentious, aggressive bully who snubs people and looks down or won’t even acknowledge people who aren’t in his social group while all the while talking about how his youth made him a better, more compassionate person? Hmm…

  • Cheryl

    Deepest sympathies to family and friends of those who died or were left hurting by this tragedy.

  • Frenchpetal

    I wish you boys could include the girls and women who are marginilazed, too. Seems we are the only ones that so called liberal, artsy guys still ignore as equals. “For the tormented queer, the bullied punk, the beaten trans, the spat-upon white trash, the disenfranchised immigrants and young people of color,”

    • Dusty Rhodes

      Is that going on there, too! Do they call you femnazis? All the best to you and yours.

  • Nicole Roome

    I can’t even begin to explain just how much this resonates with me.

    I couldn’t quite understand why I felt so deeply pained by this event, but I know that it ties into the way it felt, as an outsider, to discover a world where I finally felt like I belonged.

    These spaces represented something so incredibly PURE, loving, and innocent. In a world that seemed so cruel, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and peace, and the thought that that feeling could so unexpectedly, and so violently have been ripped away from me breaks my heart.

    The music, and the scene was my therapy, and like you, even though my life has grown beyond that now (to an extent anyway), it stayed with me.

    It breaks my heart that they will never have a chance to follow the random paths of life beyond that point, but some people can live a long life, without ever knowing the passion, love, and euphoria that these people shared.

    • Kevin Smith

      Yeah, we know you are “special” and others lives cannot come close to your excessive magnificence…

      • themisterlister

        why are you being an asshole?

    • Dusty Rhodes

      Yeah. I never felt bliss my year at a beautiful ashram in India or 6 years in Hawaii. I’ve never felt deeply connected at my school, work or spiritual center or in my family. I must have missed out on the euphoria of nature. Don’t even get me started about the passion and love I missed. It’s too steamy. I’m happy for you. Do what you want. Follow your bliss. But be safe. Take care of each other so you live. The price is too great otherwise.

      • Ruthless M

        Safety is just soooooooooooooooooooooo plebeian

  • Clark

    Creativity does not justify breaking building codes. The codes exist because this has happened before many times with equal results. None of the residents of the ghost ship are reported dead… it was the 40+ Mostly strangers visiting for some EDM party who didn’t know how to get out.

    While I understand your empathy .. people live in “to code” boxes and get venue permits so they don’t die, not because they don’t enjoy a creative need.

    There are plenty of legal lofts and industrial live work spaces in Oakland that are permitted.. and plenty of bars / clubs with permits that would host an event at low cost.

    History once again has repeated. Those that do not head history and obey the codes or permitting process have killed a lot of innocent people.

    At each step the law was ignored just a little bit… the city didn’t do inspections, the Lanlord blamed the building manager but was happy to get a check, and the building manager scoffed at the firemen and was not qualified to manage a parking lot… and the tenets were complicit in that these were “workshops that they worked through the night frequently” is at best Malarky. Photos of the Ghost ship imply very high density living conditions.

    It’s sad.. for the tenents.. Oakland lost some creative space and they lost their housing but it doesn’t justify for worst housing / fire disaster in Oaklands history that killed 40 people and counting.

    • Dusty Rhodes

      I fervently hope that if people find themselves in unsafe situations, when others have failed in their responsibilities, they will leave. It’s a hard truth that others don’t always do what they were supposed to do. Forget about permits and code compliance. Look around. Are there enough exits? Are exits accessible? Are their clear walkways? What about clutter and excessive flammables? Are the stairs safe? Do you get a little voice or gut feeling that alerts you to something is not just right? In that we’re built to survive, we have senses and feeling that alert us to danger. Not blaming here. Just encouraging personal responsibility going forward. I’m expressing concern. And also talking to myself. This is a wake up call and a time for soul searching.

  • Crystal Anderson

    It could, I suppose, have happened in another collective where the landlord was negligent. That said, we do not know if the fire was caused by a fault in the building that Ion should have prevented or if the building was decorated in such a way as to speed up the fire – like tinder, causing the flames to spread too quickly for people to get out. Fire inspectors no doubt will be able to not only determine the cause, but exactly where the fire started. Not only does the creative community grieve, but not knowing the specific catalyst that took 33 from the world too soon.

    But I do take issue with some of the points you made. I say this just so we understand that I am not victim shaming.

    Living in a collective does not absolve one from using common sense and acting like an adult. When the landlord is neglectful or there is no landlord, the residents must take it upon themselves to ensure their safety and not just decorate to make the inside look inspiring. Smoke detectors are not expensive. When some of you are taking on the odd job or two to make ends meet, pool your money together to buy a few and place them in strategic places like hallways and kitchens.

    If you honestly cannot afford them, see if a fire department will donate some. Firefighters do not want people to die. They want people to be smart and responsible. In situations like this, it isn’t just about the creative community. The firefighters go to fires and risk their lives and health to save other people. It is not unusual for a firefighter / EMS responder to develop PTSD because of what they must go through and see as a part of their job. Right now, firefighters are picking out the corpses of the people being mourned for. That is going to affect them. Firefighters don’t get a “safe space.”

    So people wanting others to take care of their own environment isn’t a lot to ask.

    So smoke alarms — pretty cheap and the save lives. Also – fire extinguishers are not terribly expensive. You should have at least one. Again, if you belong to a collective, pool money together to buy one. And even cheaper option is to make your own: http://www.wikihow.com/Create-Your-Own-Fire-Extinguisher-With-Household-Items

    Have a fire exit planned, have a map drawn of how to get out if there is a fire.

    You talk of the space that is being created, designed – your world on your own terms. But creating this world doesn’t mean the laws of nature don’t apply to you. And “the rest of the world” is tending to the Ghost Ship and the dead right now. The problem isn’t gentrification – that is your attempt to politicize the situation. The issue is not taking real responsibility for your space, your environment, your life. Even if the outside world understood this type of creative collective, it would still be the collective’s responsibility to safe guard their existence within this safe space. Safe spaces aren’t only to protect one’s mental health, but also their body.

    • kgelner

      We already know there were no sprinklers, we already know the second floor has a single exit that would collapse under heavy load. We already know the whole place was chock full of wood and other flammable materials. The only thing we don’t know is if there were even any fire extinguishers anywhere but it seems unlikely. As for victim shaming, absolutely some of the victims should be shamed because the were the very people who helped build that space and convince other people to attend a party there. Not every victim is innocent.

      • RealMroakland

        There were fire extinguishers there, but they didn’t actually work according to the FD, so more there as decoration.

  • I keep seeing the phrase in that essay “They don’t understand …”.

    That is (ironically and hilariously) a complete failure of understanding on the part of the writer, as he wraps himself up in his own little self-justifying epistemological bubble.

    “They” do understand. They completely understand.

    But “they” also understand why each of the things in each of the paragraphs that start with “They don’t understand” are unwise, are bad ideas, and have entirely predictable risks of catastrophe,

    They also “understand” that the bohemian types will then blame “them” for it when catastrophe happens , demand that “they” pay for the cleanup of those catastrophe, and will piously assert that those catastrophes wouldn’t happen if only “they” would support (read “pay their money to and for”) the artists who “understand”.

  • Ruthless M

    What well crafted said. None of the reasons of which the author speaks are compelling enough to not have the property wired properly, or sprinklers. The excuse that people are just simply too creative to be stifled by safety regulations is horse poop

  • Mike N

    Yeah, I understand. Growup!

  • Sue

    This really makes the case for more community benefit districts. I already posted this on FB and I’ll say it here. You can complain all you want about the socio-economic implications of CBD’s and BIDs. But I promise you, an organized board of property owners, business owners, and involved residents meeting regularly and creating tactics to pressure slumlords (yes, these owners WERE slumlords) to step it up and complying to basic zoning, safety, and building code policies already on the books WORKS. Furthermore they can be the muscle to strong-arm the city when bureaucrats slow down the investigation process and individual complaints aren’t cutting it. I’ve seen CBD’s in action in Oakland and often times its the only way to get the City Councils attention (a CBD board phone call with a notice of a press release about the city being negligent in their basic service duties brings city hall scrambling on their knees). Would you have inequality with more CBDs/Bids? Probably. But at least 30+ people wouldn’t be dead. The City of Oakland failed these people, and you. I’m heartbroken because this was such a PREVENTABLE tragedy and I think everyone should demand the City put out a bulleted point plan on their strategy to fix where this breakdown occurred.

    • Ruthless M

      The owners weren’t slumlords, they did not lease a residential property. The guy who took rent from people to live in that situation sure is

    • Dusty Rhodes

      There’s some complex psycho-cultural processes at work. Non-conformists who either distrust or blame the establishment and find identity and meaning in eschewing conventional methods of organization and responsibility. I believe what this landlord/renter, Derrick Ion Alemeny, did was not only illegal but predatory and abusive. He was engaged in criminal activity, apparently on many levels. He may have been on a power trip to evade authorities. It appears he took advantage of inexperienced, young and marginalized people. I hope going forward there will be more communication and caring between the underground art/music community and the City. I wonder what would have happened had the City closed this place and, eventually after lots of court work etc., evicted the occupants. I suspect the same people who are blaming the City now would have vilified it and protested. The City still holds much culpability for what happened. Your idea is a good one in healthy community situations.

  • MB

    Could have been. We all take risks when we are young. What’s so sad and frustrating about this situation is that these artists and young people were put in danger that they were probably not aware of by someone who appears to have been immoral and self-serving, and who perpetuated a dangerous situation for his family, his neighbors, and the people who paid money to perform/experience music at his place. Many other Oakland art warehouses show us that you can be experimental and inclusive and still take into account the basic safety/survival of your community. Certainly a discussion must take place about what happens when artists and young people are marginalized by a winner-takes-all economy, certainly the fact that so many are so willing to pack into an obviously hazardous performance space speaks to the fact that queer and marginalized people often feel they have no truly “safe” space to exist in.
    BUT within the underground arts community a discussion must also take place about how/why some folks fetishize the notion of rebellion to the point of endangering those around them. And too often, Burning Man style “rebellion” is actually just about some egomaniac or other making a buck off an already pretty narcissistic counterculture trend. Hopefully now this tragedy will be at the forefront of every other Oakland warehouse empresario’s mind. Map an escape route. Get some f*ing fire extinguishers.

    • Dusty Rhodes

      Well stated.

  • Mr. T

    I do not mean to disrespect the dozens killed in this tragedy, some of whom I knew in passing. And I also spent time in homegrown spaces like this in my youth, and they were great and creative. However, being poor and marginalized does not mean that you can’t have some basic safety measures. Not having a rickety electric heater surrounded by bedding. Not having flammable materials near electrical outlets. Having fire extinguishers and smoke alarms. Not making a staircase out of fng pallets of wood. It probably isn’t helpful, but i have been so enraged by the reports I’ve read of this space and how irresponsible the creator was. So fine, it won’t be to code, but be smart. He isn’t a dumb 19 year old. He’s a grown man who should have known better.

    It makes me wonder how sketchy some of the places I went to parties to were. Not going to a party because the space might not be fire safe never once entered my head as an option.

    • Meredith

      Exactly, dude has a wife and three kids, and he was making good money from rent and events. He could afford to put his family up in a hotel on the night of the fire, we know that. He could have shelled out for some smoke alarms and other fire safety… if he actually cared.

      • kgelner

        What would smoke alarms have done in this case? They would have simply provided a layer of annoying beeps over the screaming, the fire spread way too fast for an alarm to do any good. BASIC fire safety would be real exits and any kind of water delivery system or at the very least a number of fire extinguishers placed every ten feet or so…

    • Ruthless M

      Right? Or ban open flame. Why the fudge would you have candles or fire in such a place? The creator sounds like a class A D bag

      • N. Chaplin

        According to people who lived at GhostShip, smoking and candles were forbidden.

        • KLB999

          There are videos of a previous party there with a band and dancers with torches with foot-high flames but candles were forbidden?

          • N. Chaplin

            From what I’ve read and seen in interviews, that’s the story. Clearly, nothing about what they were doing was sensible.

          • Dusty Rhodes

            People are ultimately responsible for their own safety, and I encourage people who find themselves in unsafe places to remove yourself from the risk. This is hope is separate from blaming those who died in this fire. There are many who failed in their responsibility to ensure safety. But, I have read people say they will continue to go to unsafe underground art and music events because it’s part of the culture. I hope they won’t.

          • Wade Born

            I’ve been to events where there were “Fire Breathers” (I guess trendy)…..lots of danger there

          • Steev

            I remember getting yelled at 15 years ago for being the old man who didn’t think shooting off fireworks inside was cool.

        • Susan Foley

          Candles were “forbidden”? Smoking was “forbidden”? Oh right, this crowd was all about following rules, right?

          • N. Chaplin

            I was just relaying information I read and saw in early interviews. Kindly chill the fuck out.

  • We know what we’re getting into. If anyone thinks we’ve never thought “Oh shit, if this caught fire, we’d all be dead…” they’re wrong. We do, and 9/10 some kind of plan/exit strategy is in place, which is why this doesn’t happen more. For the dozens of spaces like this, one was highly unsafe, sure, but if a ‘safe’ club caught fire, there’d be just as many dead.

    It’s a risk you take, and while we grieve for those people who lost their lives, we also know that most people make it out alive, and these spaces have and always will be a really big part of artists’ lives.

    • Ruthless M

      Honestly this sounds like horse shit. There are 40 dead people who showed up to an advertised party, who did not know the risks because they didn’t live there. 40 people who might have escaped had the interior of the building not been arranged in some kind of macabre maze that did not clearly outline the exit. Or even have a staircase to the upper floor.

      • Honestly, if you CLIMB UP A PILE OF PALLETS to go to a show in an abandoned warehouse, you know what you’re getting into. If people don’t have the personal awareness and responsibility to go to shows in places like that, they shouldn’t. It’s a risk people take.

        • Ruthless M

          Your straw man argument makes little sense. On the one hand you seem to think that because the people who lived there were “artists” in some magical kind of commune that they should be exempt from following code, at least that’s the impression you give-because they “know the risks” On the other hand the people who showed up to a party-the fire started as people were still arriving for the show, before midnight-should have known the risks so it’s OK that Derick and his wife set them up to die? And the warehouse wasn’t abandoned, so still not quite sure what your point is.

          • If you still don’t get it, chances are you never will, sorry~

          • Ruthless M

            Because I’m not artistic enough? Do you think artists are the only people struggling in the free world? Nothing you can say justifies 40 dead people. Nothing.

    • Susan Foley

      If ever you arrive at a party and think, “oh shit if this caught fire, we’d all be dead” LEAVE RIGHT THEN. IMMEDIATELY. Not only will you survive the night, but if enough paying party goers (remember, this was an event For Profit, though you’d never know it from eading all the soulful comments) the promoters will wise up and start having events in safer places.

  • dawdler

    Ignore the haters. This is not a referendum on the value of these types of communities or spaces. (Or it should not be). The author’s defensiveness is understandable but pointless. Gentrification is a red herring. Affordable and creative spaces can be safer without abandoning the values of the communities in question (unless the values are specifically a complete disregard for basic safety).

    People who frequent those spaces (and their loved ones) should just take this as a wake up call that some very basic and minimal attention to safety could save lives.

    • Ruthless M

      Right? I support your right to a funky, fun and safe space for you to party, create, dance-but I don’t support your right to do it in a way that endangers the lives of others

  • tommydagun

    Kipling’s Gods of the Copybook Headings would understand. They would tell you, no matter what you or anyone else decides to accept or understand, that when heat, fuel, and oxygen come together in sufficient concentration, the fire is summoned to claim what is hers, and she is not to be denied. Ignore her and her rules at your own peril.

  • Ryan Mannix

    You nailed it, Gabe. Thank you for your words. Love and strength to all affected by this tragedy.

  • Malcolm Keks

    piss off, you fucking squatter asshole.
    All your fantasies about coexisting went up in flames.
    And your brave hero let his fucking friend DIE because he can’t operate an extinguisher.
    Woot!
    What a brave lot of heroes you are….sorry, were.

    • Ruthless M

      That poor guy was trying to pull his friend with a broken ankle out of the fire, and got badly burned in the process. His friend was too heavy and he was being overcome with smoke. You sound like a terrible person

  • petulant1

    “You don’t understand”, ?
    Having leased a property to a so called “artist” and not knowing that he sublet and allowed cubicles to be built .The landlords are often unaware that people are capitalizing at the owners expense . Thus risking life and limb at the owners expense. Tragic for everyone.
    I threw their asses out as soon as I was aware of a dangerous illegal situation. That incidentally cost me plenty just to remove their crap.

    • John Tan

      They probably called you a “square fascist sheep” or something like that after they got kicked out.

    • Super Amanda

      I believe it. There are actual free legal resources for people like Derek Alamanda and his wife. Had there actually been eviction notice served they probably could’ve had a lot of help in the media too and a few dumb celebrities showing up to defend them. It’s just horrible.

  • EdCrunk

    Praise The Lord. He is good.

  • Sar Wash

    Our prayers go out to the victims of this tragedy.

  • Sar Wash

    I think we are at the point where we need to strictly enforce laws against people who attempt to live or work in a location without a legal lease, appropriate permits, and full background and credit check. Squatters and illegal renters should not be tolerated in any form. Anyone who sub-leases without a formal approval by a landlord should be automatically evicted, criminally fined or imprisoned, and placed on some sort of blacklist from future renting. We need to make it clear that is NOT acceptable to work in, reside in, or hold events of any kind in this type or venue or space. This is a horrible tragedy and we weep for the victims, their friends and families, and the survivors. I pray this never has to happen again. We need to eliminate this type of venue, location, and operation entirely.

    • Justin Hampton

      WHOOOOOOAAAA, there, Sar. So where do you suggest all of these people, in DIY spaces ALL over this state, go after you’ve booted them out of their living arrangements “for their safety”? The streets? Many of these people, as professional artists, do not have the steady incomes that most landlords would require as a condition for renting, and as a wise man once said, the rents in far too many of our cities are too damn high. Moreover, as some of these comments below me have made abundantly clear, code enforcers can do little if renters in the space choose to conceal their residency.

      Whatever one wants to say about Ghostship, I and the OP can assure you that people have been living/creating/enjoying themselves this way for DECADES before you decided to go on your scapegoating hunt. And they will long after you have stopped paying attention. Many of them have been jolted awake by this tragedy, and will be under the gun to provide for their tenants/guests in ways they should have a long time ago, which is as it should be. But it is utterly reprehensible for you to suggest this sort of witch hunt against where people literally eat and breathe.

      • Ruthless M

        No one is saying you shouldn’t be allowed to live and work in a collective, creative space. It just needs to have fire suppression systems, clearly marked exits and not be jam packed to the rafters with wood and other toxic materials that smoked out those poor people so badly they couldn’t find one of two poorly marked doors. A ramshackle shit show of junk that went up in flames and burned to the death the people there to celebrate it. I hope that this Derick Ion douche and his wife are held accountable, the deaths of these people are on their hands

        • Super Amanda

          Yes! THANK YOU!

      • Ex-Oligarch

        I have to wonder how many of the homeowners angrily posting about the outrageously hazardous conditions at Ghost Ship have cleaned out their garages lately, have checked their smoke alarms, have purged their houses of flammable clutter, have cleared the zones around their heaters, and have fire extinguishers readily accessible.

        If your house is an older building, would you be able and willing to update the stairways, doorways, and windows to current code, perhaps incurring the costs of adding new exits and fire escapes? When was the last time you had your chimneys and heater ducts inspected and cleaned? How about your dryer vents?

        It’s not as if they only places vulnerable to fire are artists’ communities.

        • jabwg

          If I was going to be inviting 100 people in for a party, yeah, I would make sure my event space was up to code.

          • Susan Foley

            When I have a party with 100 people (and charge admission!) I’ll look into cleaning out the garage.

    • John Tan

      You can spare the work + reside part. What caused the large number of deaths in this incident is that it was being used for an indoor event with over 100 people present.

      • Ex-Oligarch

        Do you think homeowners should be able to hold large gatherings without special permits, and without conforming to the fire regulations for commercial or multi-family residential properties?

  • trixie1223

    RI still reels from the nightclub fire which killed 100. The long term damage will never go away. It will get very messy, as lawsuits proceed and criminal trials are held. Also, the city will most likely make all businesses and residential buildings install sprinklers at a pretty penny (not to diminish the victims, as they are the most important part of this story)… So sorry for all involved, and the lost souls.

  • Mimi

    I was left homeless in 2003 from a fire that happened in the Vulcan Foundry Studios. Oddly enough the person responsible for my fire was connected to the person behind ghost ship. She walked away and left me alone to deal with the mess afterwards only wondering if we had seen her keys. I was traumatized for many years and lost two of my animals in the fire. This Oakland fire hits close to me. Thank you for this well written article. These are my friends and community of artists. I am saddened by these events and it is also hard for me not to personalize all of it. My condolences and heart go out to the families of the victims of this fire.

  • Mimi

    I was in a fire at the Vulcan Foundry Studios in 2003 that left me homeless, and I almost lost my life. Oddly the person who caused the fire was connected with the person behind Ghost Ship. She came back the next day looking for her keys and I never saw her again. Part of my trauma was having to deal with the aftermath all alone. A few people came by to help. I lost two of my animals in the fire. I was heartbroken and traumatized. It took years to for me to be ok. I still have anxiety and depression. I guess I was lucky to be alive. My heart felt condolences go out to the families of this tragedy. I hope we can find safer ways to be artists going forward.

    • Ruthless M

      I’m so sorry for your loss 🙁

    • Dusty Rhodes

      I am so sorry to hear of your loss, your traumatic experience and the aftermath. I relate and understand because I experienced a traumatic event and had/have much the same repercussions. I tried to get help, but unfortunately conventional mental health available to me was insufficient. My spirituality has sustained me as much as I have been sustained. I wish you all the best.

  • flow ir in

    You’ve identified the reason this event touched me, even though I’ve never been to Oakland, or even directly met anyone who was there.
    These places are beautiful, a lifeline in a deathly world. When those pictures went up of the space, and people railed agasint it, my first thought was “that’s so lovely”. warm tones, comfort, a haven waiting to be filled with people and music.
    My 20s were a mix of work and play, and we chose to play in underground venues, eschewing the regulated money centric hell that everyone else seemed to adore, in their drunkenness. Many were nowhere near as nice as the Oakland ghost ship.
    But the people that died? those are the type of people that I hung out with. They are us. The party? The kind of party that we’d go to, that’s our culture.
    So this tragedy, despite the distance, is a personal one. I hope that collectively we can learn from it and make sure it doesn’t repeat. Fire is a scary beast, and one that we used to be very wary of, making sure we used flame retardant materials when making our magical caves to escape the dark night of our society’s soul.

  • Cam Lufkin

    This is beautifully written.

    When you have no other choice, you live where you can. Finding other kindred spirits is a blessing and can make the difference between living and an lifeless existance.

    It is the owners’ and managers’ responsibility to mantain the safety concerns. The people gathering for a concert could hardly know if there were sprinklers or lighted exits or fire extinguishers until it was too late (although those makeshift stairs would have been a bit scary to this aging writer, I have to admit).

    There will always be property managers who will take advantage of those who have no other choice than living on the streets. Having a roof over your head and shelter and the company of like talents can seem fortunate compared to those who have it even worse. At that point, the threats of possible dangers or probable dangers seem small compared to today’s difficulties.

    There are comments here wanting to blacklist or evict tenents. But the tenents aren’t the ones who refused to place smoke detectors, or refused to place lighted exit signs, or take money from rent and not use it for repairs or not even build a proper staircase. Who didn’t arrange for bands and other performances without proper permits. Who didn’t even supply proper heat and electricity (the manager of the property stole electricity from his neighbors). The tenents didn’t do this. All they did was find a place to shelter (barely) in a place they could afford (barely) where other people gathered with them to be a family of talents. They don’t deserve blame. They don’t deserve disdain. And they certainly did not deserve death.

    • Ruthless M

      Definitely not the tenants fault. This wouldn’t have happened if the lease holders of the warehouse had behaved responsibly

    • Super Amanda

      Cam, by any chance was your grandfather or father once principal of Beach school in Piedmont?

      • Cam Lufkin

        No, our time in Cali was in the Salinas valley and only for aabout 14 years. My grandparents never lived in Cali at all. We were mostly a Northeast family, but my father’s side were kind of gypsy travelers back in the 1900s-1930s, selling ponies along the east coast. My father was born in Canada in 1920, in a dirt-floor cabin. So I literally come from a long line of horse traders! My father bought one of the first VW Beetles and had the heart of an artist and a great singing voice. He could do just about anything. I get a lot of my creativity from him. We are definitely not the Lufkins from the oil pumps or the trucks or the tool companies or Texas. But I broke away from my family and spent a long time myself couch surfing or crashing in corners of friends’ basements… my heart and understanding and love to GhostShippers.

    • jabwg

      I hope you understand that the whole source of the debate is the HORRIFIC way these people died. No one is saying that anyone deserved that.

  • Sad to see the angle of this tragedy is how “unsafe” the situation was. If we’re looking at statistics, artist colonies and squats are heaps safer than public clubs by a mile. How many of these spaces have gone up in flames, vs clubs that were up to code? The answer is not many. Tragedies happen, and it’s terrible, but passing more laws isn’t going to bring people back from the dead, or discourage underground spaces.

    We know the risks involved, and while no one wanted to die that night at the Ghost Ship, spaces like it are too important to close down because of something that could have happened in a legit club.

    • Ruthless M

      If you’re looking at statistics do you have any that back up your statement that unregulated, unsafe living quarters stuffed with junk are safer than public clubs? Because you can have an awesome space for creating and working and still have things like fire exits, sprinklers and not cram it to the rafters full of combustibles in a maze-type array that traps people before they are overcome from smoke. Or burn to death.

      • That’s not really true though–I’m not saying that there is an equivalency is safety precautions, but rather outcome. Look at the fire in 2003 at The Station–up to code, passed all inspections, and yet the entire place was covered in highly flammable insulation. When you have loads of people in one place, shit can happen. You can make it safer (not having piles of stuff, having clear exits) but expecting people to install sprinkler systems (which surprisingly aren’t required in many cities because of the expense) is silly.

        • jabwg

          Then, if that is silly, one has to point out that it is silly to spend any amount of time in something like the Ghost Ship. So basically, the message I’m getting is that these “special places” are absolutely vital, and it’s vital that no one makes them be up to code (because that would damage the specialness), and that when people inevitably die in these spaces in horrible fashion (wrong place wrong time), everyone is supposed to just cry and beat their breasts and point fingers at The Man for running up the rents. (Never mind that someone like Derrick Ion would have taken the nicest building in the world and filled it full of flammable shit anyway!)

          Is it possible that there is also childishness involved here and an unwillingness to embrace reality, or at the very least, the laws of physics?

          • No, no beating of chests or pointing fingers, but rather seeing this horrible tragedy for what it is, and not using it to push some kind of safety agenda, because it’s simply not possible.

            It’s confusing that you can’t grasp that it’s not the ‘specialness’ (spoken like a true grump, good work) that is keeping these spaces up to code, it’s that it is not possible, full stop.

            To keep a large rambling warehouse up to code, first you need to own it. Then you need a pile of money. Then you need more money to keep coming in to pay for maintenance and upgrades–I just did the fire extinguishers in one of my businesses, and it has to be done every two years, at an expense of $1200. Just last month I had to swap out all the door closers throughout because suddenly they are not To Code, to the tune of about $1400. As a business owner, I have a pretty decent grasp on this ‘reality’.

            But if you aren’t savvy to either artist communities, or what it’s like to own a business, I can see where you might be confused. But here it is: These spaces are not money-makers, there is no business really going on there. Door, if there is one, goes to feed a band, maybe to buy some better extension cords. Rent, if it’s charged, goes to keep whatever utilities (water jug delivery, electric heaters) going. There is never going to be sprinklers in squats. There is never going to be fire extinguishers that are fresh and ready at every warehouse parties. In most communities, there are measures taken make these community spaces the safest they can be for what they are–which is why you haven’t heard of hundreds of these fires happening, despite the thousands of these spaces that exist across the country.

            To expect more than that is to not understand the community or economics at all.

          • Ruthless M

            Oh I disagree Trista. From what this Ion guys FRIENDS and FAMILY are saying they used the warehouse to fund the lifestyle they wanted to live. On average of 10 tenants at any given time, 700-1500 per person plus the cover they charged the people that went to their parties-perhaps they weren’t driving lambos, but they were definitely profiting from the space. I’m amazed that you are OK with someone predating on artists who don’t have a lot of money, and other vulnerable people.

          • Ruthless M

            Maybe in different warehouse communes upgrades were made with rent money, but tenant after tenant has come forward to state that the couple pocketed improvement fees and did nothing, There was no heat, one bathroom and sporadic electricity. But lots and lots of meth for Derick. His kids had lice and were starving, their condition was worrisome enough that their own friends called family and child services.

          • Super Amanda

            Derick and Micah are predatory slumlord criminal Manson family style hoarders. Unless you were born and raised in Oakland please don’t tell us you have the right to risk burning our town again because you want to live a risky alternative life of “creative spaces” and don’t want safety laws passed. It WILL happen again if nothing is done.

          • jabwg

            So what you are basically saying is that unless market forces and the government lower the rents (and maybe then not even, because true artist safe spaces MUST be Underground), we will have to keep on occasionally sacrificing 25-year-olds to the flaming altar of artistic freedom, because true artists can’t be expected to insist on safety? Then the artistic community has no right to cry crocodile tears in the streets over these dead kids.

        • Ruthless M

          It’s not silly if people are living in the building and it’s full of highly combustible material

          • Buy anyone is welcome to stuff their home with combustible material–what do you think carpets, furniture, books, bedding or anything else in a home is made of? All that shit burns. Is your solution to knock on doors and make sure people don’t have too much stuff?

            What if I told you people are highly aware that they are living illegally in a place that could burn down? We know the risks involved. People are keenly aware of them. If you go to an abandoned warehouse to see a band, and you think it’s going to be up to code and everyone is going to be safe, you’re a fool. People get shot, stabbed, women are in clubs every day of the week–the idea of a club being a safe space could only be help by someone who never goes to them.

          • Ruthless M

            Trista only hoarders have wood and found object piled to the rafters. And I think it’s particularly evil for you to call the teenagers who died in that fire fools, because I’m pretty sure if they thought they could be hurt they wouldn’t have gone. I’m very sure the tenants knew they were living in a fire trap, as they lived there. But this isn’t just about people living in a warehouse, the lease holder was renting it out for parties. No, this goes further than your terrible analogy. Oh, and yeah-people who hoard eventually get taken to court by the city they live in for violating bylaws. You aren’t allowed to turn your property into a dump. Have you ever seen an episode of the show? Many of the people are being given one last shot before the property is seized by the town/city they live in

          • Oh, so I’m not from the part of the country where the town or city can say anything about your property, that sounds like a nightmare! It’s your property, do with it what you wish. And I don’t watch garbage television. Maybe I lack this carefully controlled idea of how people should live because I could never stomach living in the States 😀

          • jabwg

            “Buy anyone is welcome to stuff their home with combustible material–what do you think carpets, furniture, books, bedding or anything else in a home is made of?”

            Most of them, these days, happen to be made of modern materials which are chemically treated to be fire retardant or fire resistant. So, your analogy doesn’t really hold up. That said, when actual hoarding is going on in a home, it IS a fire hazard. However, I think it’s probably accurate to say that all those antiques, old wool and cotton heirloom rugs, and papier mache dangling from the ceiling in the Ghost Ship were NOT treated with fire retardant or made of fire-safe materials. Pile ’em high then! As long as there’s an awesome vibe, who cares if it’s highly flammable. This wasn’t an “art installation” — in a suburban neighborhood, this guy would have been called a dangerous, mentally ill hoarder, and rightly so. But since he’s an “artist,” he seems to get an automatic pass.

    • Susan Foley

      Oh so a few deaths here and there are OK but we don’t want to shut down “important” spaces like Ghost Ship. Got it.

  • hi
    this fire shook me up i dont know anyone there but i lived in a amazing 60,000 sqft post and beam whearhouse in winnipeg for 2yrs till the city came in and shut it down. fire was our biggest fear… we had event spaces on the main floor and i was the loan resident up on the 4th… i knew the risk i had the building tried to convince me to move to the 2nd floor many times.

    being such a large building we had a close call so close…. someone smelled burning plastic kicked some doors down as they grabed a fire extingisher they found a plug smoldring as it just burst into flames… was mater of seconds befor it woulda being game over so so so so lucky…. the room in question was a custom shirt shop they had left a bunch of machines going untended for the night…. gues over the few yrs they been there overloading a plug that was hooked to a panel they had swaped a 30amp breaker in where a 15 should’ve been……………..

    i wouldnt be surprized if this fire was caused by an overloaded plug sadly

    one thing that would go a long ways to helping the arts community is more of us getting into the trades……….. welding plumbing machinists electrcians millwrights ect would add so much more freedom to many of us…. would go so much further into helping prevent tragities like this… knowlige is power!

    • jabwg

      “one thing that would go a long ways to helping the arts community is more of us getting into the trades.” Yes! Very intelligent comment. although apparently some people here would find that to be “too conformist.”

      Too many artists USE electricity, consume it as a commodity to run their installations and sound systems, and do not respect it or know how to work with it.

      • basenjibrian

        In this case, though, it sounds like the word “use” should be replaced by “steal”?

    • Super Amanda

      No pun intended but you hit the nail on the head. That’s why there were so many successful Bay Area cooperatives and artists collectives in the 70s because they came out of generations that knew the skills and those trades. But I would be remiss and completely daft if I overlooked the fact that it was so incredibly affordable in the 1970s. You could rent an entire flat out on the avenues in San Francisco for $275 a month two bedrooms two baths. Houses in Piedmont went for $30,000 in the late 60s. Homes in the Berkeley hills near Indian rock went for 20,000 in the 1960s.

      • Dusty Rhodes

        Well, wages were commensurate with rents and mortgages. Jobs now paying $25 an hour, like clerical, paid $4 an hour. It was still expensive to live in the Bay Area. Still, safety has to take priority and personal safety attended to. I’m retired now and have to move because, after living here for 30 years, I can’t afford it. Just for another perspective of the reality here.

      • Susan Foley

        OK a personal story to put this all in perspective. The dollar amounts have changed, so ignore them. Look at the proportions. I graduated from college with a degree in history in December 1966 and moved to San Francisco with my new husband. I got a clerical job adding up columns of figures, a job which has now been automated out of existence. I took home $400 a month.

        We rented a large, sunny studio on Geary at maybe 14th, very nice neighborhood, for $80 a month including utilities. So what have we here? A liberal arts grad could get an unskilled, shit-quality starter clerical job and pay 20% of the salary for rent in a nice neighborhood in San Francisco. This enabled me to support myself and my husband – he was in grad school at SF State – and put a little aside.

        Needless to say this doesn’t happen now.

        • Super Amanda

          Fascinating Susan!

  • Susan Chaika

    Thank you for putting into words something that I’ve been struggling to express. If I were 10 years younger, there would’ve been a pretty good chance that I would have been at that party. I don’t know any of the missing (and I am ashamed to say that I am weak with relief at being spared that terror). But ever since Saturday, I’ve been thinking, “If I was just 10 years younger, there go I and all my friends but for the grace of God”. For all of those who do know one of the missing, I have no words to express the sadness, the fear, the senselessness, the rage, the all around wrongness of it all. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen.

  • Vincent Messmer

    Who the hell wrote this??? They’re complaining about rent prices as they say “we work day jobs as little as possible”. Maybe if you didn’t avoid work so much you could afford to not live in a deathtrap. I have a hard time feeling sorry for someone that openly admits “I don’t want to work”

  • Vincent Messmer

    Lazy hippy that doesn’t want to work goes makes excuses for living in run down warehouse. That’s all I got out of this. “Feel sorry for us artists rents are so high this is all we can afford… we don’t want to work day jobs”

    • Ruthless M

      No, I disagree. People like collective and communal living, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. The tenants are not at fault here, when you are poor you are vulnerable . It’s the fault of Derick and his wife, they are the architects of this tragedy

      • Vincent Messmer

        I’m not referring to the fire or blaming him. I’m calling out how stupid he sounds crying that these types of places are all they can afford and simultaneously admit they don’t want to work real jobs. If people fall on hard times or are disabled or can get a job that’s one thing… but it’s quite another to say “this is all I can afford… I’m an artist, I don’t want a real job”

        • Vincent Messmer

          Of course Derick and his wife are who at fault, not the tenants… but the author of this article is coming across as a lazy hippy

          • Vincent Messmer

            If you like communal living that’s great there are plenty of situations like that that are safe. Probably a bit pricier than ghost ship but remember he wants to work a day job “as little as possible”.. so this is what he gets. As Britney would say, “YOU BETTER WORK BITCH”

      • Super Amanda

        Ghost ship WAS NOT A COLLECTIVE. The most recent and extensive pics published (not the carefully staged ones above) show what it really was. Drugs and addiction first and then some art. 2100.00 to get in the door. 700.00 to a “repair fund!!” I agree the people at the event are innocent but what I find compelling is that only a few of the victims were actually tenants! What does that say? Any resident who knew that place was deadly and let trusting artistic outsiders in is to blame.

        • Ruthless M

          Yes, I agree with you. There are lots of people on here who comment about how the collectives they were in had fire exits and smoke alarms, and weren’t hazards.

  • Super Amanda

    Rest in peace to the victims of a fully preventable tragedy. This along with the Oscar Grant shooting, is the worst thing that has ever happened to the East Bay Area and a part of the spirit is now gone forever. These were innocent younger people who were destroyed by a much older predatory pseudo artist and Manson redux. That said I find it horrifying that NO ONE has mentioned that the Black poor and working class are the ones being pushed out of Fruitvale, Lake Merritt, Funktown not “the artists” almost none of whom in ANY dwelling in the East a Bay were born and raised in Oakland. And to the author: just because a space is queer friendly doesn’t make it progressive by default. Other than your fellow punkers ( a near lily white scene and often skinhead scene in the 80s and 90s) and working industrial artists where were all these “artists” when Oakland WASN’T the new hub of tech employees? How mind boggling to see a white artist transplant crying on TV today about “we need help , we need help!” Guess what? You’re not entitled to arrive and live in the Bay Area because you want to come here at the expense of the people who were here first. Much of the free world wants to be in the Bay Area now and being priced out of it is reality for those of us who were born and raised here so deal with it or move to Sac, Vallejo or Sonoma county or out of state. In an unintentional but annoying way this article wants us to have compassion for Derick Ion Almena and Micah Allison, the latter day Charlie and Sadie Mae Glutz. Watch the logic that the Derick Ion’s legal team will be throwing out soon to pin the blame on the Black female fire marshal and get a pay out. They’ll be in goose step with the Breibarts who are now laying the blame solely on her via the thousands of comments.

  • Susan Gates

    Take off your rose colired glasses. Yes, young people do dangerous things sometimes, but being young and feeling invinceable doesn’t give you a pass. What happened here was a willful, wanton act by an owner and a tenant that brought about the deaths of 33 people. Just because you got away with it, please don’t romanticize these spaces. It is shocking that you won’t publish the addresses or names of other similar places. If one of them goes up in flames, how will you sleep?

    • aw-hell-naw

      Correct. The investigation should now include this author who seems to be covering for other locations where this kind of tragedy could happen again. Portraying Mr. Almena as a leader, freedom fighter and victim is complete BS. Looks like the author may have drank the same Koolaid. But I’m guessing, like Almena, he doesn’t have his kids at risk….

    • Susan Foley

      If the author knows of other such places it is his moral obligation to name them. What if one of them goes up in a tower of flame this weekend? How will he feel then?

  • Jan

    This was tragedy for all that lost their lives and their families and friends. People’s lives are changed forever. I understand characterizing this lifestyle as a “we” versus “they”; young people in every generation want to break free and differentiate themselves. But don’t lose site of the fact that it was “they” who rushed into the burning building, risking their lives to save those who were too young and naive to realize they were putting their lives at risk. And it was “they” that were waiting with open doors, educated minds and willing hands to treat the burns and injuries of those that reject the “other” way of life. You’re incorrect to assume that others don’t understand youth, art, alternative life styles, freedom, and being the joys of being unencumbered. We also understand the joy and fulfillment that is ours as contributing members of society, working together to make life better for everyone. Youth will always have hard lessons to learn from decisions made without a full appreciation of the consequences, but this was preventable, and there are people that should have done a better job at protecting those young lives.

    • Super Amanda

      Wrong. This was about being a drug addict not an artist. Do some more research about the most recent extensive photos that were published of the space. He ran a meth house not a collective.

  • gaiapunk

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, kind words are needed.

  • mahbod

    this incredible attorney was among the victims: https://www.everipedia.com/nicholas-walrath/ – he worked for my former professor’s firm. truly devastating for us, RIP

  • MzUnGu

    U R right, we don’t understand how u willing to endanger other people’s lives, such as those firefighters that need to come save your butt…

    • aw-hell-naw

      Correct. I don’t understand how having fun is more important than preserving life. I also don’t understand how self-styled leaders can self-style themselves into victims instead of taking responsibility.

      And mostly I don’t understand how KQED can publish this trash and still ask people (presumably adults with some kind of job) to support their station.

  • reality

    It wouldn’t and couldn’t have been me because I saw that space in the daylight and it was a hoarder’s nirvana. There was also an endless amount of stories about the guy who managed the place and the way he treated renters. Unsafe is unsafe. No excuses. Those who continued to rent space there also knew it was a fire trap. They didnt care and threw shade on anyone who suggested otherwise.

    • Super Amanda

      No one deserves to die for drug usage while living in an illegal haven but what is compelling to me is that only a few of the actual residents died and the addict operator wasn’t even present at the event he booked. The innocents who died were there for an event to show strength in community and lost their lives because they trusted. That event was to keep money coming in for drugs under the guise of it being an artists collective. Ghostship wasn’t the semblance of a collective in any reality. Now 36 people paid with their lives because a drug addict’s lifestyle was more important.

      • Ruthless M

        Right? The defense on here by some people of the specialness is pathetic. It wasn’t an artists collective it was funding for their meth habit

        • Super Amanda

          Meth, H, guns, Burning Man tickets…Almena would charge 1400 move in plus a non refundable repair fee that went up his nose because it clearly never went for repairs.

  • Super Amanda

    Author of this piece needs to read edit it. Very graphic photos of what the place looked like before the fire were just published. Ghostship was a meth haven drug flop house not a collective!! The pics above are completely staged. That place was a hovel of rubbish. There was NOTHING about that place that was artistic. It was a complete and utter pile. It was a complete dive. Stop trying to say this was about affordable housing. It wasn’t. It was about sheer greed and the need to keep the drug Supply going.

  • Ruthless M

    I read now that Derick and his wife are saying “They did all they could afford to do” and that they are being blamed. Apparently doing everything you can doesn’t include not turning your warehouse into an illegal fire hazard rave shack. I hope they go to jail.

    • aw-hell-naw

      36 life sentences should give them the time they need to consider how their current way of thinking is responsible for immeasureable loss of life.

  • Culper Agent 355

    It’s the same as saying why don’t the homeless move there? Artists, musicians and homeless share a common trait: they live off the discarded cast offs of the rich and affluent. In remote places, there’s no one to get a job from, nowhere to hide and sleep, no place to get a cup of warm coffee, no one to give you money, no transient work, no one to panhandle. There’s also nowhere to get drugs, cigarettes, leftover food, companions in spirit. Just rednecks in trucks with Trump stickers and gun racks. Not a welcoming environment.

    • Super Amanda

      Only these people who ran Meth Ship were ADDICTS not artists. Have you stopped to ask yourself why almost none of the residence of that warehouse died in the fire? Almena seems like a right wing hippie posing with a pump action shotgun and his tiny child.

    • jabwg

      Please stop characterizing all artists as panhandlers. There is also a whole world of artists out there who hold down day jobs, come home and work very long hours studying their art and pursuing their dreams and careers. This idea that all artists are bohemian beggars is ridiculous, even if the author of this piece thinks anyone who doesn’t live the bohemian life isn’t free-spirited enough to produce art. Not everyone who pursues art needs such a particular diet of drugs, particular music and particular companions.

    • kels

      From the article: “And yet for many of us, these spaces are what have kept us alive. In a world that demands its inhabitants to be a certain way, think a certain way, or live a certain way, we gravitate to the spaces that say:
      Welcome. Be yourself.”
      Try reading some of the beautiful, heartbreaking tributes that have been written about those that perished. They were bright, productive, and often, disenfranchised folks who were seeking family and community and found it in the music/diy/activist/queer scenes in Oakland.

  • Ruthless M
  • Dostoievsky

    Any word of thanks for the firefighters and EMS personnel who dealt (and are still dealing) with this nightmare and will suffer from PTSD because of it?

    • aw-hell-naw

      Right. Thanks for reminding us of the many other people affected by the pathological, self-indulgent criminal responsible for 36 senseless deaths.

  • Conor Woody

    This was such a beautiful tribute. Thank you so much for writing it.

    These spaces are the last hope for thriving artistic communities who don’t want to be forced to poison their art by having to mold it to fit into capitalistic demands. That, of course, means they are mercilessly mocked and mischaracterized, like I’ve seen below and everywhere else in my life, as warehouses where homeless bums fuck around. I live in Arkansas but this felt like a personal tragedy to me.

    These weren’t lazy young people. To build and exist in a place like this takes amazing dedication and usually derision from family and society. It takes true devotion to one’s passion to take that on freely. I hate that people can’t be decent enough to not criticize an entire community just as they’re going through an unprecedented tragedy. I feel like I just got a tiny taste of the what the Black community goes through every time a police kills an unarmed member of their community only to be inundated with judgment and derision, all for political reasons.

    But the focus should really be on the victims and the incredible space they created and their individual artistic achievements.

    • Super Amanda

      No one is missing the victims here but be aware that the majority did NOT live at that space. So far the majority of the Ghost ship residents either were not at the warehouse or they escaped because they could navigate the maze. And the warehouse was closer to a crack house not an art collective. The photos this author posted were staged to lure people via craigslist whilst in 20 photos published today showed what it really looked like which was a drug addict hoarder home not a cooperative.

      • Susan Foley

        I think – I’m not sure of this – that only one of the victims was a resident. The other residents either were not in attendance or got out. So all the talk about Artists….were all the attendees at this concert/whatever Artists? Most of them it looks like no. Students, academics, people working at various jobs…the musicians playing the concert were probably most of the “artist” victims. So why are we bleeding about the Poor Artists? This was a promoted concert with paid attendance.

        • Super Amanda

          I agree that the way the tragedy has been spun is completely unfair. And the majority of musicians today do you have to play a lot of underground sketchy places if they’re going to get an audience and if they’re going to make a little bit of money. And sadly we don’t have people like Bill Graham or even lower level concert promoters anymore we often have these drug fringe artist people to a large extent who aren’t stable. But if you go to SF gate there’s an incredibly beautifully presented tribute page where you can click on each photo of who died and read about them. The majority actually WERE associated with the arts to some extent. It is completely heartbreaking. Just want to warn you as a fellow parent. It’s a very very sad. It’s the only memorial that’s put everything in perspective of the lives that were lost. One victim had only been in the Bay Area about a month. And another had come to live in the bay area five years to the day that she died. I don’t understand why anyone has been charged with a crime here.

          • Susan Foley

            It is heartbreaking. It takes your breath away. Given that these were not teenagers, even my kids (48 to 32) are of an age to have been involved, though thank God none of them were. I can’t even begin to imagine what the parents and other family members are suffering.

            I think you’re right about Graham.

            I remember the Bill Graham days well: I was in the Haight in my very early 20’s and very much a part of that scene (not as a musician, as audience). The thing was, not only was Graham on the up and up so far as safety went, he had artists who were profoundly gifted, internationally famous, and enormously popular. He packed people into those events by the many hundreds. We were all right there, we were all into it. I am reading elsewhere that a lot of these musicians and bands we are talking about now don’t really have that much of a following. Legitimate clubs, who are set up to give parties legally, want artists who can draw a crowd so they can make expenses, which it seems most of these folks cannot.

            Although….there were plenty of people at the Ghost Ship that night apparently, and I am reading that there are many such events every weekend… Surely someone as enterprising as Bill Graham was could make a commercial success of hosting such parties safely and within the law. If this music is popular enough to pay its way there should be no reason for the audience or the artists to risk their lives to have a music event. Graham didn’t charge a fortune for admission, either. He made it work with volume.

            No one has been charged with a crime YET. It’s early days. I don’t know what will happen, obviously.

    • aw-hell-naw

      Sure. This is as beautiful as a tribute can be for a pathological, self-indulgent criminal responsible for 36 deaths.

  • John Valinch

    This entire column is nothing more than justifying a worthless piece of shit like Derick Ion. The thriller love child of Pol Pot, Hitler and Manson? You know where the accountability lies yet you turn your head to the facts. Many people in “marginalized” groups have a difficult time negotiating in this hateful society but they do not turn to self-styled “gurus” like this fucker! Another cult leader akin to Jim Jones and the other pathological, self-indulgent, worthless Motherfuckers! “I can proverbially (sic) get away with murder”. Sound familiar? Fuck this shit!

    • aw-hell-naw

      +100 to your comments John: yes he is a pathological, self-indulgent CRIMINAL. Some of the worst our fine city has to offer. We have real problems to deal with besides those created by selfish wannabes like Mr. Almena.

      And -100 to the author of this piece who seems to say we are all too uncool to understand how art justifies risking human life.

      And -100 to KQED…they should really consider what they are publishing, esp since they want grown folks to contribute to keep them alive.

      • Susan Foley

        Good point about KQED. Who do they think pays their bills? Hint: it’s not people like this Almena creep, and it’s not impoverished stoners who think they are “artists.” Is this article intended to romanticize people who are completely irresponsible? Apparently.

  • Taylor

    “That their world is unacceptable, and that even for all the ragged edges, we need our own world on our own terms.” Do those terms include selling tickets to a show in a deathtrap? Could you be any more selfish?

  • oh-hell-naw

    This article is so far off point its ridiculous. Sadly tho, it does represent the way that some folks in Oakland actually think.

    “I’m entitled to more”
    “Rules only matter when they can be used to show me as a victim”
    “Its someone else’s fault”
    “You couldn’t understand”

    I have met Derick Almena and (besides being almost incomprehensibly high) he was a complete egoist – it was all about him, his movement, his warehouse, etc. And he called all these people his followers and even his children. Like he was some kind of cult hero. Maybe so – like many cult leaders he certainly has lots of dead followers to show for himself.

    If Derick Almena cares so much about disadvantaged people maybe he should spend his time and money on creating a safe haven and focus on their genuine well-being not just their entertainment. Leaders take responsibility. Ideally he will serve 36 life sentences and have plenty of time to consider how his current way of thinking cost immeasurable loss of life.

  • Susan Foley

    I was there in the Haight in the 1960’s. We didn’t have money either; we also sometimes behaved foolishly. Most of us survived. Some did not.

    For the survivors now, please please be careful. Now (again) we have warning. When you go to such an event, look around you and ask some questions. What if there is a fire? Can we all get out? How quickly? If some/all of us are on drugs and so maybe not thinking clearly? Can I even figure out where the exits are? Do I see any fire extinguishers? Are there sprinklers visible above me? Don’t assume the city has inspected. They haven’t.

    If you wonder at all whether you could get out, LEAVE. Immediately. If the audiences demand safe spaces, and refuse to stay in unsafe ones, promoters will wise up.

    • sloots_wannab

      ^ Susan, about the best comment I’ve heard re: responsibility & this tragedy, thank you.
      Yes, there is blame, particularly the leaseholder, owner & city. But ultimately we are all hold responsible for our own safety. Believe me, I’m haveing 1 of many new conversations with my teenager – & myself.

      • Susan Foley

        Blaming other people does not help if you get killed. Blaming other people will not make your parents or your spouse or your kids or your friends feel better if you are dead. BE ALERT. Especially teenagers, who tend to think they’re immortal. Notice though that there was only one teenager who died (I think). Everyone else was older.

        • Super Amanda

          Age range was 17 to 61.

    • Super Amanda

      Yes. Derick is a Manson type. Please see my post about five comments above. I’m the same age as your children.

  • Susan Foley

    This link was posted earlier, but I want to post it again. These are shots of the interior of this building before the fire. Not the staged promotional photos with the cool eastern art, this is what the interior really looked like. Notice that you can hardly walk down the passageways, they are so clogged with trash. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4006300/Filth-chaos-weird-religious-symbols-Pictures-appalling-conditions-inside-Oakland-warehouse-36-died.html

  • mikeb666

    I was there in 1994 I remember, I remember Ice House and Gallery X Metropophobia, and Ironworks…. man those great days befor gentrification fucked it all up!

  • nicholasstix

    Senseless verbiage.

    Nicholas Stix, Uncensored

  • Susan Foley

    Having read through all the comments (which, as usual, are better than the article) I just want to mention a factor which gets skipped. Drugs. I’m thinking that most of the people at this party were on drugs. I’m thinking that this Derrick guy was using and dealing.

    I did drugs back in the day. No more. But everyone who knows anything about them knows that they cut back on your brains and your reactions, a put you in even more danger in a situation like this fire. People are not mentioning this, perhaps out of respect for the dead, but it’s an important factor.

    • kels

      “Drugs. I’m thinking that most of the people at this party were on drugs.”

      There is no reason to engage in this kind of shameless victim-blaming. I doubt that you actually have actual first hand knowledge to back up your claims Maybe it helps you to reconcile your conflicted feelings about this tragedy to think of those killed as “druggies”, but it’s pretty darn heartless and cruel to those who survived or lost loved ones. Have some compassion and add something useful to the conversation. Maybe read the article again and look for some meaning and compassion there.

      • Susan Foley

        I am not blaming anyone. I am pointing out that if you are impaired in any way, like seniors in senior housing, as drunks in a bar, as disabled people in most places, as people high on drugs, your ability to protect yourself and get out of a dangerous situation is impaired. Maybe if they’d been “stone cold sober” they’d have looked around and seen the dangers and left before the fire got started. Maybe most of them wouldn’t have made it anyway…we cannot know. I’ve done my share of drugs, back in the day, and the idea that they don’t impair your ability to protect yourself is crazy.

        This is one more reason to assess such situations BEFORE you take a lot of drugs or alcohol. And one more reason that the promoters, whoever they were, were criminally negligent at best. A space where people intend to take a lot of drugs or drink a lot, like a bar, a space inhabited by disabled people or seniors, that space has to be that much safer because of that. Am I blaming people for being old if I say that? I’m old myself. If your population is impaired, walkways need to be wider, lighted EXIT signs easier to see, “safe” has to mean something safer.

        • Super Amanda

          I understand what you’re saying and that’s the reason why I stopped smoking pot or do anything else years ago. It’s clear from everything I’ve read that the second floor was not something that they were able to get down from and then the lights went out! The second floor collapsed rapidly and then fire consumed the place in a matter of just a few minutes. Being sober or not there’s nothing they could’ve done. Work spaces and studios are not events centers. This idiotic narcissist just didn’t get that.

          • Susan Foley

            Well you know, being self-protective sort of isn’t part of this scene, which is really why so many people got killed. They were older than we were when we went crazy, but the mentality is the same. “It could have been any one of us.” No, it couldn’t. Who it could have been (and was) was people who didn’t walk in there and think, “wow this is totally unsafe!” and then walked back out. When I was in my early 20’s people like this took acid and then jumped off buildings under the illusion that they could fly.

            If you think you are immortal or invulnerable things like psychedelic drugs and firetraps, or even mixing them, don’t worry you, because, you’re special or something. If you have your wits about you, you think, AHEAD OF TIME, “wow, I’m about to get stoned (or whatever) so is this space safe for me under those circumstances?” Please understand that as an old hippie I am not putting down drug use. I totally get it. I just think taking mind-altering drugs (or alcohol, for that matter) slows your reaction time and impairs your judgment. If you propose to survive the experience it makes sense to think about this before hand, as cold-blooded as that sounds.

            Of course you’re probably right, even if all those people had been stone cold sober most of them would probably have been killed anyway. Being stoned out of their minds didn’t help though.

    • Super Amanda

      Hi Susan! I know you from Facebook and T. Morse. I don’t think you’re the type to be intentionally victim blaming but please be reminded that drugs or no drugs no one had a chance who hadn’t been a resident because the fire not only spread in seconds but the lights were gone. You saw the refuse heap that place was. Stone cold sober you didn’t have a chance. That’s why most if those who did perish weren’t residents. The residents knew how to escape. And frankly unless someone was new to a drug or passed out the effects on their reaction time would be negligible. What kels wrote . You’re a nice person please delete.

  • Steev

    The attitude the author has in this piece comes from the same permissive culture that allows someone like the owner of this space to feel like he has a complete lack of responsibility for any consequences as long as his intentions are good. That’s the kind of attitude that ended up killing three dozen innocent people. I have lived and performed in many spaces like this and we have to admit to ourselves that yes, the art is great, but there is also a dark undercurrent just beneath the surface that allows people who are more drug addicts than artists to infiltrate the scene and act as parasites who drag the real artists down with them. But when anything goes, that element flourishes under the cover of art.

    I’m in my early thirties and from being a musician I can easily name a half dozen musicians who died from drugs, or in a car accident driving through the middle of nowhere to play a show to no one. I can even name two young men who died at underground shows in the last 5 years who essentially died in freak accidents from dancing too hard. If I joined the Army after 9/11 instead of joining a band I’d probably have fewer dead friends. And every time something tragic happens we all bury our heads in the sand and talk about the good times and what a good person they were, and how this scene saved our lives. It’s just getting really sad to me. Outlaws must have a code, and we need to police our own scene. It reminds me of when punks used to talk about the importance of having a safe space while letting a 6’4″ 250lb man “dance” into 100 lb women because he’s a “good guy.”

  • kgelner

    It’s a sad thing that all of the trans-people who were so worried about being in some way harmed Trump should instead have been far more worried about the carelessness of those closest to them. Every person is responsible for their own safety in the end, and needs to not let basic unsafe conditions slide, even if the people who are allowing that are friends or providing a “safe space” that is actually anything but.

    • Super Amanda

      Derick Almena is an extreme drug addict. Any adjunct he appeared to be for trans people was superfluous and predatory veneer to lure people in to keep funding his highs.

  • evanrose

    I don’t know if this’ll get read by the author, but here’s a little story (that may or may not be entirely true): the Phoenix Ironworks dude wasn’t only a collector of pianos (he had actually had 300 of them and set them all on fire at Burning Man at one point, BTW), but he was also a licensed commercial mover (and piano tuner ;). When they were finishing out the part of the Oakland Bay Bridge that collapsed in the earthquake of ’89, they needed to tear that building down because the path passed through it. It was an insane job that the city and state were paying for so they opened up the bidding to commercial movers and he was one of them. He underbid everyone, won his own moving contract and kept a hefty bag full of cash and another full of weed and paid the homeless of West Oakland and Emeryville to load something like 200 truckloads of his shit to take it to a former wood mill in East Oakland (which he split with a friend) a mere 14 blocks from the spot of this fire. I ended up moving into a chunk of that building and we built a loft/party space in there in 2001. The space in the photos above could have been taken in our space because it was a 100 year old barn that is probably still ready to go up in flames at any moment. I’m way beyond my DIY phase, thank god, because everything we did was illegal, intentionally against code (we put in a Franklin stove, which was, in retrospect, insane), and incredibly dangerous, but the kids keep coming, they’re just as crazy and stupid as I was then, and I’m shocked and amazed that nothing like this took so long to occur. My heart goes out to the family and friends of those who perished and I hope some *balanced* good comes from this because this way of life should continue to be an option, but hopefully not a fatal one.

  • Super Amanda

    What EvanRose and Steeve speak of remind me of the various financial tiers in artists that coexist in the Bay Area and that I experienced from 2000 to 2006 (three of those years 02 to 05 I couch surfed when it was still looked down upon) At the top are the Ballet, classical music and CAL fine arts tier plus various other artists who have total trust fund cash flow or at least full subsidizing from their family. They’ll sometimes be the SF opera dancers who teach Pilates and Gyro getting 100.00 an hour and then hire an illegal to watch their baby while they’re at the studio for 100.00 a WEEK. They’ll keep the 300.00 deposit on a Gyrotonics certification that a poorer artist who’s supported their studio can’t pay off exactly on time. They’ll smile and say ” there’s a 15.00 credit towards your next session.” Their privilege is staggering. If theyre not so much greedy than they’re incandescently fortunate to come from wealth that allows them to study opera, the cello, aerial dance etc. Then there’s tier two which is most of the Bay Area artists who are pouring coffee, blending teas, teaching Zumba and waiting tables for coders. Watching the children and cleaning the houses of lawyers, doctors and bankers and who walk that edge. Some are burners, tattoo artists, makeup , costume designers, dancers…some make money on their YouTube videos. Some get office jobs or even tech jobs themselves and gradually build up to stability. Many meet a partner and manage to share rent, buy a home to fix up while others stay one step ahead of being broke. Within that second tier are those who have a little help from their family as I did. Then there is the darker drug based under current “tier” you referenced so well. The Micah’s and the Dericks who have addiction and meglomania driving what they do- NOT being an artist. They are actually nothing new. They were around in the 70s when I was a little kid with two very artistic bohemian parents. They’d do a few things here and their artistically but their addictions were their God. They’d ask for keys to our home or agree to mail items as a personal favor and the items would vanish. But back then the Bay Area was an extremely cheap place to live. Sometimes my parents paid our mortgage by selling books at Moe’s or Cody’s. And the rules were different and they were VERY clear; sleaze bags didn’t last long in the Bay Area arts and music scene. Not with heavy weights like Bill Graham around and some of the stalwart night club owners who’d have seen a Derick Almena and had his head on a stick in five minutes. Today people like Almena are proliferating as the anti Bill Graham. They prey on artists coming to the most expensive part of the country. The only solution I see is for artists to start going elsewhere. The Bay Area is great but it isn’t worth what it has become for artists which is deadly.

    • Susan Foley

      This is really a great post. I missed it the first time around. Lots of perspective here.

  • Ivy Jeanne McClelland

    Thank you so much for this beautiful, heartfelt essay. Your old friend Ivy Jeanne

  • Susan Foley

    I want to pipe up for the other residents of this neighborhood. If you look at Google you will see that there are a number of single-family homes in this area, with little yards and everything. One is right there on the same block!! Surely there are families, including children, in these houses. They all could have been killed or rendered homeless if that fire had burned anything but the warehouse. Anyone remember the Oakland Hills Fire?

    But no one mentions them. They don’t count. Unlike most of the people who were at the “party” these people are probably genuine people of color, mostly Hispanic. At least that would be typical of the area. Working people with little houses and kids and dogs and picnic tables. The firefighters by some unimaginable heroics saved them. Was it quite fair of the city of Oakland to ignore all the danger signals around this rogue “warehouse” “collective”? It isn’t just sociopaths like this Almena who stood to lose everything. Are these people less interesting or less important because they didn’t run around claiming to be Artists like Almena? The whole thing is so wrong on so many levels.

    • Super Amanda

      Yes. I addressed this as well below. Uber lives matter. At this point with no criminal charges I’m starting to doubt if the city of Oakland officials is even on the same planet with us all. The Oakland born and raised second-generation owner of Everett Jones barbecue was shouted down herself at a community meeting regarding this exact same issue when she expressed fears about the “salt lick collective” being above her business and having no regulation and an unsafe or live workspace. She handled a daft hippie narcissist with a great deal grace. White privilege is huge in the warehouse Burning Man scene.

  • K.R. Morrison

    The only thing that has comforted me through this is your article. Someone said it. Thank you.

  • She

    Affordable housing is not something relegated to being only an issue for the hippest artist mod squad squatter enclave. Regular working people who are slaves to the 9-5 to provide for themselves and their families often have trouble pulling in 3 grand a month to provide decent housing. To segment yourselves as some elitest group who is above the cost of living index is really shamefull. People do what they need to do to get by, whether it is live in a warehouse or someone’s converted garage with no bathroom. But the problem is that when you promote the use of an unsafe solution such as this you put people’s lives at risk due to the risk of fire or stampede. You are not above the rat race… You are mired in it with the rest of us. Try not to endanger the lives of young people at the same time.

  • The city of oakland is pretty incompetent and corrupt. Very slow to act on even more blatant situations. They will have excuses, like being short staffed. PD is a good example of the ethic at hand.

    Great post!

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Gabe Meline

Gabe Meline is KQED Arts' Online Editor. He lives with his wife, his daughter, a 1964 Volvo and too many records in his hometown of Santa Rosa, CA. Find him on Twitter at @gmeline.

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