A man lights a candle at a vigil for the victims of a warehouse fire that has claimed the lives of at least thirty-six people on December 5, 2016 in Oakland, California.

Saturday marks one year since a fire that killed 36 people broke out during a party at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland. We mark the anniversary by talking to members of the artistic community affected by the fire about life after the tragic losses. And we’ll check in with city officials about the changing landscape for artists, musicians and people living in nontraditional housing in Oakland.

Nihar Bhatt, DJ with San Francisco Surface Tension Collective
Sinuba Dreem, artist and musician; involved with Safer DIY Spaces
Matthais Gafni, investigative reporter, East Bay Times
William Gilchrist, planning and building director, City of Oakland

One Year On: Remembering Oakland’s Ghost Ship Fire 30 November,2017Michael Krasny


    Real sad memory, awful lot of beautiful young people die in such horrible way, again many were victims of the obscenely high cost of housing in the Bay Area, at the same time we must also remember the untold hundreds of homeless people who died on the streets of cities of the Bay Area from exposure to the elements, extreme cold rainy nights, hunger, as well of lack of healthcare…..We will see that number multiply several folds with the Republicans crimes against the American poor and middle class, that will lead to a total breakdown and collapse of our civil society.

  • geraldfnord

    I know of at least one fine, quirky, local performance series that’s ended because their papers weren’t in order, even though the venue and egress possibilities were superior to many high school auditoria. Understandable, but a shame, and a sign that local authorities ought to better understand that not all dodgy spaces are dangerously so, and that art especially may need to be done on the cheap.

    • William – SF

      …”and that art especially may need to be is often done on the cheap”

  • Robert Thomas

    Only a handful of urban centers on Earth host art spaces that are substantially able to erect the buildings that they need to create, exhibit or perform on the receipts they charge patrons.

    Everywhere, artists routinely inhabit structures that were built by once prosperous industry that later failed or for other reasons abandoned their sturdy digs. Districts such as Manhattan’s SoHo and Paris’s Montmartre are modern archetypes of this. Urban arts colonies rely on the decay of economically distressed districts in order to flourish. The new users of the structures – relieved of the great cost of their construction – are those responsible for their mere safe operation.

    • Robert Thomas

      “… I guess that’s right …”


      “… [T]he landlords are taking our money …”

      And they’re responsible, too. But it’s hard to argue that the substantially lower rent demanded for warehouse space in an industrial area than for licensed theaters – for example, in conventional (pricier) entertainment zones – should be expected to finance the upgrade of a tilt-up cavern to safe assembly space.

      The woman who responded (as yet unidentified on this page) was presented as acting with a group of others to ease tension and promote cooperation between controlling code agencies and tenant/promotors. Brava. Then she added that she participated in unsafe practices that imperiled the public, simply because no alternative was available. That’s fraud; making as to convey that one puts safety first and then just abandoning this rule defrauds and endangers patrons.

  • Robert Thomas

    A couple of decades ago as a young adult, I was involved with groups that sponsored in those days several popular semi-permanent venues along the San Leandro Street corridor where I observed occurrences and practices that included facilities electrically powered by means of bundles of dime-store extension cords and featuring crowded space heaters, stashed hot plates, precariously powered A/V equipment and second hand kitchen appliances; that were festooned with open candle flame and kerosene lanterns, were woefully lacking of any effective smoke or fire detection mechanisms and especially, that clearly and obviously had inadequate escape paths for people, were they forced to flee their confinement.

    I had respect for the leaders of these operations and was generally impressed with the improvisational skills they exercised and the dedication they exhibited in support of performers and artists. There came a time, however, when faced with an amateurish, dangerous modification of a venue’s electrical service that I felt compelled to “make a stink” about its unsafe operation. In response, to put it mildly I was advised to mind my own business.

    The upshot was that I did nothing, withdrew from the scene, told no one, filed no complaint – took no action other than to meekly grumble to myself. Ever since (thirty-plus years?), I have considered the events to have constituted a big personal failure – especially given the ubiquitous presence of little kids in and around the scene, including kids residing in those buildings. Many, many times subsequently I’ve thought about those kids, wondering if I could assume none were ever injured only because I never noticed otherwise in the newspaper.


    The Chinese nationalists selling us all of their throwaway cheap electronics and other things we use under priced, very cheap products, while using our money we pay for it to buy our prime real estate and properties…….That is a major cause for the extreme high cost of housing specially in the Bay Area

    • east oaklander

      Wow, blaming the Chinese for high cost of housing in Bay Area … you sound like Trump. The problem is more complicated. Local cities have not approved new housing (nor have developers been willing to invest, until recently) to build enough housing to keep pace with supply. Bay Area population surges, then recedes, like ocean tides when the economy is good or bad (it’s an upward trajectory overall.) Housing does not keep pace with these surges. Then cities, for instance Oakland, do not do a good enough job enforcing code on existing housing supply.

  • Mel

    I just wanted to thank the guests who lost friends and fellow artists in this tragedy for your hard work and persistence to make creative spaces and living spaces safer and our cities better places. You honor the lost lives and the memory of your friends very well.

  • east oaklander

    Michael Krasny, I wish you would pose tougher questions to your guests, especially those in positions of influence, for instance Libby Schaaf and Willliam Gilchrist. While those 2 individuals are not (soleley) responsible for what happened w/ Ghost Ship, they do carry some responsibility. Michael you are not asking tough enough questions. What about the role of the former Oakland Fire Chief? What has the city done since last year? We need to all demand accountability, from top to bottom.


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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