OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Before the deadly fire claimed the lives of at least three dozen people, there were signs that something wasn’t right at the Oakland warehouse.
Numerous complaints were filed against the building. And inspectors were there just weeks ago.
We’ve heard the warehouse described as a death trap.
So why didn’t the property owner or the city do anything about it?
It’s now a maze of debris, but before the devastating fire the Ghost Ship warehouse was a labyrinth of art spaces.
Oakland resident Chris Farstad said, “That place, for how beautiful and lovingly curated it was, was unfortunately, like, a fire marshal’s nightmare.”
Visitors say the upper floor contained a stage and event space.
Two sets of rickety stairs lead to the bottom level, which was used as an illegal residence.
Chor Ng is the owner of the building, located at 31st Avenue and International Boulevard, and owns several buildings across Oakland.
According to Oakland city records, building inspectors went to the warehouse at least five times in the past three years.
In 2014, there were two complaints about construction debris and a third complaint about construction without permits, but the city’s findings: non-actionable.
Most recently, on November 13, 2016, the city received complaints about garbage piled on the sidewalk and sent a notice of violation.
The day after, there was another complaint about an illegal interior building structure. According to city records, that investigation is pending.
“At this time, all I know is that we were unable to gain access to the interior of the building. I, at this time, don’t know why,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Oakland’s building department did not return our calls.
But we did speak to officials with the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection.
They say the warehouse in Oakland is private property and without a warrant, or someone letting them in, inspectors’ hands are tied.
In rare cases, a judge can issue an inspection warrant. But apparently, it never got to that point for the Oakland warehouse.
No inspector saw what so many people now call a death trap.