OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Following the deadly warehouse fire in Oakland, we’ve learned there are many other warehouses just like it; buildings where people have created illegal homes.
At least one was shut down earlier this year.
Continuing Coverage: Deadly Oakland Warehouse Fire
Choreographer Joy Newhart was one of over 100 artists who, until this year, lived in a West Oakland warehouse.
Newhart said, “I’ve been homeless for almost a year – I’ve had friends that have been nice enough to have me stay in their homes.”
But concerns over the building’s leaky roof, unsafe wiring and unsanitary conditions caused her to call the Oakland Planning and Building Department in the hope that the problems would be fixed.
“I had been assured that we wouldn’t be evicted, that it wasn’t in the interest of the city to throw people out,” Newhart said.
Instead, it was red-tagged. They came in and closed it down.
“They found things wrong with the building and they targeted the building and within six months we were out,” Newhart said.
And Newhart says she hasn’t been able to find another place to live.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has been a big booster of the warehouse art scene but Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo says it’s also a political catch-22.
Gallo said going after some of these places is a challenge politically because then you’ve got another problem on your hands.
“And sadly young people are desperate for a place to live,” Gallo said.
People like Newhart, who given the chance, would move back in.
Even after the deadly fire across town, Newhart says, “I know that sounds ridiculous but I did feel safe. I realize what happened over the weekend could have happened here quite easily. It’s a trade off, as an artist, it’s a trade off.”