SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The San Francisco Fire Department has told residents of an artist’s collective living inside a warehouse near the Alemany Farmers Market to leave because the space is not zoned for residential living.
The colony is known as the Sunspot and has been there for 10 years.
The artists say they are fighting to stay. They accused their landlord of pushing to evict them because he wants to build condos and claim he is using the Ghost Ship inferno as an excuse.
“This is a dream for some people to live like this,” said resident Sunspot Nathan Cottam.
Cottam gave KPIX 5 a tour of the space where he’s been living in illegally for two and a half years.
He’s a ballet dancer and teacher who says it is time to talk about what everyone is turning a blind eye to since the Ghost Ship fire tragedy in Oakland last December.
“We have allowed people to live in unsafe situations for a long time because it’s convenient for the people taking money and it’s convenient for the people living there,” explained Cottam.
In the wake of the Ghost Ship fire on December 2nd, San Francisco Fire Department officials started searching warehouses and issuing violations. Cottam and his roommates received dozens.
So, in the DIY spirit of the collective, sunspot residents took matters into their own hands, bringing items up to code and building doors and windows where necessary.
Because of that work, the fire department isn’t kicking them out, yet.
While there were admittedly some technical issues with that work not being properly permitted Cottam says he doesn’t care.
“I’m in favor of the city knowing what’s going on,” he said.
People living at the Sunspot have close link to the Ghost Ship as it is.
Resident Tony Burgess was scheduled to DJ a set at the Oakland warehouse party that ended in a fiery tragedy.
“I was supposed to be there. That could have been me,” said Burgess.
He was on his way to the Ghost Ship when the fire broke out. He lost 10 friends that night.
While the landlord responsible for the Sunspot wouldn’t go on camera, he told KPIX 5 he is trying to evict the residents and build condos in the space. He also claimed he didn’t know the residents were living here until the violations started in December.
“To say he as an individual didn’t know people were living here as he kept cashing the checks, that’s a little far-fetched”
The fire department issued a notice of abatement at the warehouse, which essentially means that there are still some details that need to be worked out legally if the residents want to continue living in the space.
Fire officials would not comment on how long that process might take, but it might not even matter as the landlord of the space continues to pursue eviction.