The Oakland Warehouse Coalition (OWC) sent a scathing letter Friday to the head of inspections at the City of Oakland, accusing his unit of ignoring the mayor's orders regarding safety violations at warehouse spaces.
The letter to Rich Fielding, supervisor for the inspection unit at Oakland's Department of Building and Planning, states that in the majority of warehouse evictions this past year, inspectors found safety violations but did not work on a plan with tenants to fix them. Tenants were also barred from working directly with inspectors.
Such evictions are in direct defiance Executive Order 2017-1, issued by Mayor Libby Schaaf a month after the deadly Ghost Ship fire. The order requires that those who own buildings not permitted for residential use but have tenants and or don’t conform to codes must make a plan with city officials within 60 days to correct the space’s issues. Landlords are also asked to not displace tenants in those buildings if none of its code violations are life-threatening.
"While I'm not sure where the break is in the chain of command from the Mayor to the inspectors that you supervise, one thing is clear: if you were instructed to abide by the guidelines in Executive Order 2017-1, you did not effectively integrate them into your workflow, and both you and your inspectors continue to disregard Ms. Schaaf's directives to this day," OWC executive director Jonah Strauss wrote.
The letter came after the East Bay Express reported that city inspectors had ordered evictions at 10 nonresidential spaces, thereby displacing 45 people within an eight-month period following the fire. The report also claims that the city's approach to such inspections did not change following the order, despite directives from the planning department to change protocol. Landlords and tenants at other spaces said they expected more evictions to come.