On Tuesday night, a gathering of tenants, artists, landlords, and city officials occurred at the Brava Theater in the Mission with the SF Fire Department trying to assure tenants that they can't be summarily evicted simply for reporting a safety issue where they live. The topic is a dicey one in the wake of the Ghost Ship fire, with some artist tenants in the city already saying they've gotten eviction notices from landlords. But as Mission Local reports via members of the Department of Building Inspection, the SFFD, and the Planning Department, both landlords and tenants can take steps to make dwellings fire safe, including installing fire extinguishers themselves (though they must be replaced every five years). Similarly, Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan is hosting a community forum Wednesday evening at Oakland City Hall where an even larger and more nervous population of warehouse dwellers is expected to express their anxieties.
A group called the Oakland Warehouse Coalition is pushing for the City Council to pass an emergency tenant protection ordinance this month, and they plan to open Wednesday's discussion. Says point person Jonah Strauss to the East Bay Times, "[The ordinance] covers everybody, from studio apartments in ramshackle buildings that may not be up to code to a mansion that has a light out in it."
The Oakland meeting happens from 5 to 8 p.m. tonight in the City Council chambers.
The situation for many tenants paying below-market rents in buildings that aren't zoned for residential use is tough, however, since landlords tend to want to claim ignorance of people living full-time in their buildings in order to avoid liability themselves just look at the first quote from the daughter of Chor Ng, the Ghost Ship landlord, who in the days following the fire said they weren't aware that anyone lived in the building, even though 24 people, in fact, did.
"If you feel comfortable, report it," said SFFD spokesperson Jonathan Baxter at Tuesday's meeting, according to Mission Local. "Make a report so we can go and make this safe for you and for everyone else."
But, obviously, improvements that cost a landlord money might end up costing you money, too, even if tenants' lawyers say you can't be summarily evicted for such reports.
The SF gathering was apparently organized by one such landlord, who wanted to bring artists and city officials together. Among the topics discussed were basic best practices about using extension cords (never for space heaters, and don't piggy-back/daisy-chain them), and investing in surge protectors.