Fire & Smoke coming from Oakland fire scene again. pic.twitter.com/JsOx3B2t6d— Cbarnard (@CornellBarnard) May 13, 2017
It's not a big logical leap to make, and now developer Rick Holliday, head of Holliday Development, is saying that the fire that burned his Intersection development at the Emeryville-Oakland border on Saturday morning is the result of a "war on housing" and, he says, "The problem's bigger than our building." The comments were made to the Business Times in the wake of the five-alarm blaze, the second to destroy the under-construction, 105-unit development in 10 months.
Holliday says that the first fire in July 2016, a six-alarm blaze that also damaged several adjacent residential buildings, set the project at 3800 San Pablo Avenue back about nine months, meaning they had just returned to approximately where they were in the construction timeline this month as they were last summer. And he predicts this fire will do the same, setting them back nine months, but the impacts could go further than that when it comes to insuring other developments.
"I'm just really frustrated and angry," he tells the Business Times. "This feels like a war on housing in the East Bay. It's really horrible because we've had the worst housing crisis. All it's going to do is make it more difficult for other people to build housing affordable, market-rate, blended income, whatever."
The development, which broke ground in 2015, is now going to be a year and a half behind schedule, at least. It includes a planned brewpub and restaurant, organic grocer, art gallery, roof deck, and boasts "eco-friendly finishes" in the one- to four-bedroom units.
As ABC 7 reports, investigators from the ATF are treating the area as a crime scene, and Holliday is hoping that the intensified surveillance after the first fire, 12 cameras in all, will pay off, and the footage is still being reviewed in a search for possible arson suspects. "Someone really knew how to penetrate the building," Holliday tells the station, insisting that his company will rebuild once again, and "every fiber in my body says we've got to finish."
Alameda County Fire Department Spokesperson Aisha Knowles acknowledges to ABC 7, "It is unusual for a fire to happen in the same place twice."
But, interestingly, Holliday says that there hasn't been any loud objections to the project in the community and, indeed, this is just one of many new residential projects to spring up in this area of Oakland and Emeryville in the last few years.
Emeryville Mayor Scott Donahue tells the Business Times that residents shouldn't be concerned by the fire, noting of his small town, "We have the fastest police response in the Bay Area. Average police response time is under two minutes." And, he adds, "We're remaining vigilant."