SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on a California Senate hearing about the Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36 (all times local):2 p.m.
State lawmakers are grappling with a growing public safety problem in California cities where financially struggling artists are illegally converting warehouses into housing and entertainment venues.
State lawmakers formally considered the issue for the first time Wednesday at a Senate hearing in Sacramento, after a Dec. 2 fire at the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse killed 36 in Oakland.
Artists say high rents in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California drive them to lease warehouses in industrial areas that are not zoned for residential and entertainment uses.
Committee chairman Mike McGuire, a Democrat from Healdsburg, says a working group will study the issue and report back with recommendations later this year.
The father of a young man who died in the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland is calling for zoning and coding reforms along with financial support to encourage California to build safe places for artists to live and work.
Edwin Bernbaum said at a California Senate hearing Wednesday that high rents are driving artists to live and work in dangerous places like the Ghost Ship warehouse. He says they pose obvious fire and safety hazards.
Bernbaum’s 34-year-old son, Jonathan Bernbaum, was one of 36 people who died in the Dec. 2 fire during a concert.
Jonathan Bernbaum was a video artist who lived a few blocks from the warehouse.
The embattled fire chief of Oakland has announced plans to retire amid questions of her department’s failure to inspect a warehouse illegally used as a housing and entertainment space where 36 people died in December.
Chief Teresa Deloach Reed filed retirement papers Tuesday while her department continues to investigate the cause of the warehouse fire. Reed’s last day is May 5.
Oakland city records show Reed will receive a city pension of $36,150 a year or 15 percent of her $241,000 annual salary. Her benefit vested after her recent 5th anniversary as chief.
The 59-year-old will receive that pension in addition to her annual pension of about $150,000 she gets after retiring in 2012 as an assistant San Jose fire chief after more than 24 years of service.