Oakland city officials had inspected the Ghost Ship DIY venue on numerous occasions in the years leading up to the deadly fire that killed 36 people but took no action, official records have revealed.
Documents obtained by a coalition of news outlets including the LA Times showed that authorities had been called out a number of times and investigated at least ten code enforcement complaints in the two years prior to the fire. These included reports of faulty electrical wiring and piles of trash, as well evidence that illegal parties were taking place at the venue.
On December 2, a fatal blaze broke out in the venue during a showcase for LA-based label 100% Silk. The inferno killed 36 people, including artists Chelsea Faith Dolan, a.k.a. Cherushii, Johnny Igaz, a.k.a. Nackt and Them Are Us Too guitarist Cash Askew.
The records obtained by the media outlets revealed that in one incident in March 2015, police had been called out to the venue because of a reported illegal rave taking place. Police officers eventually shut down the party, but no arrests were made or any follow-up pursued.
David Gregory, whose daughter Michela died in the blaze, told the LA Times that he was shocked by the findings. "I'm outraged that nothing was done for all these years and this was allowed to happen," he said. "The more you learn about it, the more you realize that this shouldn't have happened."
In the wake of the fire, DIY communities across the country came under scrutiny by the authorities, with a number of spaces getting shut down and tenants evicted. Right-leaning 4chan users used the fire to launch a thinly veiled politically-motivated attack on DIY venues, which they saw as "open hotbeds of liberal radicalism and degeneracy."
However, many former residents of the Ghost Ship space previously told THUMP that they had ended up there because they were priced out of other housing. Oakland is the sixth most expensive rental market in the US, with the median cost of $2,120 for a one-bedroom. Others said they gravitated towards DIY venues like the Ghost Ship because they were from minority communities and did not feel safe or welcome in other spaces.
In an effort to protect residents of Oakland's DIY spaces, the city's mayor Libby Schaaf announced an executive order in January to ensure safety upgrades are undertaken on the city's unregulated venues, while protecting the residents from eviction.
The cause of the fire is still unknown.