Struggling Artists Use Open Warehouses for Living and Work Space Due to Lack of Affordable Resources - NBC 7 San Diego

Struggling Artists Use Open Warehouses for Living and Work Space Due to Lack of Affordable Resources



    Deadly Oakland Fire Highlights Lack of Housing for Artists

    The devastating Oakland warehouse fire that killed at least 36 people has revealed the type of housing structures that struggling artists may use. Some say the warehouse may have been the only affordable housing option. NBC 7’s Katia Lopez-Hodoyan has more. (Published Monday, Dec. 5, 2016)

    Artists have been using open warehouses to develop their art for years. When California's cost of living skyrocketed, many decided to live inside warehouses as a co-op with other fellow artists.

    "I've been to spaces like these and they are great, and they are supportive," said local musician, Craig Oliver. "This is not some strange, isolated thing. Everyone knows somebody involved in a community like this. Everyone knows a struggling artist or musician who just wants to express themselves."

    While the City of Oakland grieves over the tragic warehouse fire that killed at least 36 people, including a man from Coronado, artists like Oliver want to shed light on why artists chose to live in those open spaces in the first place.

    "It's very much artists working on their art, photographers, musicians," Oliver said. "The high cost of living is driving artists out. For some, it's the only way they can make ends meet and still promote their music and art work."

    However, security regulations for commercial buildings are far different from those required for residential units.

    "There has to be sprinklers, there has to be smoke alarms in there," said San Diego's Fire Marshal, Doug Perry. "There has to be [carbon monoxide] detectors in there, you have to have the right exiting path, you've got to have the panic hardware if you're over 50 people. My gut is telling me that the lights went out [in the Oakland warehouse] so it was really dark and people didn't know how to get out."

    For struggling artists, complying with codes and building regulations, isn't always a top priority.

    "We are losing or have lost so many artists, because they can't afford to live here," said Robert Leathers, president of Space 4 Art, an East Village venue which provides living and work spaces for artists. "It is a challenge to get the permits and comply with the code, but it's definitely worth it."

    Artists argue, they hope the city could be more flexible in providing affordable alternatives.

    "Unfortunately there's not a lot of help on the city level for things like that," Oliver said.

    He admits there is no easy solution, but the deadly fire in Oakland is shedding light on the issue at home and across the country.

    Perry told NBC 7 what bothers him the most, is the fact that the deadly fire in Oakland could have been prevented.

    "I'm sure every one of these people who passed away, thought they would be going to their families."

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