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Los Angeles, Baltimore Plan Warehouse Crackdowns After Oakland Fire

Baltimore’s Bell Foundry tenants evicted, L.A. officials plan meeting on unpermitted housing issues in wake of blaze that killed 36 people

Warehouse Fire, Oakland

Following the Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36 people, Los Angeles is planning an "aggressive response" to unpermitted multi-use buildings.

City of Oakland/The NY Times/Redux

Following the Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36 people Friday, Los Angeles is planning an “aggressive response” to similarly unpermitted multi-use buildings.

According to the Los Angeles Times, city officials will meet in the coming days to assemble a plan to tackle the illegal housing issues.

City Attorney Mike Feuer cited a building at 931 E. Pico Blvd, a commercial building that had been illegally converted to house residencies, as an example of how a similar situation could arise in Los Angeles.

“In the wake of the tragedy in Oakland, I think it’s especially important that we be vigilant,” Feuer said. “What we’re trying to do in the filing in the 931 Pico case and convening this meeting is to avoid a tragedy here.”

In the case of 931 Pico, authorities charged the owner with several misdemeanors after the property was found to have no smoke alarms and inaccessible fire escapes.

Los Angeles isn’t the only city to crack down on illegal mixed-use buildings in the wake of the Oakland tragedy: In Baltimore, the residents of the Bell Foundry, a warehouse that housed dozens of artists, were evicted Monday after city housing and fire officials condemned the building.

The Bell Foundry’s “deplorable conditions” included “holes in second-story floors, unsafe electrical wiring, a heating system without appropriate ventilation and missing beams,” the Baltimore Sun reports.

While the lease on the Bell Foundry prohibited tenants from residing in the building, city officials found evidence that tenants were living in their spaces illegally, including clothes hanging out the window drying.

“We know that the building wasn’t zoned for living, but I think in some sympathetic sort of way the city was allowing that to happen — which was endangering lives,” City Councilman Carl Stokes said, adding that the Bell Foundry presented “an ongoing problem” for years.

Jana Hunter of the Baltimore band Lower Dens helped Bell Foundry tenants move their belongings following the eviction.

“People have a conception of what an arts community is supposed to look like so they can sell it, but this is where art comes from,” Hunter said. “This is why the city has developed a reputation that it has. These are the people that provide that. … If the city wants to capitalize on that reputation and capitalize on these folks’ efforts, then they need to work with them and not punish them for something that’s not their fault at all.”

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