Ghost Ship Artist Warehouse Where Dozens Died In Fire Razed. What Will Happen To The Site?

Ghost Ship Artist Warehouse Where Dozens Died In Fire Razed. What Will Happen To The Site?

Auckland - The ghost ship is gone.

The remains of an artist warehouse that caught fire in California's worst single-building fire that killed 36 people, a tragedy that led to criminal convictions, lawsuits, owner bankruptcies and fire control repairs, were quietly demolished this month. .

The property, which includes a warehouse, was purchased earlier this month by the Unity Council, a nonprofit community development organization in the Fruitvale area of ​​Oakland. Unity Council Executive Director Chris Iglesias said the organization has been working for years to buy property and is considering building homes, though no timetable was given.

"We certainly do not take this decision lightly," Iglesias said in an interview with the Bay Area Newsgroup on Wednesday. "For the future, we will provide this land with much needed care while protecting all families. We want to be very thoughtful in the process and just understand what tragedy has befallen them."

The fire not only destroyed the Ghost Ship on 31st Street, but also the surrounding commercial buildings. On May 12, the Unity Council, known as the Spanish Unity Council, bought the ghost ship lot, an adjacent vacant lot and another blighted commercial building for $2.56 million with a $4.5 million loan, county records show. .

The new base is now located at the Spirit Shipyard. The property was sold after the previous owner filed for bankruptcy to help pay for a lawsuit filed by the families of the fire victims.

For six years after the ghost ship burned down, these families argued over what should become of the property. Someone wants a memorial, another art and music hall, and someone wants nothing at all. The neighbors called it an eyesore and a nightmare.

Walking into the warehouse, Red Supply Al Garcia says he's glad it's finally broken.

"It's just bad memories," Garcia said Wednesday. "No one told me they missed the ghost ship. That's good to know."

Mary Alexander, who represented the family in the lawsuit against the city, the landlords and PG&E, said the subdivision board reached out to them and they were "very supportive, very supportive, of the families and what they think." She says the site will be low-cost housing and will include a memorial to those affected by the fire; She said it was fully supported by the families of the victims.

"The family is very happy with whoever bought it because they're going to turn it into a low-rise," Alexander said. "It's hard to imagine a better use - that's how Spirit Ship was created, because kids couldn't buy apartments and live in informal places. So they're very happy."

Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo, who represents Fruitville County, also likes the idea.

"I think it's good, it's good for the region," Gallo said.

The property was owned by Chor Ng, his son Kay and his daughter Eva. They rented a warehouse in Oakland that was not allowed for houses or parties from Derek Almina, who rented the space to more than twenty local artists. Surrounding commercial buildings include a shoe store, Boost Mobile store, auto repair shop and upstairs apartments.

In the year On the night of December 2, 2016, Almina was with her family in downtown Oakland, where a dance party drew dozens of fans to the Ghost Ship Warehouse. Inside was a dark maze of pianos and organs, records and pianos connected through a hole in the wall to a power source in a nearby building.

When a fire broke out - possibly due to an electrical charge, although this was never confirmed - it filled the warehouse with thick smoke and flames, which soon burned up the wooden stairs leading to the upper dance floor, with many couldn't find the stairs. on top. back, diagonally. Some artists tried to put out the growing fire with water bottles and fire extinguishers, but to no avail. The dance floor collapsed and caught fire.

One resident and 35 partygoers died from smoke inhalation as a result of the fire.

Warehouse resident Almina and Max Harris were charged with 36 counts of murder. A jury acquitted Harris in 2019. After Almina's jury trial, he pleaded guilty to 36 counts of manslaughter in 2021 and served the remainder of his prison sentence. He and Harris fled the city.

He explained that the accident exposed flaws in the city's fire control process and began work to control unauthorized housing. Oakland officials have admitted that firefighters failed to seek ownership of the ghost ship despite its proximity to the city's fire station and repeated visits by them and the police department.

Oakland paid out $33 million to settle lawsuits against fire victims and their families, Pacific Gas & Electric said. A settlement was also reached for an undisclosed amount.

Gallo said the accident forced the city to beef up its fire department and hire more firefighters.

“I would say that a lot of things have changed because of this experience,” Gallo said. "This is an ongoing issue that we need to address to protect our assets."

Nothing has been announced recently about the demolition of the warehouse by the Unity Council or the purchase of property. Iglesias said the nonprofit wants to be "careful about the way we get the message across." While the Unity Council is definitely considering using the site for housing, Iglesias said there are no specific plans and they want to make sure the community contributes to the future of the property.

“We want to find the location and start the community process,” Iglesias said. "There's clearly a huge demand for housing in Oakland and the Bay Area in general. It's definitely something we're looking at."

Colleen Dolan, a teacher in San Rafael, died in the fire. His first daughter, Chelsea, who goes by Cherucci, an electronic singer from San Francisco, said it was good for her.

"Affordable housing is definitely the best use case for this property and I hope it stays that way," Dolan said.

As for the dilapidated warehouse where his daughter spent her final moments, Dolan doesn't miss it.

"That's good," Dolan said. "I'm glad he's gone.

ATF will provide an update after the ghost ship is investigated

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