But over the past decade, the 4,000-square-foot structure was better known to city zoning and fire officials as a source of complaints about illegal residential uses, all-night dance parties and general blight.
The complaints came to light Saturday as Oakland officials grappled to answer questions about a blaze that took at least nine lives. The building is zoned as a warehouse, which does not allow for residential uses. Darin Ranelletti
, interim director of the city Planning and Building Department
, said the warehouse was under investigation to determine whether it was being illegally used for housing. “We had reports that people were living there, but we’re still trying to confirm them,” said Ranelletti, who also said that the party that took place Friday required a permit, which was not obtained.
The most recent complaint of illegal residential occupancy and blight was on Nov. 13, Ranelletti said. Inspectors confirmed that there was garbage in the outside area on the property but were not able to gain entry to the building to confirm that people were living there. An inspector went to the property Nov. 17 to investigate rogue interior construction but was not able to gain entry.
Witnesses described the interior of the building as having an eclectic mix of tapestries, instruments and an ornately carved ceiling. A makeshift staircase fashioned in part out of wooden pallets provided the only connection between the ground floor and a second-story mezzanine.
“It was just a labyrinth of little areas,” said Deputy Fire Chief Mark Hoffmann
, explaining that sculptors, painters and other artists had partitioned spaces off for studios.
, owner of a business across the street from the warehouse at 31st Avenue and International Boulevard, said he had worried that the live-work space was a fire hazard because of the junk and debris around. The people who lived there, he said, had been trying to clean it up.
The building has been the source of blight complaints. On April 4, 2014, the Planning and Building Department received a complaint that “a large structure had been built at (the) property that had not been strapped down or stable.” No further information is available on the city’s complaint enforcement database, except that the issues had been abated.
In 2008, the city received a complaint of “trash debris and overgrowth” at the site. That, too, was cleaned up, abatedaccording to city records.
The space, which was also known as Satya Yuga, was run by Derick Ion
, who lived there with his wife, Micah Allison
, and children, who were staying at a hotel during the Friday event. more at link: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Building-of-fatal-fire-was-known-as-The-10689319.php