OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — In the two years before the Ghost Ship fire killed 36 people in an illegally converted Oakland warehouse, police had been called to the site 35 times on reports of serious crimes, illegal raves, and once because 15 people had been barricaded inside, newly released city records show.
Oakland city management has come under devastating scrutiny since the fatal Dec. 2 fire. On Wednesday, the city released 304 pages of police records that show the city’s police, fire and building departments knew for two years that people were living in the building and holding illegal concerts and parties there, but took no action. The city released an additional 137 pages of Building Department records.
The 441 pages of records present a vivid record of, at the very least, official inattention.
The deadly fire at the Ghost Ship artists was followed by a host of evictions from similar unpermitted warehouse living and work spaces around the Bay Area.
Police were called to the Ghost Ship and related properties on reports of an alleged rape, a stabbing, multiple gun assaults and strong-arm robberies, illegal raves, and an incident in which 15 people had been barricaded inside the building by its alleged owners.
The alleged owners are believed to be master tenants Derick Almena and Micah Allison, a married couple who rented space in the warehouse to other tenants. They have been sued, along with the Ghost Ship’s owner, Chor Ng, by several families of victims.
“I don't know why they wouldn't report conditions that are dangerous to the people who live there and to the public coming in," said Mary Alexander, an attorney representing some families.
“It's inexcusable, and it's negligence of the highest order to ignore it and not try to do something,” Alexander said Thursday, after the records were released.
The Ghost Ship was not permitted for residential use or as an entertainment venue. But as many as 18 artists and musicians lived in RVs and improvised bedrooms on the building’s first floor, and Almena who lived on the second floor with Allison and their three children, rented out the second floor for concerts.
Many of the newly released police reports mention the words "landlord" and "tenant," indicating that officers knew people lived in the building. A February 2015 report states that a person who had called for help told the responding officer that "this is a warehouse that is also an illegal shared housing.”
“I met with [redacted] and [redacted],” the officer wrote. “I advised both of them of the landlord/tenant laws. I advised [redacted] of his legal obligations as a landlord and I spoke with [redacted] about her legal obligations as a tenant. Both parties agreed and acknowledged that they understood what their legal obligations and responsibilities were.”
A police report filed in January 2015 apparently identifies Almena as the building's "landlord," who threatened a tenant with a gun.