Artists hoping to make their studios and living spaces safer in the wake of the deadly Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland can attend a free fire safety workshop Tuesday in San Francisco’s Mission District.
The workshop at Brava Theater for the Arts will bring together fire and building department officials as well as representatives from tenancy and eviction defense groups, according to organizer Spike Kahn.
The event will include a safety presentation, distribute free smoke alarms and fire extinguishers and help put artists and organizations in touch with the resources they need to improve safety.
Kahn, the founder and director of a nonprofit arts space, the Pacific Felt Factory, and a property owner and landlord who has served on a city fire safety task force, said the event was organized in response to the Dec. 2 Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland.
That fire in a warehouse that was being used without permits as an artist live-work space and event venue, killed 36 people. The building had extensive unpermitted construction inside that created a maze-like, difficult to escape interior and may have had unsafe electrical connections, among other issues.
Kahn said the tragedy had served as a wake-up call even for someone like her, who was already reasonably conscious of fire safety.
It has also spurred fears of displacement. High rents in San Francisco have forced many artists into smaller spaces that are not always zoned for housing or studio space and that may not be up to code.
“As the prices go up and up, the artists that are still holding on, who haven’t given up and just left the city, are doubling up and tripling up,” Kahn said.
In the wake of the fire, some artists report being evicted by landlords or facing enforcement actions that could force them out of their homes. That fear complicates efforts to bring buildings up to code or increase fire safety.
“If we could welcome the fire department into our studios without fear of displacement that would be the ideal,” Kahn said. “That’s not where we’re at in San Francisco but that’s what I’m hoping for.”
Tuesday’s workshop is intended as a safe space for artists to learn about fire safety and eviction protections.
While fire officials have said they are not there to shut spaces down, organizers are urging those who attend to avoid mentioning specific addresses of buildings not up to code, as city officials have a legal obligation to investigate violations.
Kahn has said the workshop could be the first in a series around the city if there appears to be sufficient demand.