Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf on Wednesday called on City Council to hold a special council meeting next Tuesday, January 17 in order to approve Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s resolution to increase financial relocation assistance for tenants who are displaced as a result of code violations.
Schaaf also issued an executive order Wednesday afternoon that requires property owners to enter into a 60-day compliance plan if their buildings are found to be unpermitted for living.
The move is intended to allow landlords to bring buildings up to code and to improve fire safety violations while hopefully avoiding the displacement of tenants.
After the warehouse fire, the city saw several landlords evicting tenants living in unpermitted buildings and putting homes and community centers at risk of being shut down with surprise city inspections.
As a result, many in the city’s marginalized communities have been pushed further into the tangle of unsafe living conditions to avoid being found out.
“Buildings in Oakland should be safe places to live, work and play,” said Schaaf in a press release published on Wednesday.
“In the wake of the Ghost Ship tragedy, unpermitted living, assembly and work spaces are under heightened scrutiny. We must unite as a city to improve the safety of non-permitted spaces while also working to avoid displacing vulnerable community members,” she said.
The executive order outlines five tasks that city departments must take if an occupied building is found to be unpermitted for living, which include:
Property owners entering into a 60-day compliance plan if their building poses no immediate threat to life safety;
Making recommendations to landlords to assist in legalizing unpermitted residential spaces;
Looking at strengthening the Just Cause for Eviction ordinance to include protections for tenants of unpermitted units;
Educating tenants and landlords of their rights and duties;
Better sharing information across city departments to avoid redundant building inspections, which sometimes yield contradictory results.
The executive order also calls for a redesign of the city’s event permits system, which has been criticized for its bureaucracy and high costs, preventing events and performances from being operated in safe and permitted venues.
“We will never forget those lost in the Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire and we will learn all we can from this horrific tragedy to make Oakland a safer and more resilient community,” said Schaaf.
Tulio Ospina is the assistant editor of the Oakland Post and editor-in-chief of El Mundo.