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After Oakland warehouse fire, LA to crack down on unpermitted dwellings

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Officials are singling out a troubling warehouse in Downtown

An aerial photo of 931 Pico Boulevard in the Fashion District.
An aerial photo of 931 Pico Boulevard in the Fashion District.
Google Maps

After a devastating fire at an Oakland warehouse killed 36 people, Los Angeles officials say they will crack down on illegal residential spaces here, reports the Los Angeles Times.

“In the wake of the tragedy in Oakland, I think it’s especially important that we be vigilant,” City Attorney Mike Feuer told the Times.

Feuer, the city’s fire chief, and the superintendent of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety will meet next week to consider a plan of action—an “aggressive response”—to dwellings that aren’t permitted for residential use, according to the Times.

It’s unclear how many commercial spaces such as the one in Oakland exist in LA. The Oakland collective, known as the “Ghost Ship,” burned down Friday night; one of the victims was 17 years old. News reports have said the space was cluttered, lacked sprinklers, and only had two exits.

As an example of the type of building they’re targeting, LA officials point to a warehouse at 931 Pico Boulevard in the Fashion District.

The city attorney’s office has filed a criminal complaint against the building’s owner, alleging the warehouse contains “unlawfully constructed residences that had no smoke alarms and inaccessible fire escapes.”

None of this seems to have deterred people from wanting to living there. A recent listing for a room in a “loft” in the Pico warehouse notes that it’s “a very well known and high in demand building.” That room, one of four in the shared loft space, was renting for $1,000.

In Oakland, many are making connections between the lack of affordable housing and the popularity of unpermitted warehouse living situations. Feuer draws the same connection in Los Angeles.

“There’s a broader issue: How is the city going to grapple with other commercial properties that house tenants?” Feuer said. “The city must continue to do a better job of increasing our stock of affordable housing.”