I was devastated to hear about the horrific fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, CA over the weekend. My thoughts and sincere condolences are with the victims and their families at this time. I am especially saddened to hear that a majority of the victims were young, aspiring artists, a community we know well and cherish here in Portland.
As both Housing and Fire Commissioner, this incident stuck a certain chord. It is an example of how the housing crisis facing so many cities, especially west coast cities can directly impact the safety of our residents. When housing becomes increasingly difficult to access, people search for solutions outside of typical multi-unit buildings, options that may sometimes be out of the purview of City officials tasked with ensuring the building’s habitability.
I have been coordinating with our Bureau of Development Services Inspection Manager and our Fire Marshal to ensure that all of our inspection, code enforcement, and special permit policies are doing the most to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in our City. Since 2014, City Council has required sprinklers in all night clubs and the Fire Marshal’s office will not issue Temporary Public Assembly Permits for structures with unpermitted improvements or currently under construction. Additionally, several months ago I asked that our Fire Marshal increase the education and outreach to property owners and landlords to ensure that fire equipment is up to date and maintained regularly, and to shift these burdens away from tenants as much as possible. People should not have to choose between what is affordable housing, and what is safe housing.