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Documentary: Three months after Ghost Ship fire, many don’t have the option of moving on

Jeremy Dalmas
A safety notice currently posted at Ghost Ship.

On Dec. 2, 2016, at approximately 11:30 p.m., a Friday night of electronic music was just beginning when a fire broke out at the Ghost Ship warehouse in East Oakland. It engulfed the warehouse in a matter of minutes, trapping partygoers inside the difficult to navigate building. Thirty-six people died.

The Ghost Ship fire had a ripple effect into the underground community that lives and creates in old industrial spaces all over the Bay Area.

Jeremy Dalmas brings us a special documentary on the past and present struggles, and the future survival, of the spaces that house artists and activists.

Click the audio player above to listen to the full length documentary.

  PART ONE: The history of warehouses in the Bay Area

Credit Jeremy Dalmas
Filmmaker Craig Baldwin lived at the iconic Project One, which introduced warehouse living to the Bay Area.


Before people moved in residentially in 2013, the Ghost Ship space had been empty for years. And while housing prices in the Bay have pushed more people into unpermitted rentals, locals have been living in industrial spaces since long before the current housing crisis. Click above to listen to the first segment.


PART TWO: 3 months on, warehouse dwellers are still in stealth mode


Credit Jeremy Dalmas
Lobot was a hub for local art before it fell victim to rising rents in 2016. They were unpermitted for living and had no tenant protections.

Since the Ghost Ship fire, many spaces around the Bay have gotten inspections or eviction notices. A Richmond space known as Burnt Ramen and another one just a few blocks from the Ghost Ship in East Oakland have both been closed by their respective cities. Warehouse residents are on edge, and not just because of increased scrutiny since December. The Ghost Ship fire came at the end of a year in which two of the most high profile live/work spaces in West Oakland had to leave. 1919 Market, which housed dozens of people, and Lobot which was well known for music and art shows. Residents and artists in many other spaces fear they may also lose their homes. Listen above.

PART THREE: Carmen Brito reflects on living at Ghost Ship and life since the fire

Credit Jeremy Dalmas
Ghost Ship resident Carmen Brito reads from her childhood book, one of the few items that she was able to recover after the fire.

While many living in warehouses are worried they could lose their homes, those affected most immediately were the almost two dozen people who called the Ghost Ship home. They woke up the morning after the fire homeless. Carmen Brito was one of them. She says she was the first person to call 911 that night, and thinks she may have been the first person to see the fire. Click above to hear her story.


PART FOUR: Oakland event spaces fight city over bureaucracy and inspections


Credit Jeremy Dalmas
Qilombo, a social center in West Oakland, has been fighting to stay in their space since the Ghost Ship fire.

Events like the one thrown the night of the Ghost Ship fire used to be a regular occurrence all over Oakland. But they’ve virtually died out because venues fear drawing attention to themselves. Since December, the city has ramped up inspections. And in late February, the Oakland Police department started requiring officers to report all unpermitted events. But many who have run event spaces say more rules and bureaucracy will only push events further underground, and may lead to more unsafe spaces.

All the music in these pieces are by victims of the Ghost Ship fire or people scheduled to play at Ghost Ship the evening of the fire.

Crosscurrents Ghost Ship