The deadly Oakland warehouse fire is raising concerns about the number of concerts or large parties happening in unpermitted spaces much like the Ghost Ship warehouse on 31st Avenue, where dozens died in a massive fire.
Emergency risk management consultant Joseph Pred has experience with parties that operate in such a gray area, having been in the industry for years. He says there are some in the underground scene that are trying to be compliant and some who are not.
Pred previously worked as chief of public safety at Burning Man and was on the San Francisco Entertainment Commission. He says parties in unpermitted spaces are a vibrant part of the arts community but create a unique set of challenges, noting that many operators simply can't afford permits or are in zones that dont allow it.
"I think it's very common," he said. "I think the majority of them do care about the safety and well-being of their attendees in the event, and they will undoubtedly have things to learn and change as a result of that."
There have been some locations or promoters Pred has refused to work with because he felt they weren't operating in a safe fashion. While he did not work with those at the Ghost Ship, he has tracked the developments there closely after the deadly fire in the warehouse that was not permitted for events.
"Hopefully this incident will cause pause for people who don’t necessarily have the skills or experience to do that," Pred said
Several people have described the space on 31st Avenue in Oakland's Fruitvale district as dangerous, crowded and a maze of walkways.
Pred said one of the challenges is that most counties and states have different criteria for such places, and even professional event organizers don't have consistency in how they operate.