Lively and in-depth discussions of city news, politics, science, entertainment, the arts, and more.
Hosted by Larry Mantle
Airs Weekdays 10 am - 12 pm

Angelenos in unpermitted housing under pressure after the Oakland fire

A man works with a power pole in front of a warehouse where a fire claimed the lives of at least thirty-six people on December 5, 2016 in Oakland, California.
A man works with a power pole in front of a warehouse where a fire claimed the lives of at least thirty-six people on December 5, 2016 in Oakland, California.
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Listen to story

Download this story 9MB

The Oakland warehouse fire earlier this month hasn’t just raised anxiety with fans of the underground music scene, it could also affect Angelenos living in unpermitted housing.

As reported by KPCC, City Attorney Mike Feuer has said authorities will be issuing a crackdown in the underground arts and music scene, but the specifics of prioritizing enforcement are unclear.

This has been a growing concern for people in L.A.’s Arts District, where rising rents have been a catalyst for some to take up residence in their place of business or studios.

Have you ever lived in your place of business or your art studio? If so, what was the deciding factor in the trade-off between DIY housing and higher rent?

Here's what some of our listeners had to say:

Trey in Koreatown is an artist and said he's lived in unpermitted housing for most of his life. 

TREY: We find ourselves living in these spaces, especially as artists because we need a place that isn't as precious as a house — if we spill a little paint on the ground it's really no big deal. I've seen so many [unpermitted] spaces that are very beautiful, like if you've walked into an Atomic Ranch magazine home. But I've also seen pretty dangerous [places] too.  

Scott in Studio City is a touring musician and said he's played at places like the Ghost Ship in Oakland. He says the need to work has always outweighed the danger of performing in DIY spaces.

SCOTT: You just have way too many people in a space with one exit; a lot of different art fixtures on the walls, a lot of crowded areas. From a technical aspect, as a musician, you know your gear well and you know when it's functioning properly. So even when you're setting up in an area like that, sometimes the microphones give you shocks, so you know the wiring is not right. We'd make remarks that some of these DIY venue spaces are like death traps.

Jay in Koreatown said he's lived in unpermitted housing in the past, and there should be a compromise between a crackdown and no regulation for places like the Ghost Ship.

JAY: What happened at the Ghost Ship is very rare. I see an overreaction going on here. If we pay just a little supervision to these spaces, they could be slated for living. Especially since they're a reflection on how housing is so overpriced now, and we have this glut of open warehouse spaces that nobody is using. 

Kim in Pasadena said her daughter suffered serious injuries from an accident in unpermitted housing.

KIM: My daughter was living in an unpermitted space in Highland Park. They built a sleeping loft with no railing. She fell off [of the sleeping loft], broke her collar bone and her ribs. She had two skull fractures. We're very fortunate that she's alive. Even the smaller places can be very dangerous.

*Note: These quotes have been edited for clarity


Josie Huang, KPCC reporter covering housing and changing neighborhoods

Andy Hermann, LA Weekly music editor; he's been following the underground music scene; he tweets from @andyhermanla