San Diego shuts down 'illegal,' 'fire trap' art gallery in Barrio Logan warehouse
4:27 PM, Sep 6, 2017
4:44 PM, Sep 6, 2017
SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A Barrio Logan warehouse that fell into disrepair while being used as an art gallery has been shut down, the San Diego City Attorney's Office announced Wednesday.
The city forced the closure of the Glashaus building at 1815 Main Street in Barrio Logan after the owner, Mitchell Investments, failed to bring the property up to building and fire safety code, drawing comparisons to a December 2016 warehouse fire in San Francisco that claimed the lives of 36 people.
The artist studio, which the city said was originally permitted as a warehouse but was now a "fire trap," was converted into an art gallery without the proper building, electrical, or plumbing permits needed. The city said it had been operating illegally as a gallery for more than 20 artists.
The city said it began working with Mitchell Investments and building's tenant, Matthew Devine, once it became aware of the violations. While the tenant hired architects and began working on the building, the city said he never obtained the necessary permits or fixed the violations.
Devine had also sublet the building out to local artists to showcase their work.
The city noted, "neither the owner nor the lessee informed the artists that the studios and building amenities were not built to code."
City inspectors said the Glashaus building's walls were not properly braced and "could come down during an earthquake;" stairways and ceilings didn't have proper fire ratings; ceilings, catwalks, and stairs could "collapse and trap occupants;" and the building didn't have a rear exit in case of emergency.
Mitchell Investments and Devine have agreed to pay $100,000 in civil penalties, with $75,000 stayed if either does not commit similar violations in the future. They will also pay $5,981 to cover investigation costs.
The violations brought to mind the "Ghost Ship" warehouse fire in San Francisco last December. That fire inside the warehouse-art gallery killed 36 people during a party.
"The code violations on this property could easily have led to a tragedy like the ‘Ghost Ship’ fire that claimed 36 lives last year in Oakland," City Attorney Mara W. Elliott said in a release. "Protecting the public is my highest priority, and I intend to haul into court any landlord who puts personal profits ahead of people’s lives."
All 36 victims died of smoke inhalation, according to the Alameda County coroner. Former Coronado High School student Nick Gomez-Hall and David Cline, cousin of 10News sports director Ben Higgins, were among those named as victims following the fire.