In wake of Oakland fire, artists forced to move out of Fashion District gallery

City cited Think Tank gallery for its unpermitted residential community

Mar.March 21, 2017 03:16 PM
Main floor at 939 Studio, John Kennamann (939 Studio/LinkedIn)

The Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship artist colony is having an impact on commercial spaces in Los Angeles.

Think Tank Gallery in the Fashion District was once home to 17 artists but all of them moved out following citations from city officials, which were part of an increased effort to ensure all properties are permitted for their uses. Now, the future of the gallery is uncertain, L.A. Weekly reported.

The gallery was illegally housing artists inside its warehouse space at 939 Maple Avenue and city officials finally cracked down on the building owners this year.

Jacob Patterson, Think Tank Gallery’s executive director, maintained the building was safe, especially compared with similar spaces in the city. And unlike Oakland’s Ghost Ship, its warehouse does have sprinklers, exit signs and fire extinguishers.

Owner John Kennamann hired a land-use management company to obtain a certificate of occupancy when the building was first cited in October 2015, but found the process difficult and expensive, according to L.A. Weekly.

The gallery was cited a second time early this year and the property owners had until February 13 to acquire a certificate of occupancy or have residents removed under threat of a criminal charges. All of the artists moved out by the end of the month.

Think Tank said it will need to raise its event prices to help pay off the sublease now that it is resident-free. Kennamann has converted the building into an event-only space under the name 939 Studio but is still unsure whether it will be enough to keep the company in business. It currently has 6,500 square feet of event space. As for Think Tank, it doesn’t have a physical space but is now a “roadshow,” according to its website.

More crackdowns are likely to follow since L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer assembled a warehouse task force along with building safety officials following the Oakland fire to aggressively monitor illegal-use commercial spaces. [LAW] — Subrina Hudson

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