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A popular art space in Barrio Logan is kicking out its resident artists at the end of the month.
San Diego fire marshal inspectors and city code enforcement last year found safety problems and code violations at The Glashaus, which houses several art studios and a gallery. City and fire officials told Matt Devine, the artist who holds the master lease at Glashaus, that the venue could no longer host public events due to fire safety concerns. La Bodega Gallery in Barrio Logan was also told it had to cap its capacity until it made required safety upgrades.
The crackdown came just weeks after the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland that killed 36 people, some of them artists who lived or worked in the space. Art venues housed in warehouses and other unconventional spaces in cities across the country saw similar crackdowns after the deadly fire.
Devine told me at the time that he just had to make a few fixes to get the place back up and running.
“There are a couple things fire officials requested that we do, so we’re just trying to be as code compliant and fire safe as we can,” he said.
Now, though, public records show that the case has been moved from the city’s code enforcement division to the city attorney’s office, which signals that not all the required improvements have been made and that the city could take legal action after it conducts an investigation.
Gerry Braun, the city attorney’s chief of staff, said the case is under investigation and details aren’t yet public. But he said that the city attorney code enforcement unit’s goal is to bring property owners into compliance.
“We have a vested interest in keeping as much rental property on the market as possible so our strategy is always to work with the property owner to get rental property up to code,” he said.
Braun also said his office has been receiving emails from arts supporters accusing it of serving The Glashaus’ artists with eviction notices. He said the office has yet to act on the case and that the city doesn’t have the ability to evict tenants.
The resident artists’ lease termination notices likely came from Devine. Both Devine and Mitchell Investments, the firm that owns the property, declined to comment.
The Glashaus is a cornerstone of the quickly growing arts district in Barrio Logan. The venue helped pave the way for the artistic renaissance of the neighborhood, which was recently recognized by the state as a cultural district.
But the building is zoned for manufacturing and industrial uses. Devine started building art studios, which eventually turned into two stories in one section inside the building, more than five years ago. And as the warehouse grew into an arts venue, neither Devine nor the property owner pulled all the needed permits or built things like fire exit doors, sprinklers and additional parking spaces needed to bring the new construction into compliance with city codes.
Fire Departments visits and fire safety checks, though, have occurred regularly for years, according to past and present Glashaus artist tenants I’ve talked to, and public records show a citizen complaint was filed with the city’s code enforcement division as early as January 2015. It’s not clear why the fire marshal and the city’s code enforcement division took until the end of 2016 to crack down on the venue.
The Fire Department did not respond to a request for comment.
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