By Janet Le, June 16, 2020
A group of recent graduates of UC Berkeley’s Department of City and Regional Planning have created a website for their studio project with Safer DIY Spaces, an Oakland-based non-profit that had emerged in the wake of the tragic 2016 Ghost Ship fire and is dedicated to preserving and protecting the 100+ do-it-yourself (DIY) spaces in Oakland that exist today. This new website, which shares individual stories of DIYers, helps Safer DIY Spaces raise awareness, apply for grants and funding, and communicate their work to stakeholders. The website was designed, built, and launched by Rachel Schten, an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley.
DIY Oakland: After the Fire
The Ghost Ship tragedy has raised concerns about Oakland’s industrial and warehouse DIY spaces, which are unique and affordable live-work spaces belonging to the community’s artists, makers, and other producers of culture. Due in part to the region’s affordable housing crisis, such cultural producers have ended up living and working in units that are often noncompliant with building, fire or zoning codes. Residents and workers of DIY spaces face a myriad of safety risks, as well as the threat of displacement.
In response to these issues, Master of City Planning (M.C.P.) students Anna Driscoll (M.C.P. ‘20), Lex Gelb (M.C.P. ‘20), Rachel Heydemann (M.C.P. ‘20), Natalie Koski-Karell (M.C.P. ‘20), Ella Mitchell (M.C.P. ‘20), and Andrew Nelson (M.C.P./M.S. ’19) embarked on a project exploring strategic planning for Oakland’s DIY spaces as part of the Fall 2019 Community Development Studio led by Jonathan Stern (BRIDGE Housing) and Tom Dolan (Thomas Dolan Architecture and Safer DIY Spaces Co-Founder), with Safer DIY Spaces acting as the client. Their project expanded on the efforts of former students participating in the Oakland Ghost Ship studio from 2017-18. Both studios were funded through a generous donation from Gregg and Laura Perloff to the College of Environmental Design.
The group’s culminating project advocates for sustainable live-work spaces through interviews with residents and workers of DIY spaces in Oakland, pro formas and financial strategies, market analysis, and collateral that elevates Safer DIY Spaces’ policy platform. The group also produced a 10-minute documentary (which can be viewed on their website) that captures the powerful voices of members of Oakland’s DIY community speaking about the changes they would like to see. There is also a section on their website that seeks to humanize the complex issues related to artist housing by focusing on the narratives of several individuals and their experiences.
This project will hopefully not only impact the future of Oakland’s DIY spaces but also inform other cities looking to preserve and expand their stock of live-work spaces.