Doing the math on Oakland fire inspections
For the Ghost Ship artists' colony to have remained uninspected for 30 years, something would have to be seriously wrong with the management of the Oakland Fire Department's inspection system. Simple math tells the story.
Needless to say, the national media have identified their villain and moved on. But the local alternative free weekly, The East Bay Express, is asking questions about the management of the Fire Department that more established media remain indifferent to. Darwin BondGraham writes:
In fact, there are just six fire inspectors for the entire City of Oakland, left to investigate more than 4,200 commercial and residential properties each year[.]
A friend comments:
Let’s be generous. Assume that each of the inspector get 6 weeks of vacation, 10 holidays off and 5 sick days.
That’s 45 days off each year. There are 260 weekdays per year.
Subtract 45 days off that from 260 weekdays and that leaves 215 days each of the six inspectors are expected to show up for work.
Six inspectors times 215 days equals 1,290 workdays for the six inspector department each year.
If it takes half a day to inspect a building and prepare the necessary paperwork that means that the six inspectors should be able to inspect 2,580 buildings per year.
Every commercial and apartment building in Oakland could be inspected every 20 months.
Unless something is wrong…
My strong suspicion is that Oakland officials thought that artists' colonies should be left alone because they bring "urban pioneers" – i.e., gentrifiers – to a neighborhood. Pretty soon hip restaurants and coffee shops open, and housing values rise. As the artistic cachet of the neighborhood becomes more established, the poor current residents move out, either the victims of rising rents or as homeowners who cash out and move to somewhere else to enjoy their capital gains on the houses.
Either way, with rising rents or rising home prices, the City of Oakland benefits from rising tax revenues.
As a thought experiment, imagine if a private company neglected safety inspections in the name of its own profits, and that a horrible tragedy resulted. Do you think that there might be a wave of criticism, civil suits, or even criminal prosecution? Yet the mayor of Oakland demands that we don't "scapegoat" the city employees who let the deathtrap exist for 30 years with no interference from municipal officials charged with protecting the public against precisely what eventuated. People like Craig K. Chew, the assistant chief of inspectors, who made $362,211 in total compensation last year.
Where's the outrage?