Deputies serve eviction notices to artists living in San Francisco warehouse

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The occupants of an artists' warehouse called the Bernal Haus in San Francisco were evicted on Wednesday.

It's one of the first court-ordered evictions since the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland.

Since the fire that killed 36 people, cities in the Bay Area have started cracking down on illegal warehouses without a real plan to relocate these tenants.

REPORT: Ghost Ship lease specified illegal use

The tenants knew this day was coming but now most of them will be sleeping on friends' couches while they try to figure out what to do. After the Oakland fire, many fear these kinds of evictions will be the new normal.

The locks were changed and sheriff deputies ordered everyone to leave the warehouse known by artists as the Bernal Haus in the city's Bernal Heights neighborhood.

"They want to change the locks and then we have to come back within 15 days for the rest," evicted tenant Nathan Cottam said.

Cottam and seven others living there packed most of their belongings.

The occupants, mostly artists, have always known the space was intended for commercial sue only. They claim the owner, Ron Erickson, knew people were living here.

"He's saying he had no idea people were living here. People have been living in this very building since about 2004," Cottam said.

But just days after the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, the owner notified the San Francisco fire and building departments.

The occupants quickly tried to make structural changes to ensure they'd be safe in the event of a fire. Still, because it wasn't zoned for residential use, they were told they could not stay.

In late February, they were ordered by the court to leave the warehouse.

RELATED: Warehouse owner hands down evictions to Oakland Salt Lick warehouse tenants

"How many more landlords are going to take this as a go-ahead to evict? How many artists are we going to lose? Are we talking hundreds of people being evicted," said tenants' rights activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca.

The owner sent a representative who was upset that they had not moved out completely.

Erickson never returned ABC7 News' request for an interview, but we confirmed that since 2001 he's been submitting applications to build a three to four-story 49-unit building through the Planning Department. It's been an ongoing project.

Cristian Bowie says these warehouses serve a purpose. "It makes it possible to not have to work so much to pay rent and to have the space to create," he said.

Housing advocates say the city has to do more to help warehouse tenants find somewhere affordable to live.

Click here for more stories about evictions in the Bay Area.
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.