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City and fire officials shut down The Glashaus in Barrio Logan last month due to code compliance and fire safety issues related to illegal construction inside the arts venue. Now, the artists who had studios there are struggling to find a place to go.
The Glashaus opened as an arts venue back in 2009. It’s since hosted dozens of high-profile, highly publicized events. So why did officials take nearly a decade to shut it down?
San Diego Fire Marshal Doug Perry said the property at 1815 Main St. has been on fire inspectors’ radar since it opened. He said the fire department worked with The Glashaus master lease holder Matt Devine on fire safety for years trying to bring the construction into compliance.
Yet Perry now says it should not have taken as long as it did to shut the venue down.
“Some of these issues were missed by the inspections, and that’s the human error factor of it,” Perry said. “We will do better training of our staff so they don’t miss these things in the future.”
Perry said a fire inspector made a note of illegal construction inside the building in 2009, but that Devine told the inspector he was working on getting the permits and making necessary fire safety upgrades. None of the art studios built inside the venue were properly permitted or up to fire safety standards, although sprinklers and other safety upgrades were added over the years.
Fire inspectors didn’t return to the property again until 2013. Perry said budget cuts stemming from the economic downturn in 2008 slowed inspections citywide. The building is zoned manufacturing and industrial use, but Devine told the fire department he was working on permits to change its legal use.
“We took some risk to allow them to continue to work there,” Perry said. “But there was an assessment that was made by all the players involved and we felt we could give the owners time to fix the problems.”
Fire inspectors didn’t report the illegal construction to the city’s code enforcement division until the end of 2014. Perry said the fire department always tries to work with property owners first to get them into compliance before escalating the issue, but that the department let this one drag on too long.
“We worked with them as much as we possibly could for as long as we possibly could,” Perry said. “But we couldn’t find a way to make the building work and be code-compliant … I wished we would have pushed harder when we noticed there was unpermitted construction in there. I wish we would have moved faster and moved it over to code enforcement sooner.”
One of the problems with the slow approach is that the nearly two dozen artists paying rent to work in the studios were left in the dark. They weren’t made aware of how pressing the problems were until early August, when Devine told them to vacate their spaces within 30 days. The city then demanded that locks be quickly removed from all studio doors while the artists were in the middle of moving out, which led to security concerns. And Glashaus artists like Kathleen Mitchell and Doreen Mellen were told they had to immediately stop firing their kilns, which led to unexpected lost income.
A complaint filed by the city attorney’s office against Devine and Mitchell Investments, the investment firm that owns the building, notes that if the tenants stayed in the building, it would “result in irreparable injury to the health, safety and welfare of the occupants and the citizens of the city of San Diego.”
Mellen wonders why those grave concerns were never communicated to tenants.
“Why, all the sudden, was this such a serious problem?” asked Mellen, who had her ceramics studio at The Glashaus for six years. “There’s been no transparency.”
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
Culture Clash at Chicano Park, Tweaking the City’s New Arts Funding Process and Other Culture News
• Hundreds of people showed up to Chicano Park Sunday to counter a small event organized by what the L.A. Times called a far-right activist group. The group also launched an email campaign to get some of the park’s murals removed. One of the group’s members called the murals “anti-police and anti-American.” Dozens of speakers spoke in support of the park and its murals, many pointing to the cultural and historical significance of the space and how it’s become a symbol of community and Latino activism.
• The San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition sent a letter to city’s Commission for Arts And Culture late last month expressing concerns about the city’s new process for funding arts and culture nonprofits. The group said a committee tasked with looking into the issue came up with two proposed fixes: reintroducing the option for a shorter application that would bypass the panel review process for returning organizations that qualify, and reinstating an appeals process for groups denied funding. The coalition is inviting folks to show up to the commission’s next public meeting at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 15, to support the proposed changes.
• See the epic results of five years of work by San Diego artist Michael Carini. (Union-Tribune)
• Encinitas’s Merrick Hanna is robot-dancing his way to fame on “America’s Got Talent.” (The Coast News Group)
• La Jolla Playhouse announced the full lineup for its Without Walls Festival of immersive and site-based theater and art. The 2017 WOW Festival is happening Oct. 19-22 in downtown San Diego and surrounding neighborhoods.
• “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA” is a massive arts undertaking focusing on Latin American and Latino art. It’s happening at venues throughout Southern California from September through January. A work of art by Tijuana artist Omar Pimienta that will be part of an exhibition opening at the Oceanside Museum of Art has already been dubbed one of the six most controversial artworks showing as part of “Pacific Standard Time.” (Vix)
• Quint Gallery, by the way, is participating in “Pacific Standard Time” with a new exhibition opening Saturday.
• Artists Einar and Jamex de la Torre are featured in KPBS’s My First Day podcast.
• The New Children’s Museum scored its first California Humanities “Humanities for All” grant, allowing the organization to fund a project that will engage communities from San Ysidro to La Jolla.
• San Diego-based novelist Susan Vreeland died on Aug. 23. (New York Times)
• An ambitious pop-up feminist exhibition in North Park will feature art that focuses on the “overwhelming number of women graduating from college compared to men.”
• Get to know more about the photographer and Padres super fan behind People of Petco Park Instagram account. Also, check out these stunning photos of black San Diegans by photographer Alanna Airitam. (CityBeat)
• A local artists and former foster care kid is part of a collective that has launched a new arts program for 16- to 24-year-olds who are transitioning out of the foster care system.
• A must-see exhibition at the Oceanside Museum of Art features works and other interesting things from the personal collection of Disneyland designer Rolly Crump, who lives in Carlsbad. (Los Angeles Magazine)
• See the work of eight artists who “creatively examine the continuing devastation of our local flora and fauna.”
• A new outdoor film series is launching at Las Americas Premium Outlets in San Ysidro.
• Learn more about the Vista arts group The Backfence Society and its Alley Art Festival event happening this weekend.
• The annual Horrible Imaginings Film Festival is happening Friday through Sunday. (CityBeat)
Beer, Booze, Weed and Food News
• For $18, you can drink a cocktail infused with cannabidiol oil. (San Diego Magazine)
• A young local chef is holding her own in a prestigious cooking competition. (Union-Tribune)
• San Diego’s Ballast Point, the craft beer brand purchased for $1 billion Constellation Brands corporation, will not be donning this new independent craft brewer seal made by The Brewers Association. (Los Angeles Times)
• Fresh octopus tostadas are one of the three things this local designer loved about his recent trip to downtown Tijuana.
• San Diego Farm to Fork Week, an event meant to celebrate locally grown food, is happening Sept. 9-17. (SanDiegoVille)
• Modern Times Beer is growing yet again. (Reader)
• Apparently, this horchata shake with churro bites is worth the irresponsible calorie consumption. (San Diego Magazine)
• The recently closed MishMash restaurant in Barrio Logan is set to reopen soon at a new address in the neighborhood. (Eater)