(CBS) – In the wake of the Oakland, Calif. tragedy, Chicago building inspectors say they will not be afraid to shut down artist warehouses that pose safety hazards.
CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker visited one of Chicago’s many artist colonies.
The first thing Mark Thomas wants you to know about his warehouse of artist studios in Avondale is that it’s outfitted with sprinklers.
In California, investigators concluded there were no sprinklers and numerous code violations at the warehouse in Oakland that caught fire over the weekend, killing dozens.
“It’s terrible to hear something like that happened. Reading the story brought tears to my eyes,” Thomas says.
Among the 33 who died, according to Oakland officials, some were living in the building illegally because it was zoned as a warehouse.
Chicago has similar zoning laws that prevent artists from living in commercially zoned buildings.
Thomas enforces those rules in the 35 studios he rents.
“I tell people … if you try living in the building you lose your security deposit. You lose your rent. You get thrown out,” he says.
Artist warehouses are popular in Chicago, and city building inspectors have responded to code violations. Just last year, the city shut down an illegally converted artist warehouse in Roscoe Village.
Walter Fydryck has rented a studio for nearly 10 years and has been a part of Chicago’s artist community for more than 40. He welcomes the city’s strict fire codes.
City officials ask the public to report any building violations.