The colony is one of the largest in the city’s history, but Paul Matiasic, a lawyer with five families, called it “insignificant.”
“There is no money in the world that can bring their loved ones back,” he told the East Bay Times. Its customers argued that the city was careless and should have labeled the building in red.
The city does not recognize any responsibility in the agreement but decided to settle because of the possible legal costs, according to the press release. The settlement does not include a dozen people who lived in the warehouse and were part of the lawsuit, lawyer Mary Alexander told the newspaper.
“These people are like victims of the forest fires, they had to run to save their lives through smoke and flame and lost their homes, many of them have been displaced for a long time,” said Alexander.
Main tenant charged
On December 2, 2016, a fire swept through the warehouse during an electronic music party. The industrial building had been illegally transformed into a residence for artists and a place of events.
The building was filled with furniture, extension cords and other flammable materials, but had only two exits and no smoke detectors, fire alarms or sprinklers, authorities said.
Prosecutors contend that Derick Almena, the main tenant of the warehouse lease, was criminally negligent when he converted and sublet the space. They charged him with 36 counts of manslaughter, but a judge declared a trial void last fall. His new trial is scheduled for October.
The fire killed many young people trapped on the illegally constructed second floor. Prosecutors said the victims had received no warnings and were unlikely to escape on a narrow, dilapidated staircase.
The cause of the fire has not been determined, although some trials have said that there were serious electrical problems with the building.
Almena’s lawyers argued that city workers were to blame for not raising concerns about the risk of warehouse fire. City officials said the building had not been inspected for three decades, and when inspectors visited the site in November 2016, they were unable to enter to investigate an illegal construction report.
Almena, imprisoned since 2017, was released earlier this year due to coronavirus problems after dozens of cases were reported in the facility where he was held. He is confined to his home.
Co-accused Max Harris was acquitted of manslaughter last year and no longer lives in the state.
The owner of the building, Chor Ng, was not charged with a crime.