The Shipyard Update (5-11-2007)

Here’s Les Young’s update on The Shipyard shut down situation:

As of now 5/11/07 1:00, on the third day of the three day warning, Jim has not received a response to his reply to Berkeley. The City has shut off the power, making the move and any possible repairs even more difficult. At this time, I have not heard anything about inspectors or police showing up.

This all began shortly after the Shipyard opened. The city was upset that shipping containers were being used as occupied spaces, thus subjecting them to the same criteria as a building. The problem is containers are built for efficiencies that are not easily converted to standard structural equations within the building code. Because the containers did not (and still don’t) meet certain structural codes and handicap accessibility codes, they shut off his power until he complied. The Shipyard’s response was to go off the grid; it did not go over well.

Eventually, agreements were made and the City gave them time to comply and go through a conditional use permit process. Those early meetings went very well and both sides were excited to start working together. Promises were made by the Shipyard and never lived up to within a reasonable time period. In Jim’s defense, I now realize that he did not fully understand the process that he was being asked to go through. In defense of the City, Jim can be pretty hard to deal with sometimes.

When Jim took over the space next door, one of the first things they did was move some containers onto the new lot. The next thing they did was remove a section of fire wall between the buildings. To the Fire Department, it is a MAJOR

NO-NO. When I spoke with the Deputy Fire Chief about it he said Jim’s attitude was one of “yes, I know it was illegal, but I did it anyway”. The City had finally had enough and drafted the May 8th letter.

We hit it hard and made every effort to produce a permit set. The structural engineer was critical to this effort, without one I could not submit for permit. The structural engineer spoke with Berkeley’s structural inspector about what she would be requiring of him. She said he would have to prove to her, with full calculations, that a shipping container meets or exceeds current building standards. She would not accept “alternative means and methods”, nor
other code standards such as ISO container design standards. She was very inflexible about this so our structural engineer gracefully backed out.

Given the long list of violations, and the time frames established to comply, there is no conceivable way that we will be able to find a structural engineer in ten days that can do the amount of calculations required within that time frame. The City is basically holding a gun to Jim’s head to make sure he follows through on his word this time and will only back off if they see significant progress. At first, we were willing to give it a go.

The real problem now is that one of the demands is to vacate the property until all of the work has been completed. Jim can be fined and possibly arrested if they don’t. Given that the main priority is the community and not the facility, Jim has decided to scatter the containers throughout the Bay Area. The work MUST continue, especially this year.

It is a shame that it had to come to this, especially in an area that is supposed to be liberal and tolerant. Its a shame that BOTH sides were not able to work together on this. Yes, at some point someone needs to analyze shipping containers. Maybe we can get a grant from FEMA, maybe we could get the engineering department at Berkeley to run the calculations on a super computer so no one ever has to go through this again. We have many other possible solutions, none of which can happen in ten days.

- Les Young