Business Administration Education Guide

Monday, May 14, 2007

Profits Verses Art - When Strange & Beautiful Isn’t Legal.

Homelessness refers to the grungy, dirty and criminal like individuals that most of society tries to ignore. They are classified as only people who cannot or refuse to acquire permanent housing because they supposedly too drunk or on too many drugs to afford “safe” and or adequate shelter. Homelessness is an umbrella term that is used to classify anyone and everyone whom does not neatly fit into the boxed like definition of acceptable…much like most of today’s computer manufactured homes.

Berkeley artists built a Road Warrior / Beyond Thunderdome approach to a beehive of artists using 30 shipping containers. But as of today (May 14th) they have been forced to vacate. The ‘Shipyard’ artists began amassing the shipping containers about five years ago by stacking them two or three together on an industrial lot in West Berkeley. The containers were used for studios, performance art, welding, storage and occasional living quarters.

The Shipyard has been home to countless large-scale art projects & installations, events and alternative energy experimentation, including a Survival Research Labs show (2001), How To Destroy The Universe Festival (2004 & 2005) and Burning Man projects The Clock Works (2005), Neverwas Haul (2006) and The Mechabolic (2007).

But on Friday May 11th Berkeley's building and fire departments served The Shipyard, a group of several dozen Burning Man original creators, with a "cease and desist" order due to ongoing building and fire code violations, said Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief David Orth.

"We don't want to drive artists out of Berkeley. Their work is cool," Orth said. "But we can't have them living in shipping containers."

The artists, however, feel they've been trying to work with the city but Berkeley's codes are too stringent and expensive to comply with. Jim Mason the landowner has sent letters and has tried to work with city officials but contrary to what Deputy Fire Chief David Orth’s statement, city officials have offered little movement in expanding building codes from traditional structures. In addition to the contrary “we love art” declaration, the Fire Marshall maintained a get out or be fined ($2,500 per day) overload tyranny.

As San Francisco’s rent remains consistently high and rises, rent in Berkeley, CA can be just as repressive. The containers offer cheap and secure space for local artists, many of whom can't afford Berkeley's steep rental prices. Below are just two advertisements found at the popular Craig’s List website. Several advertisements were for summer sublets, over a thousand monthly rents and boarding home-style room rentals.

  • $1800 / 1br - A Must SEE CONDO in Gourmet Ghetto
  • $2495 / 2br - New Downtown Berkeley

This is a fight that has steadily been building steam. When the city denied them access to the electrical grid. Jim Mason responded by designing a solar power system so that The Shipyard produced all the energy it consumed. Than the city argued that the shipping containers were not safe, a weak argument at best.

One of the most interesting trends in the green building movement of today is utilizing old shipping containers. Jones Partners is an Architect who has received high acclaim for his “critical manipulation of technology” building design using shipping containers… and SG Blocks Inc has partnered with local shipyards in depleting the over abundance of shipping containers and making new homes in the Louis area. So the argument that shipping containers are not safe is an unstable argument.

In London, the government announced plans to build thousands of shipping container apartment / homes in the capital so public sector workers will not forced to move because of rising house prices. No news on rather this actually happened or not though.

Berkeley is an alternative cultural Mecca and everyone is wondering why would Berkeley city officials would evict what they on their own website promote as being a city that has “cultural diversity, art, beautiful parks, innovative businesses, and friendliness amongst neighbors.”

There are different theories as to why the city previously tolerated the Shipyard art community and than suddenly looked for reasons to evict the artists. One of the more popular beliefs is the upscale Berkeley Bowl supermarket near by.

"The boxes are a 'Road Warrior,' 'Waterworld' castle of steel," O'Hare a Shipyard artist said. "They're completely safe. But the city doesn't recognize them under the building code."

If Berkeley officials would have worked with artists instead of against the artists, both parties could have found the relationship mutually attractive. Berkeley should have given them a grant for being energy-efficient and attracting tourists to the area, while the artists would have gained not only additional funds for future projects but maintained a place to work and live.

With new development constantly bulldozing their way through historic and depressed areas, is high profile manufactured art the only acceptable art?

Creating Diamonds From Human Ashes

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