City shuts down ‘fire trap’ artist studio in Barrio Logan

SAN DIEGO -- A rickety Barrio Logan warehouse building that was converted into an artists studio will be shut down for repairs after a legal settlement was approved Wednesday.

The San Diego City Attorney's Office described the Glashaus building at 1815 Main St. as a "fire trap" and "an immediate threat to the health and safety of the artists and the public." The warehouse was converted into 21 spaces for artists without the required building, electrical, or plumbing permits in violation of local building laws, city prosecutors said.

"The code violations on this property could easily have led to a tragedy like the 'Ghost Ship' fire that claimed 36 lives last year in Oakland," City Attorney Mara Elliott said. "Protecting the public is my highest priority, and I intend to haul into court any landlord who puts personal profits ahead of people's lives."

City officials said walls in the building were not braced properly and could come down during an earthquake; stairways and ceilings did not have the required fire ratings, creating a risk that a fire would spread quickly; ceilings, catwalks and stairs could collapse and trap the occupants inside; and the structure lacked a rear exit door through which trapped occupants could escape.

Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil signed a settlement requiring that building owner Mitchell Investments Inc. and the tenant, artist Matthew Devine, cease use of the building until the violations are corrected. Devine sublet the property to local artists, who worked at and sold their works from their studios.

The city prosecutors said Devine hired architects, began working on plans and consulted with municipal officials, but never obtained the necessary permits or remedied the violations.

Mitchell Investments and Devine agreed to pay $100,000 in fines -- with $75,000 stayed unless similar violations are found in the future -- and pay the city nearly $6,000 to cover investigative costs.

Devine and the other artists were vacating the property, according to the city.