Sacramento Artist Collective Could Soon Shut Down for Safety Code Violations

SACRAMENTO -- "When I walked in I felt at home because I like things that have a patina of age, and you know, dust on it and..." said artist Leslie Thompson.

That same unfinished feeling that charmed Thompson into renting studio space at the historic Panama artist collective poses some serious safety concerns as far as the city of Sacramento is concerned.

"Yeah, but I have a door to the outside, and a lot of people don't, so I felt protected," Thompson said.

Code enforcement gave the 30 artists who rent studio space there 10 days to vacate over 13 safety violations. Among the violations, inadequate exits and signage, no permits for structural changes, unsafe electrical service equipment, faulty equipment or wiring, no potable water service and improper ventilation fans.

"It's just when that Ghost Ship event happened, I did reflect on our place and the similarities," Thompson said.

The code enforcement case was opened on Dec. 9, a week after 36 people were killed in Oakland's Ghost Ship Fire. That artist collective had similar code enforcement violations.

"I did not ask for permission to rehab the building, I didn't do that. That was 11 years ago. I probably wouldn't have received it anyway," said David De Camilla, owner of Panama Art Studios.

De Camilla says he thought he was doing the right thing by restoring a 103-year-old building and providing affordable working space for local artists.

"My view is that we provide a comfortable, safe working environment all the time," De Camilla said.

He says licensed contractors did all the work, and he's asking the city for more time to make the repairs.

Thompson is moving her pieces out one by one -- she won't be back. But she hopes other artists will.

"To lose that, to have that just disappear, I think it's a real shame," Thompson said.