Background & Timeline
On Friday, December 2, 2016 at approximately 11:30 pm, a tragic fire took 36 lives at 1305 31st Ave, Oakland, CA, 94601. The fire broke out while an event was taking place in the unpermitted live-work space known as the Ghost Ship, a warehouse occupied by several artists. Those who died were performers, attendees, and a tenant.
Gray Area Foundation for the Arts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded by Josette Melchor, located in San Francisco, that has been involved in the greater Bay Area artist community for the last 10 years. In its previous incarnation, Gray Area itself was established and operated out of warehouses and alternative spaces. Further, those at Gray Area have deep, personal connections to many of the victims and the community impacted by the loss of life. In unhesitating response, the scale of the tragedy still unknown, Gray Area launched a fundraising campaign on YouCaring.com on Saturday, December 3, at approximately 10:00 am, to aid those affected.
Since the fire, Gray Area’s Executive Director and staff have donated their time to encourage contributions and ensure that the fund is distributed fairly and with compassion. In the days and weeks after December 2, 2016, those at Gray Area navigated an unexpected amount of attention and the brand new administrative needs of the fund management, as a more detailed picture of the tragedy and its impact came to light.
Critical information, such as the verified identities of the deceased individuals and displaced residents, was withheld by the City of Oakland, delaying Gray Area’s formal plans over a month. The Red Cross, who is accustomed to such work, began disbursements of the Oakland A’s relief fund on December 12, 2016, but key documents were not made available to Gray Area until January 2, a full 30 days after the fire. A system for collaboration with both traditional aid and grassroots organizations was — and continues to be — developed, and we selected appropriate staff and tools, began outreach to the affected, and continued to raise funds. Board approval (a necessary step for this non-profit organization) for the first round of disbursements came for the first time on January 19, 2017, and the program managers were able to begin allocations on January 25, 2017. Now that the distribution process is in motion, claims will be continually vetted through the end of March 2017. Review a detailed timeline of events by clicking below.