A two-alarm fire broke out Thursday at 6 a.m. at a large, mixed-use warehouse space on Stevenson Street at the northern edge of the Mission, displacing 20 adults and one infant, as well as five dogs, two snakes and a bird.
All were able to escape the blaze, but the future of the offbeat, unique space that they called home is in jeopardy. It is situated near 14th Street between Mission and Valencia Streets.
“There were people who lived in this building for 20 to 30 years,” said one resident outside the building after the fire had been contained. “My unit fared okay, but it’s unlikely this building is going to be liveable going forward.”
Hours after the fire had been contained, the building, which contains the addresses 1441 to 1451 Stevenson Street, had black charring covering one corner of the building. Firefighters stacked debris in the street outside. Most of the 17,000 square-foot building’s windows had been smashed.
According to SFFD Information Officer Mindy Talmage, the fire caused $300,000 worth of property damage and $175,000 in damage to the building’s content.
Firefighters were on the scene and had contained the fire by 7:30 a.m. and were able to keep most of the damage to the southern side of the building. One officer was hospitalized after experiencing minor injuries to his knees.
The fire started in an uninhabited garage space that was in the process of being converted into a recording studio.
“We’re lucky we all got out, it’s not the most fire-sound building,” said resident Jason Lehrman, who described the 1907 converted warehouse as a bit maze-like with its untraditional live-work spaces.
The building is one of the few remaining of its type in the changing Mission. Among the six residential units in the large warehouse there are artist work-live spaces, a metal fabricator and a community center for underground yoga and recovering drug addicts. Designer Benny Gold had an office and small warehouse on the first floor.
“I don’t know what to do if it’s all damaged,” said Gold of the shelves of merchandizing housed in the warehouse. “Start over and figure it out… We still have merchandise in the store to sell.”
Musician Pauli Gray ran the community space the Koo Koo Factory in his studio space in unit 1449. The Facktory had housed rock performances, sessions of an underground yoga movement called yoga punx and been a meeting place for a 12-step program for recovering addicts.
“A lot of people loved this space,” said Colleen Donlon, a frequent visitor and nearby neighbor of the Koo Koo Factory. “It was this eclectic, beautiful space.”
At 10 a.m., the Red Cross assembled the residents and instructed that they would work to find everyone housing and would be providing meals throughout the day. As of publication, the agency only needed to find housing for four displaced residents. The other tenants were able to find shelter with friends or family.
After receiving the go-ahead from firefighters, residents were escorted into their apartments to get essentials, enough for a “long weekend” as Red Cross representative John Laxson described it. Most units appeared to have only some water and smoke damage. Gray emerged from his apartment wielding his guitar and a big smile. He gave an impromptu performance in the street.
“My thoughts were get my bird, then get my guitar,” said Gray who explained the instrument was a birthday present.
“This building is one of the last ones like it in the Mission,” Lehrman said. “It’s such a cool little community… I’m pretty sure I’ll never sleep in that place again…It’s such an old building, I’m surprised it hasn’t already been knocked down and converted into condos already.”