News


City could shut down Hacker Dojo

Popular hangout for programmers faces big bill to meet city codes

City officials say that the popular classroom and open office space for computer programmers, Hacker Dojo, may be red-tagged and shut down on Jan. 31 if the non-profit does not meet some potentially pricey city code requirements.

The Dojo, which is used as an office and collaborative space by 300 programmers who pay a $100 monthly fee, has been open since late 2009. Until last fall, Dojo board members say city officials had been relatively permissive as the Dojo operated without building permits in an industrial garage space, and was welcomed by some officials as a sort of incubator for tech start-ups.

But Dojo directors admit that they didn't know much about city requirements when they picked the building at 140 S. Whisman Road and moved in.

"We had been trying to work with them," said the city's economics development director, Ellis Berns.

City officials have been saying, "You gotta start meeting the terms of the conditional use permit," he said, which required a fire alarm and building permits. Because those and other requirements weren't met, the permit expired.

"Then we learned not too long ago that they leased additional space," Berns said.

Last fall the Dojo was set to double in size, leasing a pair of 2,500-square-foot spaces next-door that were to be used for classes and work space.

"We were excited at that point," said David Weekly, one of the Dojo's directors, of the expansion. "It made us the largest hacker space in the world."

"We had a small celebration, but it wasn't a big, crazy celebration" Weekly said. "That kind of pushed them over the line. They were starting to see us as a commercial event space."

Then the city began stepping up the enforcement of its codes, he said.

Not wanting it to occupy more space without building permits, the city ordered the Dojo to vacate the new spaces, which the Dojo is now looking to sublet.

The city also began pressing for more codes to be met. Weekly rattled off what appear to be significant costs: $150,000 to make three bathrooms compliant with the American Disabilities Act, $130,000 for fire sprinklers, and potentially thousands more in building permit fees and other improvements.

The Dojo also lacks a required fire alarm, which could cost $15,000. Without one, city officials say they'll seek the closure of the Dojo by the end of the month.

"They want us to commit to a traffic study, build concrete walls around the dumpster and have the landlord re-slope the driveways," Weekly said.

City staff said that it hasn't been determined whether the building has adequate exits and parking.

"We were told we wouldn't have to install fire sprinklers and we could get a variance on ADA bathrooms -- basically we could continue to run the place as is," Weekly said. "They could exert some leniency, but they ran out of patience."

City officials say code enforcement officers saw the Dojo advertising events online that would exceed the Dojo's 49-person occupancy limit for a building without fire sprinklers.

"These are statewide building and fire codes we are implementing here," said Ellis Berns, saying that safety is the city's primary concern.

The Dojo has had to cancel numerous money-raising events and classes that easily attract more than 49 people. "Our membership is down considerably" without the classes, said Weekly. "We lost dozens of members. We had classes on machine learning and Android programming."

Also cancelled was a job fair in which employers and job seekers switch roles: programmers sit at tables presenting their work to potential employers who make the rounds.

"We've gotten dozens of people hired from these," Weekly said. The event brings in up to 150 people and "raises a good chunk of change. But we can't run it this year and these people can't get hired."

Weekly said that a former mayor and city staffers attended a previous job fair, despite the fire code violations. "They attended, they were huge fans," Weekly said. "This is all part of a feeling that the city has changed its mind" about the Dojo.

Berns has spent a lot of time speaking with Dojo directors about the issues, as it is his job to bring in and retain new businesses in the city. But Berns said it's nearly gotten to the point that "it's out of my hands, it goes to the code enforcement department."

City Attorney Jannie Quinn, who runs the city's code enforcement department, said that at the very least, the Dojo needs a fire alarm and to commit to a plan for obtaining building permits by the end of the month. The fire department and police department also may respond if there are more than 49 people in the building and "figure out whether or not to cite them or take some other enforcement action against them."

"They don't have permission to conduct the use that they are now," Quinn said. "They just didn't have planning approval or building permits to allow such a use."

City officials caution others who might find themselves in a pickle with the city when moving into a building.

"If they would have come into the city and said, 'Here's what were proposing to do,' we would say, 'Here's the kinds of things you need to do to comply with the building code,'" Berns said.

"We don't want to be in these situations, we want businesses to succeed," he said. "But we cannot compromise on health and safety. We are really encouraging them to move forward with this and to just get through this."

But with the pressure to meet all the other costly requirements, Weekly said the situation seemed "frustrating and hopeless."

Weekly said the Dojo has enough money -- $15,000 -- to put in fire alarms.

"We just wish they would take into account the reality of the situation," he said. "What I don't think they realize is this is a volunteer-run nonprofit. We don't have millions of dollars coming out of our ears because we are affiliated with numerous computer-related things."

Comments

Posted by Spaghetti Freddie, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm

"We just wish they would take into account the reality of the situation," he said. "What I don't think they realize is this is a volunteer-run nonprofit. We don't have millions of dollars coming out of our ears because we are affiliated with numerous computer-related things."

Don't insult the non-profit community like this, would be my first suggestion to the unfortunately named "Hacker Dojo." All over town are scores of non-profits, big and small, that manage to play by the rules. They are aware of the rules, as the hackers should be if they want to operate.

The city has been unbelieveably gracious to these people, risking some serious backlash if someone was hurt in a fire over there. It is incredibly nieve to "wish" the city would give them as much slack as they have, much less to expect even more. And don't have rager parties when the city is on you. That is how stupid frat boys behave.


Posted by Jeff Lindsay, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I think the keyword was volunteer, not non-profit. To build a community and operate a 24-hour facility for 300 members (many of which pay hardship or work-for-trade) and the general public to take classes, work on their startups, and enjoy likeminded company with no paid staff (until very recently) is quite a feat.

90% of businesses, for-profit or non-profit, will fail. The majority of non-profit businesses in the community have likely been around much longer and likely came from less humble beginnings. Hacker Dojo should not be shut down because of its early success.

The directors have been in discussions with the city from the very beginning. The city certainly has been more than gracious, although perhaps that was misleading of them.

That said, Hacker Dojo is not only going to spend what it can to start getting required renovations built out, but is also about to embark on a major fundraising campaign to either satisfy the rest of the expensive renovations ... or to find a better suited home (my guess would be a location already properly zoned, and perhaps not in Mountain View).


Posted by Erica Douglass, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Congratulations, California! Your onerous regulations contine to force small businesses out of business...or out of your state. I moved my business to Austin, TX, which is business-friendly (and also has a large hacker space.) I hope this sort of heavy-handed regulation continues to inspire more entrepreneurs to create jobs elsewhere.

Hope to see you in Austin!


Posted by Jon, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 26, 2012 at 4:58 pm

I am a dojo member. I think we have done (and continue to do) a lot of good for the community around us. Many of the dojo members have gotten together to start a program which teaches kids about programming and technology (we are especially interested in helping lower-income children). We have had jobs programs which have been very successful. The majority of our classes have been free and open to the public.

Also, to put things in perspective, the majority of the dojo is made of concrete warehouse rooms with a large roll-up door at one end (which is kept open during large events). If the concrete were to catch on fire somehow, people could just walk outside through the large open door (which is apparently too large to count as a "door" for code purposes).

I think the part which seems "frustrating and hopeless" is that the rules keep changing on us. We have been working very hard to comply with the cities wishes, but every time we get a solid plan to move forward, they add something new to the pile (without extending the deadline). For example, they now want a traffic study of the surrounding area, we have to install an ADA compliant shower (despite the fact that we don't really want anyone coming to the dojo to take a shower), they want us to install extra walls to divide up the rooms, and they are now asking to approve the layout of office furniture.

The fire alarm is being installed as we speak, and I think we could actually just barely pull off the rest of the improvements required without going under. But there is talk of moving out of mountain view because we feel like even if we do manage to raise enough money to make all of the improvements that the city wants, they will just change the game again and put us out of business permanently.


Posted by Zachary Hanna, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Former mt. View resident, (former) original dojo member

Just move it to Emeryville or Oakland, near public transportation (let's see - airport, check, BART, check, 24r transbay bus, check, ferry, check, plenty of taxis - check) , in an already zoned large space.
The rents are cheaper and they are much more business-friendly.
Don't put in any parking at all, except bike parking of course.

Join Nimby, ace monster toys, and the Crucible as a creative space up here :)

I'm only half kidding..as unfortunately the 'valley' is still somehow where most tech jobs are, though that seems to be shifting north to SF and the peninsula..

Maybe San Bruno or SSF would be more hospitable to innovation and job creation :)


Posted by Phil M, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Spaghetti Freddie sounds like a bitter ex-member.
I wish I had the money to fund you guys for years. :-\


Posted by Someone, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm

I happen to know a few of the commenters here and also happen to know that they know each other and are close friends. You can tell who they are by their negative comments. Don't let their group bully the city into not protecting its citizens by allowing Hacker Dojo to bypass these regulations. It's bad enough that this has gone on for so long. If they're making $100 per month from 300 citizens, they're making $30,000 a month, which amounts to $360,000 a year. That seems like enough to abide by the city regulations.

And shame on you few who know each other here, for trying to bash the city for wanting to protect its residents! I was supportive of you guys, until now. Shape up and abide by the regulations, or ship out. You're not above the law!


Posted by Jon, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 26, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Responding to "Someone"'s comment. It might seem like we are making that much a year, but several of our members are either work/trade or receive a hardship rate. We also have to pay rent, utilities, and various other costs. Membership has also been dropping because of the restrictions, which make it harder to afford these things.

We definitely want to make the improvements that the city is requiring (except for the shower... no idea why they want a shower). Safety is important. The problem is timing. They want over 300k worth of improvements finished in 2-3 months, and we don't have that much available in such a short timeframe. If we could stage it (sprinklers/fire system now) and ADA later in the year, then we could probably manage it.

The other problem is that we have repeatedly asked what the regulations are, and the answer keeps changing depending on who we talk to. It makes it hard to trust that if we put all of our money (plus what we would have to raise to cover the difference) into these improvements, that "new" regulations won't show up which still stop us from using the space (especially that is our current experience with them).

We are working to raise the money needed to make the improvements requested, and we have started on the improvements which we can afford at the moment. But, at the same time, we are seriously considering several other spaces (all in other towns) where there is less uncertainty. It is sad because I really like the space we have now.


Posted by Julian, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 9:30 pm

To Erica Douglass: ADA is a federal law. You have to deal with it too. And the rest pretty much come from national standards that CA has adopted.


Posted by Someone, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Jon, thank you for yor reply, but I'm just not buying it. It seems like the building codes are clearly documented and even on their website (Web Link).

They're not wanting you to make these changes in 2-3 months. You've had 2-3 YEARS to make the changes. Also, if you're going to use a building for any type of business, it's pretty much common sense to have it inspected first and make sure that you know any regulation violations. Any home or business owner should know this, and I know some of you are one or the other, or even both.

If Hacker Dojo has been running for 2+ years, you should have made ~$720,000. More than enough to abide by the regulations. Heck, we all know that Weekly alone can afford it, without making much of a dent in his piggy bank. It's not like you all are some poor victimized group.

The regulations are there to keep people safe. To keep your members safe. When you don't abide by the regulations, what you're saying to your members is that you don't care for their safety and their lives. That's very disrespectful to not only the city, but also YOUR MEMBERS.

It seems to me that you guys just want to start a flame war with the city to raise more awareness for Hacker Dojo. A bad way of gaining awareness for your cause! All you really are are bullies, not victims. You guys are old enough to be adults, start acting like it!


Posted by Someone, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:08 pm

"We had a small celebration, but it wasn't a big, crazy celebration" Weekly said. "That kind of pushed them over the line. They were starting to see us as a commercial event space."

kantrn
@dweekly @progrium I think our final estimate was 300-400.
6 hours ago
Source: Web Link


Posted by Anon, a resident of Castro City
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Wait, you guys think Weekly has any money?? Hahahaha.


Posted by Zachary Hanna, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:56 pm

What's disappointing is the already massive amounts of financial- and sweat- equity put into a building they don't own (HVAC, other construction, decoration, etc).. which would all be lost if the organization had to move.
However, at 300k+, it is of course understandable why they would be doing due diligence and investigating other facilities that already have such improvements, ADA compliance, etc.


Posted by DebbyDowner, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2012 at 11:01 pm

The idea of HD is great and in an ideal world I would like it to succeed.

What bothers me about this is the "we are special and the rules don't apply to us" vibe I'm getting here. Thinking that way is fine for some pursuits (coming up with fabulous new products no one thought they needed) but for running the nitty gritty of a business or non-profit you need people to work the system, not buck it. The mistake was having too many people of the latter mindset involved and not enough of the former. People who live to work the system probably could have prevented this.


Posted by ArchiGeek, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 27, 2012 at 12:02 am

I am a geek. It is one of the big factors that had me move 3500 miles to this area to begin my working life. I love the idea of the Hacker Dojo. I think a community space for sharing and learning is awesome.

As a geek, I understand codes. And this is a primarily a building code issue, pure and simple. It is important to realize that what Hacker Dojo is being asked to do has nothing to do with Mountain View. The building code is a state-wide law, and the model code upon which the California code is taken from has been adopted by every state in the nation. It would not matter if the Dojo is in Mountain View, Los Angeles, Nowhere Oklahoma or even in Texas. When you have a building occupied by a large number of people in a group, there are requirements in place to keep those occupants safe in the case of an emergency (fire, earthquake, etc). They are there for health and safety reasons, nothing more, nothing less. Every single business, non-profit, organization, religion, club, and more in America (and every other industrialized nation in the world) operates under building code rules.

I am surprised to see the city as being labeled unreasonable or inflexible, or as not wanting business (um, Google anyone?). That Hacker Dojo has been allowed to operate for two years under the deficiencies is actually very generous by the city. From my reading, the City wants you there, and is quite willing to work with you to get you up to snuff. None of this is hidden, all codes are available and published. A car manufacturer is not allowed to forgo seatbelts and install an underperforming brake system because they're just a startup company and are employing several hundred people. If you're designing a new router, you read and follow the IEEE documents – if you are using or building a space you read and follow the California Building Code and the Zoning Ordinances for the city.

I think the Dojo has brought a great benefit to the community, and I want it to continue to do so. Respect the codes as you'll have to everywhere, and you can easily continue to do so. I wish you success.


Posted by Jon, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 27, 2012 at 12:04 am

I don't think that there are any victims here, I am just expressing my personal frustration and trying to express the realities of the situation. I know the city is frustrated with us too, and it would be nice to find a way to work together to get this done. What they are asking for at this point just isn't possible in the timeframe that they want it done.

Our preference would be to get the building up to code in a reasonable period of time, but the bureaucratic pile-on that has happened the last 2 months is making it unworkable. Every time we come to the city with a new plan (drawn up by the person they asked us to hire), we find out that there is something new that we have to do before they will accept it (e.g. a traffic study).

As for having 2-3 years to make the improvements, the requirements have changed several times over that period (e.g. we were told we wouldn't need fire sprinklers before we moved in), and we have steadily been working on them (e.g. capacity signs, fire doors, etc...). We were even installing the fire alarms last fall when they ordered us to stop because of the expansion. Can you see why it is frustrating to have them say "Where are the fire alarms?" (which are being installed as I type this) after they ordered us to stop installing the fire alarms? I realize that this is the nature of bureaucracy (departments don't always agree/communicate), but it is still frustrating.

I am also not blaming the city. We did have discussions/inspections before we moved in, and I am sure that the things that they told us then were probably true for an organization of 20-30 members. We have grown much faster than anyone expected, and I am sure that is a big part of why the rules have changed, but I don't think shutting us down or forcing us to move is the answer.

I would personally like to stay in Mountain View, but we need some assurance that if we are able to raise the money and make these improvements, that the goal post won't be moved again. Otherwise, it just makes sense to move to a place where the zoning stuff is already in order so that we can focus on teaching/learning/creating.


Posted by Jon, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 27, 2012 at 1:12 am

In Response to DebbieDowner: I think you hit the nail on the head. We have recently hired someone to explain the regulations to us and to make sure we are doing things in a compliant manner, but we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble by realizing that sooner. Bureaucracy is something we suck at, and we definitely need someone who understands that language to help us.

In response to ArchiGeek: That is how we looked at it too, and that is the problem. We figured that if we just did what we were told to do, and kept working towards compliance, things would be ok... but there is a whole other layer of (undocumented) complexity and politics there that we didn't see/understand. As DebbieDowner was saying, you need someone who understands that game to play it for you.

Taking a building which isn't up to code and bringing it up to code is a process, not an instantaneous thing. First you fix one thing, and then another, and then another. What we didn't understand is that the city isn't a single person or department, it is a bunch of different people/departments with differing goals (and different ideas of what needs to be fixed first). We had a plan to get where we needed to go (including ADA) within the year, but what has happened in the last few months is that every time we interact with the city, a new person (with new goals) is brought into the conversation, and the end result is that everyone wants their pet cause first, which has resulted in the demand that we do everything at once... which isn't possible with our current financial situation.

There is also no end in sight to this pile on. If someone could just give us a list of the things we need to do, then we could just do them... but every time we submit a plan to move forward, we get a completely different list with different priorities.


Posted by Melissa, a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2012 at 8:03 am

I'm one of the original Hacker Dojo members, a Founding Director and the first Treasurer they ever had. I know how to navigate bureaucracy, but no one wanted to listen - they were too focused on community growth and refused to look at other aspects of the project/business. For a while, it was unclear whether the Dojo could even remain a nonprofit due to our growth model and fee structures.

Other people have tried to push for compliance with the city zoning and the overall tone that I felt was coming back was that the Dojo didn't need to comply. Sure, growth exploded so needs and zoning requirements did too, but there are basic rules and guidelines that we weren't in compliance with from day one - some of that owness is actually on the landlord for accepting a tenant that was not in compliance with city zoning but ultimately, it is a situation of buyer beware and I for one had no clue what I was doing in regards to all of that.

As for that roll-up door being an exit, there was one occasion where that roll-up door was literally padlocked shut and no one at the Dojo had the key.

Oh, and for the people with the shakey "they should have enough money by now" logic, for the first 6 months, the Dojo only had 80 people max and as said by others, many of those people were doing work-trade or hardship rates that were significantly lower than the standard $100/mo. The Dojo didn't have 100, steadily paying members until about 9 months or so in. The current membership rates of 250-300 members has been a slowly decelerating arc as community awareness of the space hits its peak.

I think the biggest issue here is that the Dojo didn't review zoning rules and req's before moving in. Hopefully they'll do better next time.


Posted by DebbyDowner, a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2012 at 9:42 am

Jon, I believe people there are trying their best to fix the problem and I also believe the bureaucracy sucks and is not entirely the fault of MTV. I think you explained the difficulties of the situation pretty well and in an appropriately dispassionate way.

David is maybe not the best person to speak to the media though - his quotes are the ones I'm getting the entitlement/emotional reaction vibe from. Maybe he was misquoted, but based on prior knowledge, I doubt it. If it had been explained the way you explained it, I think the tone could have been a lot different. Instead it just comes off as "We didn't do our homework, but we are cool people so why are people being mean to us?"


Posted by Z, a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I think the moving goal post is the biggest issue and causes the most bad tastes in the mouth. Compliance is one thing, but constantly changing requirements of what that compliance are is another story. Secondly, for the person saying they 'made $720k' ,well, maybe that amount flowed through but though I cannot speak for the dojo directors, I'd be hard pressed to believe there was much if any that didn't go directly towards costs, improvements, compliance, and a minute amount of reserves. This is how membership costs were kept so low and they were able to offer so many services.
I doubt anyone is trying to be a scofflaw here.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Not too familiar with the Hacker Dojo, but I am all too familiar with the city planning/building dept.
ADA compiant shower? Please! Traffic studies?! Their traffic is NOTHING compared to the gymnastics facility next door. Someone P-O'd city staff, and will now pay for their insolence.


Posted by Nick, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Perhaps the city is not-so-subtle in indicating that they'd rather have a tax-paying business in the space instead of a Hacker Dojo?

Seems like a few $10 smoke alarms from Home Depot could make it a safe space; not sure why it needs showers, updated parking lot, concrete around the dumpster, etc... Safety I can understand, but the rest shouldn't be required.


Posted by Jeff Lindsay, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 27, 2012 at 2:17 pm

It's true, there might be more blame on the city than they deserve. The nature of this community is heavily biased against bureaucracy. However, we've made a pretty strong effort to make progress with the city from the very beginning. Although we'd never opened a business in an improperly zoned building, we knew to go to the city and look into a change of use permit.

Yes, a fair amount of what we need to do we knew had to be done after the first few months. But our revenue then was below $8k/mo, so we tried to work with the city to see what was *really* important from a safety standpoint, with the intention of doing the rest as we could.

Now, perhaps what started a bad attitude towards the whole process was their understandable attempt to use this change of use event to bring every little thing into code. They looked at our building at said "you need x% of the *property* to be landscaping." Really?? So we worked with out landlord to see if we could improve that. And we did! In fact, we've been doing a lot of the things that we *can* do to bring everything up to code. But there is A LOT.

And yes, there's a lot we don't know, which you would think the city would be more helpful with. For example, one item on this long list was handicap parking. Hey, sounds reasonable! Talked to the landlord and it was easy enough to do. So we did it. Later when we went back to the city (which we do quite a lot), they said "oh, well you needed a permit before you could do that." Now we work with an architect that knows city code (because we can afford one now).

So while some of the codes are superficial, some are reasonable and required by state or fed laws but not necessary to maintain the health and safety of occupants, and some are very obviously for health / safety. It turns out the biggest cost ones are in the last category. However, there are different requirements for different levels of government. For example, in initial conversations with the city, they said "hey, we require sprinklers, but the state only requires a detection and alarm system. We'll cut you a break and not enforce our city requirements and let you get by with state level codes." Yes! Excellent! It's still expensive and a lot of work, but sounds good. Then with the expansion they came back and said, "Okay, nope, you need sprinklers. Now."

Anyway, my point is that I think our *frustration* with the city is reasonable, and it's hard to say whether it's frustration with Mountain View or any city government. But it's this frustration that leads to comments that sound like we're being victimized or that the city is screwing us. When we're told we need to spend money we don't have in order to keep operating, it *feels* like we're being screwed.

However, we have always made an effort to make progress. But we're also practical. We're not going to spend money we don't have before our business model is validated. Then we'd have gone through extra effort to raise money just to spend it, potentially for nothing, on top of what could be a failed venture. This is why we had to try and negotiate with the city or say we'd love to but we can't right now. And now we're reasonably validated, we're growing and doing pretty well. But that doesn't mean we can suddenly meet every requirement. Only in the last few months have been able to afford our first two employees.

Nevertheless, despite how hard it is to interact with and get a straight story, we believe the city *is* looking for progress and *does* want us here (we've never doubted that, but desires and actions are very different). Fire alarms are being installed as we speak, and we're looking at ways to raise money for the rest.

If I sound biased or frustrated, I am. And I also understand the city's side of the argument. But I'm glad we have Jon talking here because even though he's involved, he hasn't dealt directly with the city like I have. This seems to be how he's been able to not color things the way some of us have.

As a side note, none of us, not even David Weekly, are rolling in cash. Think of entrepreneurs as starving artists trying to make it big. Until they do, they are eating top ramen, keeping a tight budget, and giving up a social life. That's part of the reason why Hacker Dojo is here.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Gemello
on Jan 27, 2012 at 2:29 pm

If this building were occupied by real "Hackers" - you'd find ways to build and install your own sprinkler system, fire alarms and the like.

You'd also have educated yourselves on the law and know the requirements.

Sprinkler systems are pretty easy ... go figure it out.

Do the traffic study, find an example ... figure out the size of your events and type up the results. It might actually be useful to know how many parked cars you can support.

Quite moaning and get to work.


Posted by Jeff Lindsay, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 27, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Paul,

We certainly can do a lot of that, but it's not that easy. We already do a lot of our own improvements, and as I pointed out, we tried that with city requirements. But the city doesn't like that either. If we were to extend the effort to manually install a sprinkler system (and I think you under estimate the amount of work this is), it's possible we could miss something required by law and then end up having to pay a professional to do it right anyway.

And you're right. There is a lot of work involved here. On top of the work involved in non-city operations. On top of the work we might be doing for our respective jobs or startups. On top of any personal life left. As I tried to point out, we are certainly working at it.

If you'd like to help out in any way, let us know. :)


Posted by Aaron, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 27, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Can you get someone higher up in the city government to sign off on some kind of final contract that incorporates all the relevant departments' requirements, and that contains language saying it is the only and final set of requirements?


Posted by Gene Cavanaugh, a resident of Willowgate
on Jan 27, 2012 at 3:12 pm

I've never heard of Hacker Dojo, but it sounds like a good idea. I think, if the city is changing the requirements, or not making the requirements clear in advance, it is incompetence in some of the people involved, not nefariousness - and incompetence can be cured, if we insist they clean up their act.
As an IP attorney, I can say I sympathize. It often seems that people who don't completely understand the problem, but are carried away with their own "competence", over-simplify, or under-simplify, but almost never get it right.

Let me know if I can help, guys "genecavanaugh@gmail.com"
Gene


Posted by Someone, a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Jeff, it looks like Weekly has been holding out on you. He's listed on angel.co as an accredited U.S. investor (Web Link). To be an accredited U.S. investor, you must have a net worth of at least $1,000,000 or an annual income of $200,000 for at least two years with an expectation of continuing to earn this much.

Starving artists don't have a net worth that high or make that kind of income. Sorry to have to burst your bubble, Jeff.

Still, no one here has addressed the fact that you're using this as a very poor way of trying to gain more awareness for your business, Hacker Dojo. Huh, I wonder why?


Posted by Doctor Killjoy, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 27, 2012 at 9:54 pm

I had wanted at first to be a member of the Hacker Dojo, and use the space for a performance space for my animatronic robot...but $100 a month? Really?

Are you serious? With that kind of price tag, only the %1 kids with lots of disposable income can afford that, unless they're living off a trust fund, or mommy's or daddy's $$$$$. You do know this is 2012, don't you? If they can't meet the Fire Marshal's safety requirements, then they need to be closed down...period, end of story, kiddy geeks. Q.E.D.


Posted by kta, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 28, 2012 at 3:27 am

mountain view has some history of debating what to zone that parcel, given its nested between 2 highways and sort of an awkward location, the dojo seems like its perfect for that location and they are happy to be there

school/shared office space, which is what the dojo functions as, is a perfect use for that building, the numbers of visitors that have come and gone generates revenue, i hope they can open their buildings and continue to teach, get people jobs, and dedicate more to the community


Posted by Juan, a resident of North Whisman
on Jan 28, 2012 at 6:37 am

I am not a member of Hacker Dojo, but I am intrigued by the concept and consider it a shame for it to go. The city codes must be followed, though.

How about this idea:

Delayed deadlines (don't know how much time is needed) for the implementation of accessible bathrooms, fire sprinklers, etc but have them implement the less expensive codes. However, the building now would have to have visible warnings for visitors while while they are implementing it. This would be similar to buildings that have signs warning such as: "This building is built over a land that contains X thing that is known to cause cancer". A non-onerous fine could make this delay more fair.



Posted by NELLY CUERNAVACA, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jan 28, 2012 at 8:44 am

THE CITY OF MV IS OR HAS WORKED WITH WHO?
THE CITY ONLY WORKS WITH THOSE OF BIGGER POCKETS LIKE
GOOGLE, YAHOO, ETC, ETC,
CITY NEEDS MONEY SO WHY HD CAN EVEN DREAM OF GETTING RICHHERE IN MV. ONLY CITY DOES.
THE HOUSE ALWAYS WINS LET'S NOT FORGET THAT.


Posted by Old Ben, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 28, 2012 at 11:13 am

It'd be nice if the city applied the same rigorous standards to residential rental units. Apparently you could stick a refrigerator box on a vacant lot in this town, call it an "apartment", and rent it out for $1500/month.


Posted by Miller, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jan 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm

the city is going down hill fast with these people that run this town. been here all my life and these fools in city government haven't a clue what there doing. With all there meetings there running this town into the ground. Call these counsel members and vote them all out. Prices of rents are out of control. All in the name of google. GET REAL for a change. This city belongs to all the people not the stupid counsels.


Posted by ktb, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 28, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Traffic Study? Are you kidding? I assume these are state and federal requirements too?

Here is your traffic study: Pioneer - Dana intersection is a nightmare, no crosswalk, no street light

I see parents strolling with their kids across that intersection and I myself cross it with extreme caution on my bicycle.

Whos jurisdiction are these steets anyway? Highway? City? County?

You want to place the responsibility on the Hackerdojo to do this study, that's your job city.


Posted by Member, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 29, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Doctor Killjoy, I am one of the many people who benefit from the hardship scholarship at the Dojo, a deeply discounted membership rate. For a long time I couldn't even afford that, but was still welcomed at all of the events and classes that I attended. Almost everything at the Dojo is FREE and open to the PUBLIC. Membership is a way to say "Hey, you guys are awesome! I want to support this cause", not a requirement for inclusion.

I am absolutely in no way a "1% kid". I can't imagine the Dojo ever turning anyone who wanted to learn or create away. That's just not what its about.


Posted by Tyler, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 29, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I'm really sad. I just started coming to the dojo and I feel like I've finally found a home. Oh, I'm... I really hope that it doesn't close. I am kind of appalled by the lack of sympathy shown by some of the authors of some of these comments. I don't know the entire situation, therefore I don't know who is entirely to blame. However, I do know that I come here often. There are a lot of people who would be deeply affected by the Hacker Dojo's closing. At the very least, consider them when you start snubbing your noses at the maintainers of the Hacker Dojo. Also, anybody know why it needs a shower? Is it due to how large the space is or what?


Posted by Rossta, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 30, 2012 at 9:29 am

Rossta is a registered user.

I like the concept of the HD and would like to check it out at some point, though I am a hardware geek and not sure I would fit in. But, I am very involved in a non-profit and volunteer organization and would suggest that tapping into the volunteers is a possible solution to the problems. There is no reason to pay thousands to fix many of the violations when labor is one of the biggest costs - use your volunteers and recruit more to get the job done. Work with the landlord to help pay for upgrades that improve their property. I know many landlords willing to pay for materials on projects they approve if the tenant will do the work.

Why not waive fees for members that volunteer over 12 hours of labor in a month, or something like that? Some small token acknowledgement. Actively recruit people for this specific work?

Trying to talk the city out of enforcing the code is a waste of everyone's time. The code is there for good reason and needs to be followed for the safety of your membership.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm

@Jon
"If the concrete were to catch on fire somehow, people could just walk outside through the large open door"

As someone with an understanding of software, you should be well aware of "standards". And standards need to be met and maintained. You cannot simply state "this will never happen, so I don't need to handle it".

@Zachary - Oakland and Emeryville also have building codes. In fact every municipality in the US has them.

@Z

"I think the moving goal post is the biggest issue and causes the most bad tastes in the mouth"

Building code is documented and changes infrequently. It's available online. And if you get variances/exceptions/waivers from the city, if they are not in writing, they are not valid.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Since the Hacker Dojo is doing so much to benefit the tech community, why don't you ask the tech community for some help. Google certainly knows about building codes and also about working with the city of Mountain View. Why not ask them for some help?


Posted by Garrett Mace, a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2012 at 3:11 pm

While I'm not a Hacker Dojo member (Foster City is too far just to come hang out a few times a week), I've been to Hacker Dojo a number of times for various events (Super Happy Dev House etc). The fact that it could exist always amazed and delighted me, and I'm 100% behind the idea and know for a fact that it is a positive impact on the community and the world.

The sad fact: even non-profit businesses have to follow the rules, and have to break even. Allowing work for trade etc or hardship memberships might feel good, but probably isn't sustainable. And there is plenty of flammable material in the building; the giant wooden deck/loft and raised offices for example. I'm actually surprised to learn that there haven't been fire alarms from the start, and sort of assumed there would be sprinklers; the events I've attended have topped 300 people at times. Anything BUT a rager party...have you SEEN these events? Three hundred people staring into 300 laptops. As far from "frat party" as you can get. And that's why people go to Hacker Dojo...to meet other people who want to learn, generate ideas, and not wake up drunk in the street every morning.

Unfortunate as it may seem, the rules still need to be followed. And yes, absolutely, the *way* in which the rules are being enforced/waived/reinstated/yanked/expanded in this case does feel like a petty personal vendetta. The city is shooting itself in the foot if it makes it impossible for Hacker Dojo to follow the rules without going under. However, you can't argue with wanting to prevent a terrible fire accident.

Jim Newton of TechShop is aware of Hacker Dojo's plight (I heard about it from him actually). He's been through a lot of the same issues...he started a business that is based on people coming in off the street and using lethally powerful machine tools and stuff that actually generates white-hot flame in normal operation. Jeff Lindsay, if you're not already talking to Jim, I think you need to ask him for some tips. He might know what to do next.


Posted by Robert, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 30, 2012 at 3:57 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Posted by Garrett Mace, a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Robert, I agree that wheelchair accessible facilities are necessary and I'm sure Hacker Dojo wants to put them in as well. But I would hope that doesn't contribute to the closing of Hacker Dojo entirely, so that hundreds of other people can't use it either. An attitude of "I can't use it, so no one else should" is also a pretty revolting mindset that I hope doesn't apply to anyone here.


Posted by Concerned Demoncrat, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I am upset by how ill-informed and antagonistic our city's elderly citizens seem to be. Lay off the steady diet of fox news, and get some fresh air.

That said, I don't care about cripples! I want spaces to hack!


Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 30, 2012 at 6:16 pm

" I don't care about cripples! I want spaces to hack!"

Why not just keep using your mom's basement?


Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 30, 2012 at 9:56 pm

I've attended events at Hacker Dojo, and found them to be very beneficial. I'm not a programmer, but the grassroots enthusiasm and volunteerism is palpable, and a welcome change to the office place. Its places like these that serve as the nucleus for getting ideas and people together, and we should be encouraging, and supporting them.

That said, the building code is the building code and needs to be followed. As frustrating as it may seem, the building code exists for our safety. We would all have a different view of the City if something dangerous occurred at the facility, and the City had been laxed in its oversight.

I hope the City and Hacker Dojo can work through this and stay in Mountain View.


Posted by Angela Hey, a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2012 at 10:24 pm

The city could pay for the improvements - this is a place that gives a public benefit just like a school. There are 14,000 families with income over $100K in Mountain View - so to raise $500K is just $5 for each family with over $100K. That would cover the $300K and a little more to raise the funds and promote them.

The Dojo is an adult community that fosters learning without the formal structure of a college. Thinking of this as an incubator like Y Combinator is the wrong model. This is a resource where individuals, startup employees, corporate engineers and retired geeks can come to share knowledge and learn.

The town should step up to the plate and finance the place.


Posted by Jeff Lindsay, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 31, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Hey guys, Concerned Democrat, Steve and others,

I know you guys feel strongly, but to me it seems the way you're using this comment thread is starting to not help either cause.

In fact, while many of us are frustrated with this process, we certainly don't think we're above the law or the codes. We are still continuing to work with the city. We're still going to have to raise several hundred thousand dollars, but we're going to see how well that goes before we start getting really desperate.

Also! Everybody participating here is welcome to our monthly member meetings to continue this discussion. The next one is on Feb 8 at Hacker Dojo. It is normally member attended, although we allow anybody around to join in. However, it's not "open to the public", so we should be well below our current capacity limitation.


Posted by Andrea Gemmet, Mountain View Voice Editor
on Feb 2, 2012 at 10:53 am

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

The following comment has been moved from a duplicate thread, which is now closed:

Government regulators go away... go away... take your pension and go away Everyone who enters the hacker space can sign a waiver A big sign can be put up that says this building can burn down..... 99guspuppet
by 99guspuppet Feb 2, 2012 at 8:22 am


Posted by Observer, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Angela Hey:

Go away with your ideas of taxing $5 for every household with an income over $100,000. Why should I pay for it if I don't use it. I could think of 100 other causes I'd like to donate to. Go ask Google for the money.


Posted by EME, a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I've been to Hacker Dojo a few times but I am not willing to pay $100/month because I won't be using this facility that much. IMO a small group of people are extensively using this facility but they expect all the members to pick up the tab. I think Dojo needs to lower the basic membership fee and start charging for reserving conference rooms etc. The event organizers should in turn charge the attendees.


Posted by Chance, a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 16, 2012 at 1:09 am

Public safety employees among highest paid in Palo Alto: Web Link


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