Herrera initiates legal action against teen party venue in Union Square tourist shooting
Demand letter to owner, operator of rental space alleges Fire Code violations, unlawful business practices in 'horrific incident'
SAN FRANCISCO (Aug. 13, 2010) -- City Attorney Dennis Herrera has taken a step toward suing the owner and operator of a Union Square venue where an illegal, overcrowded party for high school-aged youths last Sunday was marred by gunfire that injured two teens and took the life a German tourist.
Herrera's pre-litigation demand letter to Joseph Ursino, owner of the building at 414 Mason Street, and Curtis Matthews, who rented out the party space, alleges that the two face, "at a minimum, civil liability for violating the California Fire Code and for unlawful business practices." Such violations can be punishable by fines and penalties as well as disgorgement of all profits related to the unlawful conduct. The letter sent this morning acknowledges that the City Attorney's Office is also evaluating the potential liability of Labriette Collins, the event's promoter.
"Because of the tragic circumstances and grave public safety concerns surrounding the event and how you and others managed it, I will seek full legal redress to affirm public confidence in laws intended to protect the safety of San Francisco's residents and visitors," Herrera's letter states. "Vigorous enforcement of these laws is additionally essential to guarantee fair treatment to the vast majority of responsible entertainment business operators, who invest the care and expense necessary to abide by the law, and who comprise one of our City's most important economic sectors."
The demand letter follows an investigation Herrera launched immediately following the incident, according to the letter, in which accounts of the August 8 function "uniformly established that far in excess of the venue's 49-person occupancy limit attended the event," with published estimates of the number of attendees both inside and outside the event totaling 400 people.
The San Francisco Fire Department would have denied an application for a public assembly permit for the party, Herrera said, both because of the venue's occupancy restrictions and because fire exits were "patently unsafe for such a large public assembly." Herrera added: "As tragic as the circumstances surrounding this unlawful event were on the night of August 8, it is chilling to imagine how ghastly the consequences might have been had a fire or shooting, and its attendant panic, occurred inside the venue."
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