Over a decade ago, a friend of mine moved into a warehouse in Oakland. The first time I saw it, the warehouse was an echoing, cavernous space, empty except for a few lonely trucks parked inside and a 1950s office chair rigged up so that it hung like a chandelier from the ceiling-mounted crane system. You could use the crane controls to hoist the chair into the air, with yourself sitting in it, and zip back and forth across the warehouse with alarming speed. Which I did. “Truly,” I thought, “This is what Oprah meant when she said, ‘Live your best life.’”

Soon, the warehouse was filled with shipping containers stacked on top of each other, and the containers were filled with thrifted furniture, tool benches, and, in one case, a full kitchen, although I think most residents lived off takeout and microwave dinners.

Outside, the neighborhood felt empty — just rows of blank industrial buildings, gated condominium complexes, and big box stores. The warehomes, though, were their own small cities filled with drama and romance and gossip and art (mostly bad, sometimes good). The days when a young, broke person could rent in a walkable neighborhood with things like parks and porches were long gone, so the warehouses became people’s neighborhoods.