What an amazing showing at the meeting of Ballard District Council last night, both in terms of numbers and the eloquence with which people told their stories. Over a dozen Lockhaven tenants were there, and everyone single one of us spoke up against the illegal attack on affordable housing. By the end of the Lockhaven tenants' testimonies, I had tears in my eyes. Thank you to all who spoke. Your direct and honest words made me proud to stand among you.
Equally heartening was the support we were given by Council members, including a woman (unfortunately I didn't get her name) from the Ballard Historical Society who offered to cede her time to us. Ramy Khalil, the campaign manager for Seattle City Council candidate Kshama Sawant came to the meeting specifically to lend his support to us. He used his time with the microphone not to stump for his candidate, but to speak up on behalf of Lockhaven residents. Thanks, Ramy!
Among those on hand to hear our message were City Council member Sally Bagshaw and State Representative Reuven Carlyle. Credit must also be given to the Lockhaven property manager, who showed up and said she was there to listen. We may be on opposite sides of this, but her presence there showed real courage. None of what we're doing should in any way be construed as a personal attack on her.
This is the one of the statements that was given at the meeting on behalf of our group, and also distributed to attendees:
The Lockhaven Apartments have for decades provided modest, affordable, well-maintained housing to a diverse community. Imagine a clean, decent place to live near the heart of Ballard that even a retired person living on Social Security could afford! Many residents have lived at Lockhaven for decades, cultivating friendships and gardens from which they freely share flowers and tomatoes with their neighbors. All the things that Seattle says it wants to be—affordable, sustainable, and diverse –the Lockhaven already is.
This summer the Lockhaven was sold to Goodman Real Estate, a company well known to local tenants’ rights activists for its pattern of clearing out existing tenants, doing slapdash renovations, and jacking up rents, The Downtowner Building in the ID being a prime example.
It didn't take long for it to become clear that this pattern would be continued at Lockhaven.
The new owners issued blatantly illegal 20-day vacate notices to tenants in three buildings, and also extended deceptive buy-out offers, both of which actions were blocked by the city. These setbacks have stopped neither their sloppy renovations, which have left us living in garbage and destruction, nor their plan to get rid of existing residents. It's clear that the city's sanctions mean nothing to Goodman Real Estate, a company that, according to its own website, has a market value of over $2.5 billion.
We've gotten far too used to hearing about our favorite coffee shop, bar, or bowling alley being closed so a developer can try to squeeze out a few more dollars per square foot. We've gotten far too used to that sickening feeling of inevitability as our city is reshaped by greed, with no regard for history, community, or economic diversity. We've gotten too used to the idea that it's OK to price out the elderly and the disadvantaged.
The message from developers like John Goodman to these people is "You don't belong here. This isn't your city anymore. Because there isn’t enough money in it for me." It's a message we have too long endorsed with our silent complicity.
We call on the city to provide better protections for tenants and for every citizen who believes that the human rights of the many should not be trumped by the property rights of the few.
Thank you for listening.(Because there was a question about this, a quick clarification that the message from John Goodman above is not a direct quote, but rather what he is saying through his actions.)