Dear distinguished luminaries of the Seattle media,
David Stoesz of the Lockhaven Tenants Union here.
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. It's also home to tenants with Section 8 vouchers, and is one of the few places low-income tenants can afford to rent. This summer 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.
In September, Goodman Real Estate 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.
So who's behind Goodman Real Estate? The founder and chairman of Goodman Real Estate is one John Goodman. Lockhaven is now managed by Pinnacle Family of Companies. Founder and chairman of the board of Pinnacle: John Goodman. Mr. Goodman should know better. He is a native Ballardite and a graduate of Ballard High School.
And yet what he says with his actions to elderly and disadvantaged tenants 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.
Goodman Real Estate has 2.5 billion dollars. We, the Lockhaven Tenants Union, have a Facebook page, a blog, and the scant free time of busy working people trying to preserve their community. And yet we have had remarkable success in getting our story told. We have had stories on KOMO, KIRO, Q13 Fox, My Ballard blog, Real Change, the Ballard News-Tribune, and other outlets. Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant have provided invaluable support and guidance.
But we need more. All the tenants of Seattle need more. This is not a passing human interest story. This is part of a bigger pattern. We need the continued interest of the media to look into John Goodman and other developers who get millions in tax breaks to construct "affordable housing" while destroying the affordable housing that already exists. We need 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.
Below you will find a letter we sent to John Goodman last week. In this letter we call on him to reverse course and partner with us to find a better way forward. John Goodman stands at a fork in the road. One way leads to the destruction of a beautiful urban community and the continued economic homogenization of the city. The other leads to a new vision for housing that preserves both legitimate profit and the good of the community. He has a chance to be a hero here. To be clear, we want him to be a hero, and would love to help him build a reputation as a housing visionary.
Please help us hold him accountable for the road he chooses.
Under this, I included the letter we sent to John Goodman.