Thursday, February 27, 2014

YELP against gentrification!

Our friends at the Tenants Union of Washington State have organized this fantastic action you can easily be part of. From their site:
The Lockhaven Tenants Union and Theodora Rescue Committee are asking for your solidarity in their fight against displacement by developer Goodman Real Estate. They are asking supporters to post reviews on the Lockhaven and the Viktoria (another building Goodman Real Estate is trying to fill) that may include points about Goodman Real Estate's practices such as these: 
  • Paying rent to Goodman Real Estate is contributing to the gentrification of Seattle. Goodman Real Estate is gentrifying Seattle by issuing massive rent increases and displacing working people and seniors all over the city
  • John Goodman is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  Why are you paying so much rent from someone who doesn’t need the money?
  • Goodman Real Estate is making this city increasingly unaffordable by making cosmetic renovations to justify rent hikes in what was once affordable housing. Take a closer look at those renovations--how “luxurious” are they really?

Why YELP? You help tenants organizing to win affordability by shining the light on Goodman Real Estate's predatory habits, such as...

Pushing tenants out of Ballard: Goodman Real Estate purchased the Lockhaven Apartments, a 138 unit building in Ballard, in September 2013. The Lockhaven was market-rate affordable housing for working folks, seniors, and tenants with Section 8 vouchers. After Goodman Real Estate attempted to illegally evict tenants without relocation assistance, tenants have been organizing for five months asking Goodman Real Estate to keep rents affordable for the current tenants that live there. As of this writing, Goodman Real Estate has not put a single proposal forward to keep part or all of Lockhaven affordable, and plans to cosmetically renovate the  building, and raise the rent by as much as $700. In April, 6 buildings of tenants will be displaced.

Pushing tenants out of Ravenna: Goodman Real Estate has entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the Volunteers of America to purchase and redevelop one of the few remaining HUD Section 202 buildings left in Seattle. The tenants have formed the Theodora Rescue Committee to save their building. 

Pushed tenants out of the International District: Goodman Real Estate purchased the Downtowner, a 240-unit building that once had a HUD rent supplement contract. The Tenants Union of WA supported tenants in a campaign to get the federal government to fund vouchers for tenants covered by the rent supplement contract. Goodman Real Estate used low-income housing tax credits to rehabilitate the building, dubbed it the “Addison on Fourth”  and then raised the rents beyond the payment standard for tenants with vouchers. Only a handful of the original tenants at the Downtowner remain in their homes.  

“Goodman’s talents lie in carefully identifying and quickly purchasing distressed, underperforming or mismanaged properties. We reposition them…”
 - Goodman Real Estate Informational Video. "Repositioning" "underperforming" apartments is code for raising the rents in affordable housing!

Post a review on Yelp about Goodman Real Estate's gentrifying practices today! Click HERE to post to the Lockhaven Apartments page, and HERE to post to the Viktoria page. 

Poison at Lockhaven: An update

On February 12, 2014, the Lockhaven Apartment were visited by Will Perry, Health & Environmental Investigator II, of the King County Public Health department. Mr. Perry's visit came the day after a visit by Bob Angeline, a Washington Department of Commerce Lead-based Paint Compliance & Enforcement Specialist, that was reported earlier. As a result of the February 11 visit by Mr. Angeline GRE Lockhaven's contractors began complying with the lead hazard signage and containment standards. There was a noticeable difference in the workers' efforts to contain and clean hazardous materials released by their work. Nevertheless, according to the results I received today, two of the four samples Mr. Perry collected in or near 3053 NW 56th St. tested positive for lead levels exceeding US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule lead standards.

A surface dust sample collected in the stairwell at the back door of 3053 #1 contained a lead level of 62.0 µg/ft2, more than 50% higher than the EPA standard of 40 µg/ft2. A second dust sample collected from the opposite side stairwell also contained measurable lead, 26.0 µg/ft2.  A paint chip sample collected outside near the front, courtyard entrance tested positive for lead 1.1%, more than 100% higher than the EPA standard of 0.5%. The only sample that did not contain measurable lead was a dust sample collected from the kitchen floor of one of the occupied apartments.

Now, don't forget, these results came from samples collected only after GRE Lockhaven's contractors started doing their job properly and complying with the law following a visit by Mr. Angeline. Renovation work has been going on at Lockhaven for months with no regulatory oversight and inquiring minds want to know what kinds of toxic exposures resulted from that?

If you are concerned about your exposure to lead as a result of work at Lockhaven and wonder whether you or your family need lead blood testing you may call Will Perry at 206-263-8477. There is no safe lead level for anyone but lead is especially hazardous to children. If you see ongoing work that you think may be resulting in the release of lead or asbestos then please contact one or more of the following agencies:

Washington State Department of Commerce
Tel.: (360) 586-5323
See also:

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency
Tel.: (206) 689-4058
You can also make a complaint online.
See also:

Lead and Asbestos
King County Public Health Department
Tel.: 206-263-8899
See also: and

Friday, February 21, 2014

Press conference a stunning success

Yesterday's press conference was a triumph.

We have already gotten coverage in the following outlets:
A lot came out of this conference. Nick Licata, who helped organize this event and has been a tireless champion of LTU, took to his Facebook page to tell his constituents about  Lockhaven highlight the need for legislative reform at the state level:

This morning, the Lockhaven Tenants Union (LTU) held a press conference to preserve affordable housing in their 138 unit apartment complex in light of a new owner planning to make improvements and increase rents on average from $900 to $1,500.
I attended in support of LTU’s efforts to convince the new owner, GRE, to keep a number of their units affordable to the tenants who are low income.
Unfortunately the state legislature has denied Seattle the right to control or moderate market rental rates. I believe the City Council must address the concerns of the many renters that are being displaced by rising rents.
In the My Ballard account, reader comments have been directed at the perpetrator of Lockhaven's destruction, John Goodman. One reader draws attention to the nature of John Goodman's private residence, just up the street from Lockhaven:
Yes, Goodman owns what used to be Azteca and converted it, against the intent of the Shoreline Management Act…but he is cozy with the City….to non-public access by claiming it also serves as a marina. You will occasionally see a “yachts wanted to moor” sign near the gate. Beyond shady in his real estate practices
This clearly shows how John Goodman is doing damage to his reputation right here in his own neighborhood. We still believe it's possible for John Goodman to be the hero here. But if he goes forward with his plan to destroy Lockhaven and displace its residents, this damage will last much longer than the fancy-colored sidewall he's installing. 
Congratulations to all who worked so hard to make this event happen. No matter what happens, we are winning. We are getting the word out. The world will know what is being perpetrated in our community. Those responsible are not getting away with it. They're being named publically. We have become an example of how to fight back and regain our dignity and community. In some form or another, we will be a permanent part of the effort to fight for housing justice.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Press conference tomorrow!

Tenants at the Lockhaven Apartments in Ballard call on developers to keep homes affordable in face of imminent eviction.
WHEN: Thursday, February 20th at 8:30 AM.
WHO: Tenants of the Lockhaven Apartments; Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata, Joshua Koritz, representing Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant; Sharon Lee, Executive Director of the Low Income Housing Institute (to be confirmed). 
WHAT: Tenants facing displacement after the Lockhaven’s sale to Goodman Real Estate will hold a press conference at the Lockhaven Apartments, speaking about their 6-month struggle to save their homes and their plans for future action to maintain Lockhaven as one of Ballard's last bastions of market-rate affordable housing for workers, seniors, and people with disabilities.
WHERE: Lockhaven Apartments in Ballard, near the flagpole just east of 3038 NW Market St., Seattle, WA 98107
The Lockhaven Tenants Union is made up of Lockhaven residents, former tenants, and supporters working to save the historic 138-unit complex as affordable, market-rate housing in Ballard. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Poison at Lockhaven

The photo above is from the main, common entry way to a Lockhaven building where five of seven apartments are still occupied, including one by a family with a toddler.
For months tenants of the Lockhaven Apartments have expressed concerns about our possible exposure to lead and asbestos due to ongoing work on the property and in our buildings. To date, the response of Lockhaven's owners* and the on-site manager, Anissa Olberg, has been to essentially stonewall residents. Although, in a meeting with Lockhaven owners, John Goodman and George Petrie, the two men did indicate that: "The property [Lockhaven] is unsafe with asbestos and lead throughout the complex and lead inside the apartments." This is according to notes provided by Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata's office of the January 6, 2014, meeting.

Despite the acknowledgement of the prevalence of these two known toxins at Lockhaven there was no mention of this when residents were notified on January 31, 2014, that "our contractors will begin demo[lition] and framework for several vacant units." Nor was there any mention of steps residents could take to protect themselves and their children from hazardous exposure to asbestos and lead.

The photo above was taken on February 12, the day after a visit by a Washington Department of Commerce Lead-based Paint Compliance & Enforcement Specialist. Before that, there was no signage and dust was tracked through common areas of the building and made its way onto a door and windows with no clean up. After the inspection dust containment and clean-up improved but the contractor and Lockhaven's owners have still not provided tenants with a lead hazard information pamphlet.

Regarding asbestos, the law requires that an AHERA-certified inspection for asbestos be undertaken before renovation commences and according to Section 4.02 of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency's Regulation III, "A summary of the results of the asbestos survey shall either be posted by the property owner or the owner's agent at the work site or communicated in writing to all persons who may come into contact with the material." As of this writing, no such summary has been provided to Lockhaven residents despite repeated requests for information about the lead and asbestos at Lockhaven.

 * Lockhaven's owners are: John Goodman, George Petrie, John Harle, Matt Parent, Josh Obendorf, Tom Eyler, Kelli Jo Norris, and Donol Fosseen.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Follow-up to KIRO story

George Petrie: False statements to KIRO last night

Tenants Union of Washington State member and tireless LTU ally Stina Janssen has written to some of our City Council allies to correct the misstatements of George Petrie. Her letter reads in part:

Last night, KIRO News reported on the displacement, rent increases, and negotiations at Lockhaven.
Many thanks to Councilmember Licata for interviewing for the segment.
We did want to point out an inconsistency we noticed: when Mr. Petrie of GRE met with the tenants in early January, he said by GRE's projections, only 27% of current Lockhaven residents would be able to afford the new rents, or just under under 1/3 of current residents.
In the news segment, he stated that only 1/3 of residents would not be able to afford the increased rent, indicating 2/3 would still be able to afford the new rents (in direct contradiction to his earlier assertion that under 1/3 of residents could afford the new rents). Unfortunately, he switched his own numbers, a significant error.

KIRO covers Lockhaven (again)

LTU stalwart Susan Hernandez did a terrific job talking to KIRO TV for this story that aired yesterday. The story is a mixed bag. We are certainly grateful for the coverage, but it's frustrating how essentially the same story keeps getting reported by the media: Rents are rising, the neighborhood is changing, tenants are unhappy. In fact KIRO itself did basically the same story on Lockhaven just a few months ago.

It would be great if the local media would remember what it's already reported, and not continue to cover this as an isolated, one-off story. Instead, we need a deeper look at what's happening to our city, and how we are allowing Seattle to be re-made to allow developers to suck as many dollars out of their properties as possible.

One thing unique to this latest KIRO story is that George Petrie agreed to be recorded, which as far as I know has not happened before, and shows how Goodman Real Estate is feeling the heat. However, Petrie is allowed to make the extraordinary claim that only "only about one third of residents will be truly unable to pay the new rents" without being challenged. Wow, OK. News to us. Where does this number come from? Also, the rent increase at Lockhaven is said to be 50 percent, which is wrong. I personally was given a figure that was 100 percent higher than my previous rent.

It was nice to see our ally Nick Licata on camera, though his remarks were edited to the point of banality. He's basically allowed to say that rents are higher and people don't like that. We're sure he must have had more trenchant comments that did not make it into the broadcast.

Overall though, we'll take it! All press is good press. And we hope KIRO will keep an eye on coming developments. We are not passive victims. We and our growing contingent of allies are not even close to being done fighting for our dignity.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thanks to Kshama Sawant!


Lockhaven on CNN Money

We're making national news now!

Well, kind of. A reporter from CNN money talked to me yesterday and used part of what I said in this story. Unfortunately, he included only the part about how rents are rising, and not the part about how we're fighting back. In fact, he fails to mention the existence of LTU at all, or that, partly thanks to our efforts, treating renters like garbage is becoming politically unpopular, as witnessed by the increasing involvement  in our cause of city and state officials.

We are not passive victims of some abstract forces known as "the market." We are being targeted by the specific actions of specific people, and we are fighting back. At any rate, it's good to get some national exposure, even if it's imperfect. I've written to the reporter and asked him to do a follow-up to cover the other half of this story.

LTU letter to John Goodman and George Petrie

John Goodman and George Petrie

The following is a letter sent to Lockhaven owners John Goodman and George Petrie. As you can see, the list of people who received copies of this letter includes not only other Goodman Real Estate and Pinnacle employees, but also Seattle City Council member Nick Licata, who was instrumental in arranging our Jan. 6 meeting with Goodman and Petrie. This is a long letter, but worth reading for the wealth of information it provides on the state of both Lockhaven and our current negotiating position.

January 27, 2014

Dear Mr. Goodman and Mr. Petrie:

This letter is follow up to our January 6, 2014 meeting where we discussed improving communication and transparency; relocation assistance for those that have moved or are considering moving; the status of the “protected list”; and maintaining Lockhaven’s affordability. As Councilman Licata’s office has provided consolidated notes, we present only a broad overview of our discussion and propose next steps. 

  •  Maintaining Lockhaven’s affordability for the greatest number of units and for the longest time possible is our primary concern. 

Next Steps
  • Affordability is the LTU's top priority; specifically, our goal is to see rents at Lockhaven maintained at no more than 35% of 50% of the area median household income. Our survey results and other information indicate that current Lockhaven rents are at or below this benchmark. We realize that this goal is significantly different from what you plan for Lockhaven, but we have contacted Sharon Lee, Executive Director of the Low Income Housing Institute, and she is willing to explore funding options to achieve this goal while providing you and the other Lockhaven owners with a fair return on your investment. We understand that Ms. Lee has worked productively with Mr. Petrie in the past and we hope that one or both of you will agree to meet with her soon to see if she can help us all arrive at a mutually acceptable solution to the Lockhaven piece of Ballard's affordable housing crisis. We will contact Natalie Quick about scheduling a meeting with Sharon Lee and one or both of you. 

Communication & Transparency
  • We discussed increasing transparency about changes to the renovation timeline distributed on November 14, 2013, and notification of any other construction on the property. 

a) We propose updated timelines continue to be posted in monthly newsletters, above mailboxes at lobby entrances of buildings, and tenant doors. We propose that Pinnacle management email tenants with these updates. We also propose Pinnacle contact tenants impacted by timeline revisions and/or construction immediately in order to allow enough time for tenant planning. In addition, we propose management be more forthcoming about construction issues such as lead and asbestos, or any other hiccups in renovation which may have an impact on tenant health and information on how they are being dealt with.
b) Finally, although we are legally (Seattle Municipal Code 22.206.180) allowed to communicate with other tenants through postings in public places, such as “in lobby and other common areas and at or under tenants doors,” in order to maintain the aesthetic integrity of the property and to avoid conflict with Pinnacle management (which we have experienced) we want greater access to public spaces such as locked bulletin boards, above mailboxes, and tenant doors. We propose working with Pinnacle management, as needed, to schedule time when we can be provided building access for interior postings.
c) We will work with Anissa Olberg in the next few days on this issue; we understand she will be fully empowered to have these follow-up discussions with us.  

Relocation Assistance
  • As acknowledged during the meeting, the majority of Lockhaven residents do not qualify for legally mandated relocation assistance; however, the cost of relocation poses an economic hardship to many tenants. In addition, some former tenants did not have the opportunity to apply for assistance because they were misled by the illegal 20-day notices posted in September. We confirmed with the City of Seattle Department of Planning & Development that all the Relocation Assistance packets had been issued, and filing deadlines have passed. 

  • Based on 47 responses from our survey, we propose relocation assistance of $2,500 for tenants who did not qualify for the mandatory relocation assistance. We think this is a reasonable amount since the city relocation assistance requirement is $500 above this request. As a first step, we will discuss this proposal with your relocation assistance specialist, Kerry Lynch.

“Protected” Tenants 
  • During the meeting you stated that management had begun contacting "protected" tenants about their status. However, several "protected" tenants state they remain uncertain about their future at Lockhaven. We spoke to several affected tenants and they had some general comments and questions which we summarize below with a proposal of next steps. 

Questions and Comments
  • How long are the terms good for protected tenants? 
  • Will they be asked to move?  If so, who will pay for moving expenses? Will terms covering their “protected” status transfer to a different unit? 
  • If they are not asked to move, how will noise be mitigated (e.g., soundproofing) during renovation? How will potentially toxic dust be prevented from entering occupied units? How will changes to existing electrical wiring impact them? 
  • Will their unit be renovated at all? Will the brick buildings have insulation added to the walls? 
  • Will there be additional charges or unbundling of rent amounts? For instance, will they have to pay for storage units or water and sewage?
  • Will there be scheduled rent increases? If so, they would like a written timeline of those potential increases and amounts. 
  • Will shared laundry facilities be maintained in each building?
  • Verbal communication is a great first step, but they want written confirmation to these questions, as well. 

  • We will work with Anissa and Kerry to clarify their comments and questions.  

In closing, we would like to thank you both for meeting with us on January 6th. We think this meeting was a great first step in improving dialogue between both groups. As the city continues to grapple with the affordable housing crisis, we hope you, a local business, will be a pioneer in finding a solution. As proposed during the meeting, we would like to meet with you again to discuss progress on the various concerns some time during the week of February 9th. We will contact Natalie Quick to schedule our next meeting. 


The Lockhaven Tenants Union

cc: John Harle, Matt Parent, Josh Obendorf, Tom Eyler, Kelli Jo Norris, Donol Fosseen, Nick Licata, Lisa Herbold, Natalie Quick, Sharon Lee, Anissa Olberg, Kerry Lynch

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Lockhaven Tenants Union Meets with Seattle City Council Members

LTU met for nearly two hours on Monday night with Seattle City Council Members Mike O’Brien and Nick Licata and aide to Kshama Sawant, Josh Koritz, at the Lockhaven apartments, in the home of a tenant who is going to be displaced by new owners GRE Lockhaven.  

All three Councilmembers expressed their support for LTU’s efforts. There was a wide-ranging discussion on the issues of affordable housing in Seattle, predatory actions by greedy developers, and displacement relocation assistance for all who need it. The Councilmembers agreed to support the LTU in our efforts to secure a second meeting with Goodman Real Estate.

The LTU has sent a proposal to Goodman Real Estate and its staff, including Kerry Lynch and Anissa Olberg,  requesting a second meeting with Goodman Real Estate, Sharon Lee of the Low Income Housing Institute, and the LTU to negotiate for affordability, relocation assistance, transparency, and clarity in the protections for protected tenants. We have requested a response by the end of the day this Friday, February 7.