An ‘unheard of concession’ in the Central District at The Chateau apartments

A resident at The Chateau and the building’s long-broken lift
(Image: CHS)

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant was back outside The Chateau apartments Wednesday to announce victories for the building’s tenants and what she says is a tenants movement in Seattle inspired by the work of her City Council office and her Socialist Alternative political group.

Sawant’s Wednesday rally also included an unusual finale — a four-member team from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections there to follow-up on a massive roster of repairs identified in what has become a staircase by staircase, frayed wire by frayed wire, and missing and or defective smoke detector by missing and or defective smoke detector battle pitting the city councilor against developer Cadence Real Estate.

Calling the 19th Ave building and the Central District the “core of Seattle” and the “epicenter of the crisis of economic evictions,” Sawant announced that her efforts to shed light on Cadence’s acquisition and planned redevelopment of the Section 8 building had “forced” the developer to meet with residents and make several concessions including allowing the Section 8 tenants to remain in their units in coming years until the building is eventually demolished to make way for a new microhousing project with 73 “small efficiency dwelling units.”

Sawant also announced what she said was an “unheard of concession” — $5,000 from Cadence to every household living in the building on top of legally required relocation assistance. The small group of tenants and representatives from groups like Be:Seattle that have also been working with the building’s interested residents gathered with Sawant cheered at the notion of the $5,000 checks. Sawant said the agreement with Cadence, as of Wednesday, still needed to be written down.

For now, Sawant is keeping up the political pressure. Cadence Real Estate describes itself as “actively” pursuing properties that are “dated in appearance and have several deferred maintenance items.” Much was made of those “deferred” items Wednesday.

Less was made of the rest of the company’s business plan. Cadence also operates a “construction team” for rehabilitation work that handles the work along with independent contractors. “As construction progresses, our property management team performs lease up through stabilization and continues to manage the property after construction is complete,” they write.

“This building has decades of deferred maintenance that we inherited when we purchased the building about a year ago,” a statement provided to CHS from Cadence’s attributed to John Fenton and Chris Garvin reads. “While the building will eventually come down, we will absolutely bring the building up to compliance with city code and make sure the repairs needed are done in a timely way.”

They’ll have little choice. The speech Wednesday was capped by Sawant and representatives presenting a City of Seattle letter documenting “63 violations” including missing or defective smoke detectors, exposed wiring, and missing handrails, as well as a busted lift, and a set of wobbly stairs at The Chateau. Sawant said she would hold Cadence to its promises of repairs and upgrades.

The SDCI inspection team that arrived just as Sawant was wrapping up her press conference said they were at the property to follow-up following the March inspection that yielded the initial complaints. Some of the repair work they found Wednesday appeared extremely rushed and slapdash. The inspector shook his head as he measured the large drop to the top step of the roughly cemented front staircase. Above him, the broken wheelchair lift was marked with a sign. “NOT IN USE.”

One resident who said they had lived in the building only a month after living in an area homeless shelter said there has been a rushed flurry of work around the building following Sawant’s highlighting of the building. Another resident, meanwhile, asked CHS to share a meme they had made to show frustration with the Cadence developers who “didn’t seem to care” about the residents when they met with tenants following Sawant’s March appearance at the building.

Cadence tells CHS that the building’s many problems built up over the years before it purchased the property. It also says it hopes longtime residents will stay.

“Although we will eventually redevelop this property and therefore have to end the (United States Department of Housing and Urban Development) contract, we do not anticipate doing so for 3-4 years,” Fenton and Garvin say. “As such, we hope the residents who want to stay do so. We’re working with HUD and (Seattle Housing Authority) on how resident’s rental subsidy will occur once the existing contract ends at the end of this year and will have another meeting with residents as soon as we know more.”

As for that $5,000 victory Sawant declared, one person at Cadence CHS spoke with called it garbage — it had nothing to do with Sawant or with Socialist Alternative.

“We decided early on to voluntarily provide every household, regardless of income, $5,000 in addition to the income-qualified $3,900 they will receive in City of Seattle Relocation Assistance (half paid by us, half from the city),” the statement from Fenton and Garvin reads. “Residents can access the $5,000 whenever they decide to move.”

A victory for the movement or not, in “3-4 years,” that money will be dearly needed by The Chateau’s residents as they look for new homes and have to leave 19th Ave.

 

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14 thoughts on “An ‘unheard of concession’ in the Central District at The Chateau apartments

      • It was not announced before Kshama got involved. I attended the developers presentation at Langston Hughes during Snowmaggedon and they made no mention of it. The residents had no knowledge of the plan to tear down their building until Kshama came to them with the permit the developer had filed for. Don’t believe every self-aggrandizing thing developers say in your ruch to discredit Kshama.

  1. This is awesome, and I don’t believe the developer’s claims that this was already in the works for one second.

    Cadence held the community meeting announcing the development during the ‘snopocalypse’, hoping it’d go under the radar, and only once the people got organized and our local councilperson got involved did the money and repairs start to role out.

    I know that there’s a handful of CHS readers who always love to pile on any Sawant story with reactionary anger, but take a step back and look at the reality of what’s going on here: local, low income residents are getting a ton of repairs and guarantees of relocation expenses–are you really going to take the side of the developer on this one? These people are basically our neighbors (even if, like me you live in Cap Hill and not Central), and the heat put on Cadence has essentially guaranteed them a sweet deal. Cadence, for what’s it’s worth, still gets what it wants too.

    What’s there to be spiteful about? If you’re not okay with this then what kind of community action *would* you be okay with?

  2. These expensive repairs and extra relocation expenses will just be added to the final bill to raise the costs of the new units. As the new owners said, they bought this place in “as-is” condition. It’s a shame that some of the repairs (like replacing cement stairs and building to current code) will be so costly to upgrade, since it’s all going to be torn down anyway. Councilmember Sawant, along with every one of the other Seattle City Council members voted for the MHA upzoning. While this building was already zoned for multi-family, This is exactly the sort of thing that’s going to happen over and over again with the new height limits and new upzoning. What did they expect? MHA is going to eliminate “naturally occurring affordable housing” and in its stead, erect new and expensive new construction. That is reality.

    • Precisely. Seems like people have trouble understanding that the current resident s are going to be pushed out for each of these re developments every time a lot gets up-zoned.

  3. Does anyone know if the people across the street (in the photo of the lift) are getting a move out concession when their building is redeveloped? The land use action is already posted for them.

  4. The inspection and subsequent requirement for repairs (by the Dept of Construction & Inspections) were done because of complaints by the residents. This would have happened regardless of any involvement by Sawant, so she cannot take credit. Again, being an opportunist, she is grandstanding for political gain.

  5. Instead of $ 5000. they should demand that affordable housing (+/- 10% of current) be found for them. Where are they going to find housing when all the buildings are replaced with expensive new units and the rent raises in the existing buildings? Where will any of us live?

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