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City going to court to have Belmont Ave ‘biohazard’ house demolished

The story of a Belmont Ave home’s downward spiral into decay, danger and frustration for neighbors is slated to come to a rapid conclusion. Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development will go to court this July to have the property at 502 Belmont Ave E condemned, allowing the city to have the building demolished by August.

According to DPD deputy director Alan Justad, this is the first time DPD has pursued demolition of the house. The announcement follows a series of complaints against the property over the last three years. The most recent complaint was filed in January 2009 and was moved to the “law department” this February, according to city records. It also comes only days after neighbor Allison’s CHS post about 502 Belmont Ave E in which she and CHS community members document years of complaints filed against the property with the DPD for issues with garbage in the yard to leaving the building unsecure. In total, the DPD Web site lists four active complaints for the property.

In a police report released last week, the Seattle Police Department documented an investigation of a reported robbery at the property in which officers declined to enter the structure because of concerns about ‘biohazard.’ A man told officers he was jumped inside a home he was squatting in on Belmont Ave that matches the description of the property. “This location has significant biohazard and is unsecured by the property owner,” the officer filing the report noted.

According to King County Property records, 502 Belmont is owned by Seattle resident Kyle Clark. Catalyst Commercial Partners told Allison that Clark is trying to sell the house and and two other properties he owns on the street and that he has been in a “struggle” with the insurance company over coverage money to fix the house.

CHS has been unable to reach Clark to speak to him about this situation.

The property suffered significant damage in a November 2008 blaze. Seattle Fire Department later said that the fire appeared to be started by squatters burning candles inside the house.

The house has long been notable on Belmont but it wasn’t always because of biohazard, crime and trash. Commenter subbacultcha provides some perspective from inside the house from back in its quirkier days:

Heh. I lived in that there house for a few years — the Hidden Mangrove it was dubbed. We liked living there an awful lot. We did get an official warning once for having too much “art” in our yard. But it was a fun and happy home. And a lot of neighbors seemed to enjoy our colorfulness. People would always stop by when we were on the porch and tell us that they liked the house and our awesome cats. Before I lived there, I lived down the street and I would always walk by that house in awe. It was awesome to answer an ad on Craigslist and have it turn out to be _that_ house (!)

My housemates and I moved out because we had to make room for more condos. It was very sad and we tried to fight it but we didn’t win. And then the condo market fell flat. And now it’s scary and crawling with weirdos, but in a bad way. So sorry to see it go down like that.

Justad said the court proceedings will likely take place in early July and, after a mandatory 30-day appeal period, demolition could begin as early as the first weeks of August. Justad said the cost of knocking down the building will be covered by a lien placed on the property.

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12 thoughts on “City going to court to have Belmont Ave ‘biohazard’ house demolished

  1. Congrats to CHS and community organizer Allison Bilas for prodding the City to take such quick action. Let’s keep on the bureaucracy to ensure it follows through with such an irresponsible real-estate developer as Kyle Clark.

    Clark, by the way, used to be a principal (along with his father, Alan Clark) with the firm Arca Architecture. He had moved to Seattle from Winnipeg in order to make his fortune and was involved in numerous grandiose plans. Back in 2007, Clark played a good game in his PR outreach to the neighbors when he was pursuing city approval to demolish the house at 502 Belmont Ave East, along with the two adjacent houses, in order to build a condo. He postured himself as such a responsive and responsible developer. But, obviously, the real test of character is how he reacted when the economy thwarted his get-rich-quick development plans.

    This saga overlaps with our recent complaints, which CHS has also covered admirably, on how to get owners of stalled condo developments to make their empty, litter-strewn lots less soul-sapping eyesores on the neighborhood. Perhaps the solution should be a mandatory escrow account administered by the city and funded by the developers. Any development in abeyance for more than, say, six months that involves either abandoned houses or empty lots would invoke City oversight to ensure proper maintenance. We clearly can’t rely on the developers to do the right thing without this kind of pressure.

  2. wow, when this thing goes down please give us a heads up so i can perhaps witness the demo.

    i find this house really tragic in that, just a few years ago it was a legitimate residence and probably a nicer house than the ugly 1950s duplex i lived in next door. but the owner’s greed and subsequent neglect destroyed it in just a few years. i remember doing an internet search and finding a listing about some sort of micro-cinema at the address once upon a time.

  3. Who is brave enough to venture inside and take some pictures? I am absurdly curious what it might look like inside alas I am not brave enough to find out.

  4. I am very pleased to hear that the City is finally pursuing (belatedly) their responsibility to protect the public. I think we would all agree that we do not want to lose momentum on this particular situation. I suggest people continue to register complaints with City agencies, call police if we see anyone on the property, and participate in any meetings or hearings concerning the property.

    Specifically, if citizen participation at DPD proceedings or court dates would add weight to the process, I am willing to attend, and perhaps others would be too. I am going to attempt to contact Alan Justad at DPD regarding this and will post on CHS what I find out.

  5. I’ve spoken to police at the scene several times about the conditions in and around the property. One officer said he’d been inside and he wouldn’t even describe it to me it was so hellishly grotesque. When police refuse to enter, labeling it a “biohazard”, that screams to me “Stay away!”

  6. I have an email trail with the City. Council member Sally Clark passed it off to staff – remember this on the next election! Now the issue is stuck at the Law Department with an Assistant City Attorney named Patrick Downs, please write to them too:

    Mr. Borg:

    Thank you for your email. This mater is not stuck: I anticipate having an order of abatement entered on July 1. The defendant has a 30-day right-of-appeal to King County Superior Court and because of this right, demolition would occur sometime after August 1.

    Patrick Downs
    Assistant City Attorney
    Seattle City Attorney’s Office
    600 4th Avenue, 4th floor
    P.O. Box 94769
    Seattle, WA 98124-4769
    Phone: 206-684-8616
    FAX: 206-684-8284
    patrick.downs@seattle.gov

  7. A big shout out to the CHS blog, Alison, and all others involved in getting this house taken care of. I have lived near this house for 6 years. I watched this house go from arty cool to potential condos, to hell in a hand basket. I will not even walk by now due to the smell and creepy feelings and danger emanating from wothin. I am so grateful that the blog has adressed this issue. After reading the article I filed complaints with DpD AND waste management. Not the heavy lifting but it felt good to be a part of the solution. Block party while it demos?

  8. Three years we’ve been looking at the burned out rubble that used to be a home. Catalyst Commercial Partner is in for the profit and planned condos for the sight (yea, like we need more condos)but alas, the developers bubble went bust and so they evicted everyone from the house for naught. I suggest people contact Kyle Clark of Catalyst directly and ask him why he thinks neighbors have to put up with this eyssore,to let it sit there as is, is unacceptable. As for trying to sell all three plots together, good luck, in the meantime tear down the poor sad house, it’s your fault it’s in the shape it is. People could have been living in the house all these three years. Shame on you.

  9. I’m really stoked about this! I can’t take much credit other than being the squeaky wheel this week. I know many others have done the same, and I’m excited that our group efforts will be paying off.

    I will definitely be following up with the DPD and City Attorney to make sure the demolition happens. Please do the same!

  10. I always wanted to see the inside of this house too but was never brave enough to venture inside alone. Who knows who might be living in that place now. Maybe a group of us could go inside and get some shots?