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Youth shelter’s offer to buy Mt. Zion property mired in church infighting

IMG_5552-600x450Members and officials at an iconic Seattle church remain at odds over what to do with a property currently home to Capitol Hill’s only youth and young adult homeless shelter. While congregants at Mount Zion Baptist Church have reportedly voted down the latest offer to sell its 19th and Pine “annex” property, church officials do not appear ready to walk away from a deal.

Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets has been leasing its 19th and Pine home from Mt. Zion Baptist Church since 2014. Earlier this year the nonprofit offered to buy the property, in-part so it could expand to the building’s third floor where several dorm-style apartments are now being used for storage. PSKS was hoping to take over by August, but that timeline now appears to be shot.

PSKS director Susan Fox declined to comment on the status of the nonprofit’s $3 million offer and Pastor Aaron Williams did not return a request for comment.

Disagreements between the church officials, who are interested in selling the property, and some congregants, who either want to keep the building or wait for a better offer, have boiled over into heated arguments. One meeting in April ended with a congregant filing a complaint with police.

CHS previously reported on the $3 million sale agreement PSKS sent to Mount Zion. During a meeting on the offer in April, Pastor Williams cut off a congregant speaking out against the sale of the building, which the church acquired in 2007 for $2.1 million. Later, the two got into an argument which ended with Williams grabbing the woman’s arm, she told police.Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 3.06.21 PM

The congregant went directly to the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct at 12th and Pine to report Williams had assaulted her. Williams confirmed with police that the two did get into an argument and he did grab her arm but denied grabbing her arm and said it was the woman who grabbed his arm. Police did not find probable cause for an assault. A King County judge did, however, grant the congregant a temporary protection order against Williams, which the judge later dropped.

CHS previously wrote about confusion and frustration at the church over the leadership’s efforts to buoy expenses by selling off several high value properties around the Central Area. The Seattle Medium has also reported on Mount Zion’s debt troubles, including a loan payment due next year.

Infighting at the predominantly African American church is also underpinned by an ongoing outcry over the Central Area’s sharp decline in African American residents and institutions.

Meanwhile, homelessness in Seattle remains at emergency levels. PSKS is still well short on funds to close a sale. House Speaker Frank Chopp helped bring back $1.5 million from Olympia for PSKS this year, but that still leaves the shelter another $1.5 million short. Fox previously said she was working with city and county officials to find matching funds. An additional $2 million for renovations would then need to be raised through a capital campaign run by PSKS, Fox said.

Founded in 1995 primarily as an advocacy group, PSKS grew into a shelter and community space, though it has struggled at times to keep the doors open. The nonprofit nearly shutdown in its previous location at Summit and Howell before the city stepped in  to help it secure the the ground level of Mount Zion’s annex building.

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Smells like homophobia to me
Smells like homophobia to me
4 years ago

I’m confused. Tell me why a group of so-called Christians are opposing expanding critically needed youth shelter to help incredibly vulnerable kids experiencing homelessness? On one hand they say don’t sell, but then come back and say the property should be sold for 2-3 times more than what is being offered. If the property was sold, they would complain about gentrification…if the property isn’t sold then the church will have serious financial issues with much greater ramifications.

Perhaps the real issue is that the old guard just doesn’t like the kids seeking services who are a majority LGBTQ?

cloey
cloey
4 years ago

How insulting. Not everyone walking around is a homophone. The church sounds like it is in a crisis.

Bob Knudson
Bob Knudson
4 years ago

What’s a “homophone”. Typo?

Phyllis Yasutake
Phyllis Yasutake
4 years ago

No one at Mt Zion is concerned about the orientation of the young people seeking shelter.

The reason the church was given for selling the building by the Trustee’s was financial. If we are in financial straits why are we selling it so cheap? That property is worth much much more.

We have suggested putting the building on the open market and let the bidding begin. Ms Fox is very adept at negotiations and all concerned can help her serve the 25 young adults in another space.

Smells like greed to me
Smells like greed to me
4 years ago

Selling to the highest bidder will undermine the gentrification argument that has been used by prominent African-Americans to oppose redevelopment in the Central District. But, I guess if they get a big payday, it is community building? Nope – it is obstructionist behavior no matter how you look at it, and hurting a community that is more vulnerable.

oliveoyl
oliveoyl
4 years ago

I’m a neighbor of Mt Zion and it is terribly obvious they are having financial problems ..they’ve had graffiti on their east wall for months, the magnificent oaks along 20th are choked with ivy. Once I went in to let them know there were squatters in the long vacant pastors house on 20th and I could only find 2 people in the entire church. It makes me sad that this once vibrant church is a shell of its former self. I hope they can find a way to work together and right their ship. I’m not sure why they don’t sell the once beautiful pastors house, its been vacant for at least 20 years.

Chris B
Chris B
4 years ago

What would Jesus do? Sell for the appraised value to the shelter filled with homeless kids who are rich with diversity and real human need? Naw, he’d sell to a white developer for 15-20% above market value, right? Out with the kids and in with the town homes or micro housing. That’s a legacy and an example this “church” can be proud of.

CDCD
CDCD
4 years ago

I live near the building in question and it is obvious that PSKS and Ms. Fox have no idea how to run this kind of facility. There are fights at the building multiple times a week, people use and drink nearby while waiting for the facility to open, and the grounds are scattered with trash. I’m shocked the church aren’t worried about liability.

Rita Washington
Rita Washington
4 years ago

No one will purchase a piece of property above the assessed valuation. Once the property is sold, who cares what additional funds are needed to improve the property.That becomes the sole responsibility of the new owner.
Mt. Zion should know this since they purchased the property with the hopes of making improvements and now look where they are; having to put the building up for sale in order to make that balloon payment.
One reader commented on selling to the highest bidder. Well that will happen when they default on the loan!!
Another reader asked, “What Would Jesus Do? That answer is found in the scriptures when Paul, a follower of Christ, dispatches the Disciples to go out and witness to the world. He told them that should they run into opposition to their mission, rather than force the church down their throats, to “dust off their feet and leave!!” In another fight over the maternity of a baby, the King offered to settled that fight by cutting the baby in half and giving each mother a portion of the baby. A Rather harsh settlement procedure but the real mother gave up her baby in order that it might have life.
So will the real Pastor stand up and do what is in the best interest of all concerns – the Church, its congregants, community, and friends? Hopefully he will look to scriptures or continue on this path of self destruction by tarnishing this one great historical church for personal gain and forever been known as “That Pastor” who was conflicted rather than convicted by the Holy Spirit.
All that over stuff is just a cover to see who is truly the called leader and demonstrate the true measure of a Man and a follower of Christ or a False Prophet chasing a legacy that not his to have.

Callilou
Callilou
4 years ago

My neighbors asked $500,000 for their bungalow home a bidding war ensued and it sold for $678,000. Nothing in Seattle is selling for it’s assessed value especially a prime peace of property on a corner lot between two major bus lines 10 minutes by bus from down town Seattle. The balloon payment had many remedies the “Trustees” refused to look at or listen to. Now it is sold to a developer with inside people planning on making money on the other side of the deal. A few of the articles about sales in Seattle. Note these are mostly private residents but imagine what a person can make with a multiplex housing on that corner. That property was not sold to help the church it was sold so people could make personal profit.

http://www.geekwire.com/2016/seattle-region-housing-prices/

http://www.seattletimes.com/business/bidding-wars-homebuyers-fight-to-pay-more-for-seattle-homes/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/erincarlyle/2016/04/13/bidding-wars-for-homes-have-become-the-new-normal-in-many-u-s-cities/#a4ea071688a0