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.