Tenants confront John Goodman Real Estate officials at an open house last week. Since September, when residents were notified that they had to vacate their apartment while renovations took place, frustration has hardly simmered down.
In fight at Lockhaven, little has changed
By Zachariah Bryan
At the core of it, little has changed in the battle between the tenants and the new owners of the Lockhaven Apartments.
Renovations are still happening. Tenants will still be forced out for about a month while they happen. The tenants are still mad. The new owners are still fairly unresponsive to concerns.
The only difference now is that John Goodman Real Estate has unveiled a new “phasing” schedule for when tenants of different buildings would have to relocate due to renovations. The first series of buildings will have to be vacated in March and the last in December.
“It’s the same thing, just slow motion. Basically they’re trying to put a happy face on it,” said David Stoesz, a tenant and a former Seattle Weekly columnist. Stoesz and other tenants have formed the Lockhaven Tenants Union to fight against having to relocate.
Natalie Quick, a spokesperson for John Goodman Real Estate, said that the schedule at the moment is fluid. She said they are willing to work with tenants if there is a schedule conflict or if there is a date that works better.
“As we move slowly forward, we are committed to deliberate and thoughtful communication with you to ensure there are no surprises during these changes. We look forward to working with each of you to understand your individual circumstances and assist however we can,” wrote Asset Manager Josh Obendorf in a letter to tenants.
Certainly, if anything else has changed, it’s that John Goodman Real Estate is trying to take on a more careful and apologetic tone. They now have a person, Kerry Lynch, who is “fully empowered … to help ensure that this process is transparent and consistent,” and who can be contacted by phone (206-550-8167) or by a 24/7 email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In addition, John Goodman Real Estate and Pinnacle Family of Companies held an open house last week (on Thursday, Nov. 14) for the purpose of providing more information. Few tenants found it useful. Tenant Fred Rains likened it to a round-robin where “you go around with everyone gladhanding you.”
“This whole open house is not to address any concerns … it’s PR,” Rains said. “… I feel like I’m not heard and they’re not willing to listen. There’s been no firm answer to what is happening.”
Originally, back in September, John Goodman Real Estate had sent a 20-day eviction notice to about 20 residents. “Your last day of residency will be September 30th,” it said. It spread fear and confusion among the tenants. No one knew if it was meant for everyone or just those who received it.
It was also illegal, it turned out, violating the Tenant Relocation Assistance ordinance.
John Goodman Real Estate has since apologized via a letter. “Whether in business or everyday life, we firmly believe when mistakes are made, taking ownership of the error and making the situation right are of the utmost importance. So let us be clear -- we made a mistake.”
Stoesz said he didn’t think the apology was enough.
“Their line all along was, ‘Oh, we didn’t know!’” Stoesz said. “The whole idea that they didn’t know about property laws is pretty unbelievable.”
Dulcie O’Sullivan, Department of Planning and Development Housing Ordinance Specialist, said that John Goodman Real Estate has since applied for the proper license. O’Sullivan, who was present at the open house, said that John Goodman Real Estate has not since violated any other laws, to her knowledge.
Renovations for the Lockhaven apartments include full exterior siding replacement on all vinyl buildings, new roofs on buildings that have yet to be replaced, adding washer and dryers and dishwashers to all homes, installing new kitchen cabinets, updating each home with new appliances, installing new hardware and fixtures, adding insulation to the exterior walls and maintaining and enhancing existing landscaping and adding a new community gathering space.
Despite claims by tenants that the renovations were mostly cosmetic, not structural, officials at the open house said that the renovations were too invasive to allow tenants to stay. When asked if it was possible to somehow work around tenants remaining in their apartments, officials said there was no way.
Quick confirmed that they would not budge on making renovations and making tenants relocate.
“(John Goodman) wants to make sure these buildings are around for another 60-70 years and that takes investment,” Quick said.
Quick said that the tenants were welcomed back after the renovations, but the rent would nearly double: A one-bedroom currently renting for $850 could rent up to $1,350-1,500.
“They’re professionally flipping us. They’re flipping us out,” Rains said. “That’s like working at a job (where they say), ‘Fred, you’re doing a good job, we like you here -- you’re fired in a year.’ … The only option tenants are left with is relocate ‘or else.’ It’s ridiculous.”