Lockhaven Tenants Union demonstrating in front of GRE headquarters earlier this year.
Goodman Real Estate ‘retaliation’ spurs union action
Goodman Real Estate has sped up the eviction process for some tenants at Lockhaven, leaving some Lockhaven Tenant Union members looking for a new place to live.
The move comes as a shock to some tenants who were under the impression they had more time to move, some as much as six months.
After purchasing Lockhaven last year, GRE is renovating the building and needs to to have the units vacated for construction. At the end of March, the City approved GRE’s relocation license. Now GRE can give a 20 day notice to move any tenant.
Michelle Kinnucan, an active Lockhaven Tenants Union member and veteran, received her notice at the end of last month. Four other tenants were recently told to expect 20 day notices in May. Two of them are union members and one is a . They live in a different building than Kinnucan.
Kinnucan had originally been told she had until the end of this October to vacate.
“I had made my peace with the idea of having to move, but Goodman told me repeatedly, in writing, that I could stay in my home until the end of October. Yes, I knew the schedule could change and if they had told me in March I needed to be out a month or two sooner I wouldn't really have anything to complain about. But that's not what happened. Now I have to be out by the end of April,” said Kinnucan.
The explanation for eviction Kinnucan received from GRE was that because she was the only person residing in a stack (a vertical section of a building) it made sense for her to vacate earlier her in order to start construction.
Letters given to tenants by GRE back in November 2013 and up until March did say the schedule would be subject to change.
“The evidence I have is only circumstantial, but retaliation is consistent with their track record,” said Kinnucan.
The Ballard News-Tribune asked GRE if the evictions were retaliations against the union. GRE wrote back, “This is a change in our construction schedule.”
“This is a fluid construction schedule. We’ve been very clear with residents about that from the beginning. We’ll give residents as much notice as possible if further changes need to occur.”
However, Kinnucan thinks there’s more to it than that. She said that there has been a big disparity in what GRE has said and what they’ve done.
On top of union action, Kinnucan also reported GRE to the county when there was lead laden dust in the common areas of her building during a construction project last February. Kinnucan showed the Ballard News-Tribune a February report from the Seattle and King County Public Health Department documenting toxic lead levels in excess of EPA standards in dust and paint chips collected from Kinnucan's building. The King County officials would not comment on record about the matter.
"At a meeting with Council member Nick Licata the owners, John Goodman and George Petrie, said the buildings were full of lead and asbestos but we were later told their contractors would ensure those toxins were contained. They failed and the month after I blew the whistle I got a letter telling me six months of my housing search time was being taken away," said Kinnucan.
GRE did have a certified lead containment contractors working on the renovations. The site was cleaned and lead material removed after the report was released.
Kinnucan also compared her situation with another building in the Lockhaven complex where both stacks have only one occupied apartment. One of the tenants there has not been as conspicuously active in the union as Kinnucan and the other two. Yet, she is the only resident in a stack, which GRE told Kinnucan was the basis for her eviction.
“The written schedules never indicated they were doing half buildings, so it seems like it's convenient for them to change that part of the plan while also evicting union members."
Kinnucan showed the Ballard News-Tribune a letter from GRE and signed by a Lockhaven co-owner assuring residents there would be "no surprises" going forward in renovation schedule.
Another letter from GRE to Kinnucan phrased her once six-month grace period to find a new home being reduced to 20 days as “changing slightly.”
“I expected some changes, but for them to characterize a change this major as slight just adds insult to injury.”
For now, Kinnucan is searching for a new home.
“I don’t have anywhere to live. I’m on a waiting list at a few places but that’s it. I was told I had until October and they pulled the rug out from under me.”
Looking for an apartment with little time is no easy task. GRE said that they have a relocation specialist to help tenants find new places to live.
“Our focus continues to be making sure residents have the information they need about the transition at Lockhaven and to help them with relocation. …The resident in question should contact our relocation specialist and talk through their issues with her. That’s what she is there for,” wrote GRE.
Meanwhile, the Tenant’s Union of Washington is reacting to the situation. They say GRE has’s gone back on their word. That’s why Lockhaven Tenants Union plans to march with supporters Sunday April 27 at 11:30 a.m.
Demonstrators plan to meet at 5701 22 Ave. N.W. and march to Golden Tides, Goodman’s personal marina and residence.
Organizers for the event said they are asking for community support and solidarity to hold Goodman Real Estate accountable for their actions and for them to give back at least half of the time they took from tenants subjected to accelerated evictions.
“Though Goodman committed to transparent, honest communication, he went back on his word and retaliated against tenants organizing by accelerated their evictions four to six months earlier than promised. Though Lockhaven tenants have organized community support and urged Goodman to do the right thing, Goodman has rejected every one of tenants’ proposals,” wrote the Tenant’s Union of Washington.
For more information go to http://www.tenantsunion.org/en/news/545/march-against-displacement