Photo by Alison Eckels.
Gone but not forgotten. 

At Large in Ballard: Out of Cadence

By Peggy Sturdivant

Last Wednesday night I carried a stack of newspapers up from the basement; the last 52 weeks of the Ballard News-Tribune/Westside Weekly. I was considering updates on past columns. What struck me instead was a sense of a turning point in Ballard history that occurred in September 2013, which in hindsight feels as significant as when Ballard was annexed to Seattle in 1907.

“Serving Ballard since 1891.” Those were the small words beneath the Ballard News-Tribune banner on its front page, stand-alone edition. Looking back it’s so fitting that was last in front and center in August 2013. That’s the month when Lockhaven Apartments were sold to Goodman Real Estate, after 50 years in the Ecklund family. For 123 years there was the Ballard News and then Ballard News-Tribune, and for over 50 years Lockhaven Apartments.

Reading over issues from the first weeks of the Westside Weekly the cumulative events hit me all over again. Lockhaven residents received eviction notices. The Viking had closed. The Copper Gate had closed. AMLI Mark24 began rising around the Spirit gas station. The “old” Ballard Library building, on 24th NW, was demolished. September 2013 was quite a month. And the Ballard News-Tribune had become the Westside Weekly.

By absolute coincidence as I sat with the old issues around me I was invited for the following night to gather with the Lockhaven Tenant’s Union (LTU), and past and present residents to discuss all that had transpired since the first eviction notices. The next night I was with them in the donated space of VFW Post #3603, listening to them fill in a timeline of events and discuss how their relationship to each other and the community had changed since their lives were disrupted.

A few of the attendees still live within walking distance, either because they’ve found housing nearby, will be continuing at the former Lockhaven, or as in the case of case of Michelle Kinnucan, continue to fight eviction. Others fought traffic to arrive from other parts of town. Several of the non-profit Tenants Union of Washington Board members attended, including one woman who arrived by Metro Access from Rainier Valley.

Reminiscing before dinner, one woman said, “Adversity brought us together, but now we have friendships. Because if don’t have community, what do we have?”

Jett Terrell said, “My kids would call me and say ‘Go Mom!’ We knew we weren’t going to win, but we would put up a good fight.” What set their fight in motion last year was being asked to move out so that new ownership under Goodman Real Estate and Pinnacle management could renovate the complex and sign new leases at a higher rate.

The group at the VFW focused on their successes: increased relocation payments, actual meetings with Goodman Real Estate executives, including John Goodman. They marched, they picketed, they met weekly, they learned about zoning, legislation and other local issues, they learned how to blog. Barbara Jewett, 40-year resident, also lauded the fact that residents continued to look out for one another, expanding their concerns.

Those concerns continue. The Lockhaven Tenant’s Union (LTU) established connections with Theodora residents, currently also facing displacement. They realized they may have been long protected by the ownership of the Ecklund family but affordable housing options are decreasing in Seattle even as more units are built. “This isn’t development, this is destruction,” a former 11-year resident said.

“This has turned me into a housing activist of sorts,” admitted Evan Sugden.

Yet overall the mood was of pride rather than bitterness. Especially after Flora Ybarra shared how the Lockhaven group had inspires her. Ybarra from South Seattle was attending at the invitation of Tenants Union. “The Latino community needs to see this power,” she said. “Our communities in the South end, the Latinos, the Somali, we don’t even know how to start. We want to learn from you. We need to come together.”

Meanwhile the makeover at former Lockhaven continues. There was some talk of more concrete and lost green within the grounds, some eyebrows raised at a new name for the complex, Cadence. The residents of what was Lockhaven wonder if there will ever again be the same sort of community they shared in their communal laundry rooms, gardens and stairwells. “We weren’t the tenants they wanted,” said a former resident. Several residents asked that their names not be published, as current residents or former, still wary of retaliation as alleged in Michelle Kunnican’s civil lawsuit against GRE Lockhaven.

On the tables were notices for an August 14, 2014 public hearing on the proposed Goodman Real Estate purchase of the formerly non-profit, low-income Theodora in North Seattle. Former Lockhaven residents and LTU members plan to attend because their goal now is to prevent others from similar displacements. They have may scattered somewhat but they still feel connected.

“I’ve been gone for quite some time,” one of multiple Carol Coopers who lived at Lockhaven said, “But this still matters.”

The other Carol Cooper, also displaced, said, “Just being here tonight makes me feel much better.” But she finished by saying she’s astonished at the ignorance of people about the lack of housing options. “Something has to be done to right this wrong.”

In other words, Lockhaven Tenant’s Union isn’t done for yet. And maybe neither is Ballard.

Contact Peggy atlargeinballard@peggysturdivant.com

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