Burien City Council asks for help for evicted residents of Fox Cove Apartments


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The Fox Cove Apartments are located at 149 SW 160th Street in Burien.

By Jack Mayne

Residents and supporters of residents of a dilapidated apartment building in Burien told the City Council meeting on Monday (Oct. 1) of new owners ordering residents evicted so the facility can be upgraded.

Fox Cove Apartments took up the majority of the meeting and the public comment period. Tenants of the apartments, located at 149 SW 160th Street in Burien, are upset about recent eviction notices, which gives several an Oct. 31 deadline to vacate their homes.

Residents got a letter on Sept. 14. City Manager Brian Wilson said Monday night, adding that the property ownership had changed hands to SUHRCO Residential Properties in Bellevue.

According to several reports, many residents get by on low incomes, and worry that the evictions – while legal – may push them into homelessness within weeks (read our previous coverage here).

Wilson said the Bellevue property owner wants to upgrade and rehabilitate the structure, but if it reopens it will “likely be at a higher rent rate” adding the city is “working to make contact with those property owners” and they “have told the city it wants to work with Burien” and that “those efforts are ongoing. We will work on plans to address these issues and to ensure that all legal requirements are being followed,” the city manager said.

Marx says ‘city emergency’
Councilmember Krystal Marx said she was glad the city manager made contact and was having conversations with the property owner, but “conversations don’t keep people housed.” She moved to “direct staff to declare the displacement of these citizens to be a … city emergency” and “to prepare a draft temporary ordinance that requires residential landlords to provide 90 days written notice prior to terminating a tenancy for reasons that would otherwise not be cause for an eviction .…”

She also wants the Council to review “options for expanding tenant rates in Burien” to go the city human services commission for review and make recommendation to the Council by its Nov. 5 meeting.

“I remain hopeful that, through a combination of community engagement, Staff effort, Council support and communication with the new owners, we can come to a resolution that will not leave these tenants out in the cold,” Marx said in a Facebook post.

Olguin says ’disingenuous’
Councilmember Pedro Olguin said he thought it was “disingenuous … to just fix one right when there is a slew of rights than need to be encompassed and I would rather take up a total fight that is going to make sure than everyone is protected.” He suggested relocation cost assistance “because there really isn’t anything on the books that is going to protect them.”

Marx agreed with Olguin, but said her proposal would sunset after 90 days and she wanted something to help the people in Fox Cove Apartments now and not wait for a longer term solution. She said she had seen videos of people at Fox Cove having water from an upstairs apartment “pouring down through an overhead ceiling light,” hearing about people with a stove that has not worked for over a year, and a refrigerator for over three years.

While the new owner will “rectify these issues” it still means that low income people will be displaced “and may be facing homelessness,” Marx said. “If we want to talk about addressing the root causes of children being attracted to gangs, maybe not standing idly by while they are displaced from homes is a good point to start from.” There was sporadic applause from the audience.

Still, her proposal died for lack of a second.

The people speak
As the mayor prepared to call for comments from the 35 citizens who have signed up to comment, Councilmember Nancy Tosta said that too often the Council does not get to the matters before it, while time is used to hear comments from citizens.

“We have issues we have prioritized, but we never get them on our schedule,” she said. I’d like to stick to the 20 minutes” normally allotted to public comments or have a town hall meeting to allow full comments on subjects the people want to tall the Council about.

“Our job is govern, it’s to pass policies and laws,” Tosta said. “If meetings don’t allow us time to do that, then we aren’t governing. It doesn’t do any good to hear from everybody if we don’t have time to address the issues that they are asking us to deal with.”

Councilmember Lucy Krakowiak said all 35 people should get two minutes, and Tosta agreed and moved to give two minutes each to commenters.

Several of the residents and some others speaking for them were given time at the meeting.

‘Severely incapacitated’
One woman told of being a caregiver for a severely incapacitated resident of the Fox Cove Apartments, and said the woman she worked with had suffered from “black mold everywhere” in her apartment that she;s rented for many years. The owners would “never do anything about it.” She asked for time to find another place or assistance for the woman to find a new place in which to live, “in peace.” “There is no other place to go but on the streets,” she said.

Heather Pierce of the Rental Housing Association of Washington – which represents small rental owners – said the new owners of the Fox Cove units, which needs renovation, need to give time for tenants find other places to live. She said the association wants to consider how they can partner with the city to find a solution “including pooling of resources” for the evicted residents to find new places to live.

Stephen Whitney said he and his finace have lived in the apartments for three years and co-parent two nine-year-old girls and recently adopted a 15-year-old boy with disabilities, and also have a disability abled baby in their care. The previous owner “neglected any warnings of any of these tenants here tonight” which left “us continuing …to live in unlivable conditions.” No one answers resident’s calls because “the new owner is on vacation.” More stress comes from waiting to be “booted out,” Whitney said.

“We in the community are desperately asking somebody for help and none of us deserve this.”

Many of the other community comment presenters were advocating or supporting other causes not associated with the Fox Cove Apartment situation.

A GoFundMe page has been created to help those in need – donate online here:

https://www.gofundme.com/6735880?member=852032 

Here’s a video courtesy KING5:

Also, some info about tenant’s rights is available here:

https://tenantsunion.org/en/rights/low-income-housing-eviction

Public safety
City Manager Brian Wilson told the Council he has carried out a Council directive made at the Sept. 24 meeting to enhance a plan to “enhance public safety” and the “effort is underway and we gave a multiple prong approach” that includes community feedback, have increased policing and “talking about increased social services for our youth and our community.”

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