Burien Council rejects move to have new inspections of Fox Cove apartments


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By Jack Mayne

The Burien City Council again considered on Monday night (Nov. 5) what to do to help residents of the Fox Cove apartments (located at 149 SW 160th Street), who are under eviction notices that means they have to be out of the buildings by the end of the month.

After a long discussion and then a nearly 50-minute private session to discuss legal strategy, the council decided by a 5 to 2 vote not to send city inspectors to the Fox Cove apartments, after Councilmember Pedro Olguin wanted to do inspections of the property.

Efforts unsuccessful
Olguin said previous efforts to keep residents at Fox Cove have not been successful but recommended the city “go after the developer … “because we believe in justice and we believe in equity and we believe in dignity for all. We are in the middle of gentrification and those who have the least amount of resources to defend against that are the ones that are being displaced. That is Fox Cove. How many Fox Coves are we going to have to have with dilapidated slumlords in our community coming in to make a quick buck, develop the place and then move on.

“Who are we going to listen to? We’ve seen story after story after story tonight and previous nights and conversations.

“We simply have to do the right thing,” said Olguin and moved to have the city manager “to immediately send a city inspector to conduct inspections at Fox Cove and make the inspections publicly available as soon as possible.

City Manager Brian Wilson said the events around the Fox Cove situation are all attempts to ameliorate the problems of the residents of the facility with services available to residents.

New owner must know
He said the situation has grown over many years, under a former owner, and “during that period of time, there were problems with those apartment units,” Wilson said. “We did not have knowledge of those problems.”

Olguin said the new owners must have known of the problem of Fox Cove when they bought the property and said the city has the authority to inspect the property and wanted to know why it has not done that.

City Attorney Lisa Marshall said the problem could be that if the city inspects the apartments but finds it not legally habitable, “we cannot legally stop there, we must move toward condemnation and red tagging the property.” But the problems happened under the former owner.

City could lose in court
If the city did an inspection and started condemnation against the new owner, the issue would end up in court and the city could likely lose the case, Marshall said, because damage was caused by the previous owner. Such a finding would mean the city would have to immediately evict all of the Fox Cove tenants. So a different way to solve the problems without making the current tenants move needs to be used.

The problem is that the city cannot force the current owner to pay relocation expenses because the problems were caused by a previous owner, she said.

Colleen Brandt-Schluter, Human Services Manager, said the city’s money is not helping all of the tenants because of legal restrictions on some of the funds at the city it working with the outside agencies to get beyond the restrictions. “There is a fair number of working parts to this,” she said, but some progress have been made with some tenants.

‘Someone is lying’
Olguin said he disagreed and it appeared the “city just did not want to upset the new developer, that is what it comes down to.” Someone “is lying” otherwise “people wouldn’t be here” seeking relocation and other assistance.

Councilmember Krystal Marx wanted to know if there was any way to go after the previous owners, but Marshall said the attorneys for the owners and the previous owners would be the ones to make a determination.

Then the city attorney said she would prefer to discuss legal options with the Council in a private executive session. The Council came back and decided not to immediately discuss the issue further after a four hour meeting.




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