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Thursday, May 29, 2008

City Slaps Capitol Hill Building Owner With Hefty Fines

posted by on May 29 at 12:15 PM

The city’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is going after the owner of a warehouse space on 11th and Pine with a swift kick to the wallet.

In April, several tenants in the building went to DPD after, they say, the property manager tried to boot them from their loft units. DPD inspected the building and found that the space—where several tenants say they had been living for years—was zoned as a warehouse and restaurant space, not for residential use.

DPD served the building’s management with a notice of violation, which sparked a series of legal battles as the building owner and property manager, who subleases the building, claimed no one was supposed to be living there. Still, the owners have been racking up fines since the end of April.

Last week, DPD says they discovered that the property manager was still trying to rent out some of the units. “It seems they are advertising that the place is for rent and having people come there to do walkthroughs,” says DPD inspector Paula Barrett. “[The units] can’t be lived in. There are no permits for them.”

DPD posted notices stating that the units could not be occupied, but, Barrett says, the fliers were torn down. Barrett says she went back to the building, reposted the fliers and cited the owners with an additional violation for tearing down the original notices.

So far, the building’s owners have racked up about $30,000 in fines from the city, and Barrett says DPD could end up putting a lien on the building. Barrett says DPD inspectors also found unpermitted recording studios in the building’s basement, but the city is focusing on dealing with the tenant issue.

Barrett says the case has been referred to the city attorney’s office.

RSS icon Comments


That said, there's a great noodle place near there.

But ... zoning is there for a reason. People who live in units tend to complain about the gangs of Drunk Santas and people dashing out of Moe Bar from the Washington Bus event (tonite 6-8pm) and the SIFF pre-film (5-7pm next week) and post-film (all night long!!) parties.

So you don't want to have residential units unless it's supposed to be mixed use. There's usually an exception for building managers, of course.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 29, 2008 12:23 PM

There are zoning rules for recording studios?! Who knew? I bet that poor book-reader who died when her home basement recording studio flooded was in violation. Funny how city officials didn't cite her widowed partner while she was on TV being the govener's poster-child for gay marriage in Washington.

Posted by David Wright | May 29, 2008 12:33 PM

Just curious, how does this impact Grey Gallery, if at all?

Posted by kid icarus | May 29, 2008 12:43 PM


The home recording studio to which you refer wouldn't fall under these zoning regs because the studio in question was used solely and exclusively by the owner of the home. In that sense it's no different from any other home office not subject to DPD oversight.

And @3 I wouldn't expect this to affect Grey one whit, since they would seem to be exactly the sort of establishment for which the building actually IS zoned.

But, it does beg the question: why in the world doesn't the landlord fire or otherwise dismiss this obviously unscrupulous property manager?

Posted by COMTE | May 29, 2008 12:51 PM

David Wright @2, don't let your ignorance of zoning laws stop you from asserting their application in a dissimilar case to support a cheap shot at the expense of a woman grieving her partner's sudden death.

Posted by lostboy | May 29, 2008 12:54 PM

There's a lesson to be learned from this. When renting out an illegal space, don't do anything to piss off your tenants.

Posted by keshmeshi | May 29, 2008 1:01 PM

Weren't the restrictions on live-work spaces relaxed a few years back? I seem to recall that almost any building could be live-work provided there were operating businesses at the street-level front facing part of the building.


Posted by diggum | May 29, 2008 1:06 PM

Are they talking about recording studios in the basement, or rehearsal spaces? Anyone know?

Posted by A | May 29, 2008 1:08 PM


It'll continue to totally suck?

Posted by Art! | May 29, 2008 1:23 PM

Anyone else concerned that the owners may say fuck it and sell the building?

Posted by genevieve | May 29, 2008 2:00 PM

We'd rather not moderate your comments, but off-topic, gratuitously inflammatory, threatening, or otherwise inappropriate remarks may be removed, and repeat offenders may be banned from commenting. We never censor comments based on ideology. Thanks to all who add to the conversation on Slog.

Posted by I see your boobie | May 29, 2008 2:02 PM

@6 - The lesson is, if you're in an illegal squat, don't complain about noise to the police. Which is to say, if the bar is legal, and you're not - you've got to suck it up.

@7 - Yes they were, for "light industrial" artists. I had that category explained to me as "anything you couldn't do in a regular apartment due to noise, smell or otherwise disturbing your neighbors."

Posted by John Galt | May 29, 2008 2:19 PM

More apartments are needed.

2Why can't people live in this particular site??

The renters want to. The landlord wants to.

Zoning in general is good but in this specific case, what is the point of prohibiting consenting folks from doing what they want?

Posted by PC | May 29, 2008 2:24 PM

I wouldn't be surprised if it was old neighbors versus new. People have lived in those spaces for years without much trouble.

(There used to be an afterhours party in the basement of that building that at times was so unattractively sordid it cured me of afterhours parties for life.)

Posted by It's Mark Mitchell | May 29, 2008 3:15 PM

@15 wins.

Posted by lostboy | May 29, 2008 3:36 PM


I appreciate the clarification, as Jonah's OP seems to indicate the "property manager" and building "owner" are different people.

As to the issue of your tenancy, while it's regretable that you and others were mislead with regards to the legality of your occupancy, that's NOT the fault of Grey. Your landlord is the one who knowingly and illegally leased you an apartment in a building that wasn't zoned for such occupancy, and they should be the one(s) held solely accountable in this matter.

Posted by COMTE | May 29, 2008 3:37 PM

No, @15 almost wins, but the post was too long for the win.

Which leaves @12 and @14 battling it out for the win.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 29, 2008 4:30 PM


You couldn't be bothered to read the explanation at @15, but you think people give a fuck about your social plans @1?

Eat a box of thumbtacks, you tragic creature.

Posted by Losing the Will to Live | May 29, 2008 4:39 PM

Comte @17- While I agree that it's not Grey's fault that the landlord rented to us illegaly, it doesn't change the fact that he was less-than-neighborly.

He moved into the building with the full knowledge that an entire community of WORKING ARTISTS lived above his proposed bar/art space. Since even the City of Seattle didn't have the building on their radar, as far as he was concerned, our tenancies were legitimate.

With that knowledge, he failed to install any soundproofing OR to cooperate with the upstairs tenants when they requested a compromise.

Instead, he actively sought to have working artists evicted from their live/work spaces, the spaces that they'd lived and worked in for nearly a decade.

When the landlord came to deliver the eviction notices (the ones that set this massive chain of events in motion), the tenants were told that the SOLE REASON for the "evictions" was because of the noise complaints and that if we stopped complaining about the noise, we could all stay in the building.

The problem is, the noise was so loud and went on for so much up the day (upwards of 19 out of the 24 hours) that the spaces had been rendered not only uninhabitable but unusable for ANY purpose, even commercial or as an art studio.

So, while it's not his problem that we were rented to illegally, it IS his problem that he was a shitty neighbor and decided that, as the new kid on the block, he would fuck over all of his neighbors. And that's not cool. Not cool at all.

Posted by Notes from a Displaced Tenant | May 29, 2008 6:00 PM

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