SEATTLE — Seattle Fire Department says a trash chute fire that forced the evacuation of a downtown high rise was intentionally set, and that it’s had to respond to the same building three times in 24 hours.
Yet, those details are not surprising to the people who call the low-income apartments home.
“It’s a repetitive thing, and it sucks,” said Anna Griswold, as she walked out of the building on Wednesday, where the cleanup was still continuing from the fire and water damage the day before.
Griswold acknowledged that she’s been living in the building thanks to a government housing voucher. Jason Yori is too.
“I thought at first it was a nice place,” he said, as he hobbled into the building.
The Navy vet, a former homeless man, was hailed as a hero by police, according to the Seattle PI, when he came to the aid of a victim in the 2012 Café Racer shooting.
Now he says, “I don’t feel safe here at all. Not at all.”
Seattle Fire Department records, obtained via a public records request, show the high rise has been a trouble spot for some time. There have already been 13 calls for fire service in the first eight days of the year. There were 218 incidents in 2019 alone. The SFD also gave the building three notices of violation, including for a clogged trash chute, which was packed full to the fifth floor, according to the documents.
The Seattle Housing Authority acknowledged late Wednesday that it did have voucher holders in the building and conducts annual or biannual inspections of buildings that accept voucher holders. Violations could result in in citations or further inspections.
The property itself, built in 1910, is appraised at nearly $26 million and is owned by John Goodman and GRE Management LLC. Natalie Quick, a spokesperson for Goodman, said Wednesday about the incidents that “Often in downtown buildings, there are multiple police and fire incidents that cover a wide range of daily life issues that are part of urban living."
Quick also wrote in a statement, “We operate buildings to run as efficiently and effectively as possible and we do our best to troubleshoot and address issues as they arise. We have been and will continue to resolve any outstanding property issues to better enhance the living experience for our residents.”
Yet, the residents believe they are stuck by circumstance. There is competition for the vouchers and limits on buildings that will accept them.
“I want to move out, but I don't have the money to move out. After you move once, they won't help you again,” said Yori.
One document noted that King County Public Health had been notified about a potential violation at the building last year.
“Yes, we did hear from SFD. Public Health’s role is to address rodent control," said Public Health Spokesperson Hilary Karasz. "We did inspect the building and found evidence of rats; we do not have expertise in fire hazard assessment. We provide guidance on rodent abatement.
"In short, Public Health gets involved in situations like this if there are rodents associated with the complaint."