Alaskan Way Viaduct Program Manager Ron Paananen takes issue with previous reporting (PubliCola, The Stranger) about eviction letters sent to tenants at the artist-occupied apartments at 619 Western Ave. informing them they have to move out six months earlier than planned. He says the notices have nothing to do with the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement or Highway 99 Tunnel project at all.
Here's the letter that was sent to tenants:
Dear Western building tenants,
You may be aware that the Seattle Department of Planning and Development recently sent a letter to the owners of the 619 Western Avenue building explaining that the building no longer meets the City's minimum safety standards.
As a result of this determination, the department has requested that repairs be made that will make the building safe, or the building will have to be vacated as of Oct. 1, 2011. While DPD gave the building owner until October 1 to make these repairs, they will be expensive and it will be unlikely that the repairs can be made within that timeframe.
This decision is not related to construction to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. However, the Washington State Department of Transportation's current construction plans still require stabilization of the building, during which time the building must be vacant.
Although the City's decision will change the timeline for relocation, it does not affect WSDOT's commitment to help tenants relocate. We will accelerate our relocation plans to meet this faster schedule. Tenants who qualify for relocation assistance will be entitled to the same benefits regardless of this determination by the Department of Planning and Development.
WSDOT and City representatives will host a meeting for 619 Western tenants on Wednesday, July 27 at 5:30 p.m. in the Ruth Fischer Boardroom at Sound Transit, 401 S. Jackson Street. The meeting will give you an opportunity to ask questions about the City's decision and WSDOT's relocation assistance program. If you have any questions in the meantime, please call Cyndi Whelpley at 206-440-4175 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ron Paananen, P.E.
Administrator, Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Program
Washington State Department of Transportation
Here's the recent inspection report from DPD that goes over the safety violations found: Mainly "unsafe building appendages (unreinforced parapets)."
Whether the eviction notice itself is tunnel-related or not, it's hard to believe the timing of it isn't. Paananen's own letter says the eviction is "not related to construction to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct," but in the very next sentence it says "the Washington State Department of Transportation's current construction plans still require stabilization of the building, during which time the building must be vacant."
Paananen maintains that the timing of the eviction and the tunnel project is simply coincidence. "Of 169 buildings potentially affected the tunnel project, the Western building concerned us most of all," he says. "It is in by far the worst structural condition. It's 100 years old and not much has been done with it over the years."
Tenants at 619 Western are still being offered relocation assistance. They can get this help by calling Cyndi Whelpley at (206) 440-4175 or emailing email@example.com.