Emotions run high at rare Saturday council committee meeting

VIDEO: Emotions run high at rare Saturday council committee meeting

Emotions ran high as Seattle residents pushed back against a plan that could mean losing their homes.

This, as a city council member concedes there is little the city can do to save the low income housing complex from a developer's plan to build luxury housing.

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Kshama Sawant held a rare Saturday meeting of her five-member Renter Rights Committee. She was the only Seattle City Council member to show. But that did not stop residents from expressing their distress over the prospect of losing their homes.

"Some have lived here for 30 years or more," said Roselle Johnson, her eyes filling with tears. Johnson described the calamity that will befall her, her husband and aging parents, if they are evicted from the Chateau Apartments where they live.

"They depend on me," she said, her voice breaking. "If Cadence is going to move us out, I don't know where I'm going to live."

That is the dilemma facing those who have long called the complex at 19th and East Fir home. Where can they live when Seattle developer Cadence Real Estate demolishes the subsidized units here and builds housing they cannot afford.

Renee Hopkins's 88-year-old aunt has lived at the Chateau more than 30 years.

"The developers seem to just care about profits," said Hopkins. "But what about us, the people?"

But even she acknowledges the developer's plans are legal.

"So what we really need is city-wide rent control," said Sawant. "And we need a massive expansion of social housing that is affordable housing that is publicly owned."

Still, differing opinions weren't welcome here. The crowd shouted down one man when he criticized Sawant.

“It's unaffordable because every time a developer wants to build something, she stops it,” said Bobby Gibbs, pointing at Sawant.

“If you let developers come ... ” he stopped in mid-sentence as the crowd jeered. “If you let developers come ..."

“No,” someone in the crowd shouted.

The developer has reportedly said it will provide the tenants thousands of dollars in relocation money as Seattle law requires. Construction is set to begin at Chateau Apartments in 2021.