Property management companies in Seattle and other businesses have filed a class-action suit in federal court against the City of Seattle over the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), claiming the city “enabled the widespread destruction and vandalism of private property.”
The lawsuit says businesses, employees and residents have been overrun by “the city of Seattle’s unprecedented decision to abandon and close off an entire city neighborhood, leaving it unchecked by the police, unserved by fire and emergency health services, and inaccessible to the public at large.
“The city’s decision has subjected businesses, employees, and residents of that neighborhood to extensive property damage, public-safety dangers, and an inability to use and access their properties,” the lawsuit says.
Support of the protests
The lawsuit says it does not seek to dilute the participants’ right to free speech or their message.
Those filing the lawsuit say, “Plaintiffs support the free-speech rights of many of those who have gathered on Capitol Hill,” and “Black Lives Matter who, by exercising such rights, are bringing issues such as systemic racism and unfair violence against African Americans by police to the forefront of the national consciousness.
“This lawsuit does not seek to undermine CHOP (Capitol Hill Organized Protest) participants’ message or present a counter-message. Rather, this lawsuit is about the constitutional and other legal rights of plaintiffs—businesses, employees, and residents.”
The suit says property management companies, owners and their tenants have not been able to fully use their properties.
“Property owners and tenants have, for instance, had to lock and barricade their garages and loading areas at risk of having participants entering and vandalizing them.
“Property owners have been told by CHOP participants that if they dare to paint over graffiti, their buildings will be more severely vandalized or even burned to the ground.
“The city has done nothing to prevent this conduct, but, instead, has actively endorsed and supported the ongoing occupation of the CHOP area and the destruction of property.”
Property management companies filing the lawsuit
The businesses and individuals filing suit say the “city has not listened” to their complaints about destruction of property so they had no alternative but to file a lawsuit. In addition to small businesses and individuals filing the lawsuit, there are many property management companies.
- Hunters Capital, LLC is one of the plaintiffs; it manages multifamily residential and other mixed-use properties in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. “Hunters Capital has suffered, and continues to suffer, economic loss …its property has been damaged and its tenants and employees have been harassed,” the suit says. A maintenance person at Hunters Capital was attempting to clean up graffiti on the building “when accosted by a group of CHOP participants” and told to stop the cleanup “and threatened to burn down the building” if the maintenance person did not comply. The company said tenants have been unable to sleep because of the constant noise. “Female tenants in particular have reported concerns about their personal safety in light of the numerous reported instances of sexual assault in CHOP. Some residents have threatened to break leases” with the company “because of extensive problems caused by CHOP.” Also the suit says, “tenants have already started to leave because of CHOP, and others cannot pay rent. Every day that passes. more of the company’s tenants leave.”
- Madrona Real Estate Services, LLC said in the suit that they also have suffered, and continue to suffer, economic loss and other injuries, that their tenants have been harmed and harassed. Madrona also reported that CHOP participants had entered one building, pulled out pipes and set off the fire alarm and set off the sprinkler system, causing evacuation of 100 residents and flooding the parking garage, and “left human feces on multiple premises.” Madrona has been unable to lease more than 40 new units in the area “because nobody is interested in moving to CHOP.” Also, many of their small commercial tenants are facing bankruptcy.
- The Onyx Homeowners Association has 65 condominiums in the area, and its building has suffered property damage and theft and owners have been harassed and threatened. The president of the association, Wade Biller, “has been physically assaulted by a CHOP participant while attempting to negotiate with CHOP participants in his role as president” of the association. The suit says the building has been subject to graffiti and vandalism and residents calls to 9-1-1 received no response from the city.
- Redside Partners LLC also manages numerous properties in the Capitol Hill area and “has suffered, and continues to suffer, economic loss from CHOP among other injuries.”
- Olive Street Apartments LLC owns two apartment complexes in the CHOP area and also “has suffered, and continues to suffer, economic loss from CHOP, among other injuries.” The owner tried to move a dumpster outside the zone so the garbage would get picked up but was “videotaped and harassed” while trying. At the apartments CHOP participants tried to break into the buildings and into mailboxes and the apartments called police “but the police told Olive Street Apartments’ security guard that they would not send anyone to the area.”
The suit asks an injunction requiring the city to remove barriers and the nuisance created by CHOP and for actual damages to be determined by a jury at trial.
Read the full lawsuit here https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6956626-CHOPComplaint.html