Sawant calls for emergency stop to sale of mobile home park for seniors

Jan 18, 2019, 2:00 PM

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Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant. (AP file photo)

(AP file photo)

A group of seniors facing eviction from a low income mobile home park in the Bitter Lake neighborhood is asking Seattle city leaders for help.

RELATED: Kshama Sawant files for re-election to Seattle City Council

Nearly 80 low income seniors call the Halcyon Mobile Home Park home — some for decades — including 74-year-old Eloise Micklesen, who moved in 16 years ago.

“I downsized and bought my house and started investing in rehabilitating it because my unit was put here in 1967. So, I had to do new windows, weatherization … all kinds of upgrades to make it a comfortable living space,” Micklesen said.

She and all her neighbors are a tight-knit senior community, who own their homes, but not the land they sit on. The owner promised the land would never be sold, and Eloise and her neighbors all believed they were secure and would be able to age in peace.

But the owner of the land recently died, and now the land is about to be sold to a developer.

If that happens, Eloise says she and her neighbors could end up homeless.

“Nobody has a clue where to go. I mean some of these people have been here 30 and 40 years and they’re old – they’re 70, 80, 90 years old,” she explained.

Finding out they could be evicted came as a shock, especially since most of the mobile homes are not in the condition that would allow them to be moved.

“It broke my heart to see the emotional fear, and denial and just unable to comprehend the situation that we’re in. It’s unbelievable they’re going to try and put us out in the street to build those units, townhouses, on this land that none of us can afford to get in,” Micklesen added.

Mickelsen pays just under $700 a month for the lot she is on and lives on social security. It is a similar story with her neighbors, some of whom are disabled or caring for ill family members.

Mickelsen and her neighbors have been reaching out to city leaders for help for months, and now have the ear of City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who is calling on the council to take action.

“It’s a little bit like the ‘Save the Showbox’ struggle, where the movement and my office was urging the city council to urgently pass the legislation at least for the moment to give a reprieve from the sale of the land, so that we can figure the next steps out. So that’s what urgently is needed to do here as well, but that won’t be enough, obviously only step number one. We also have to discuss what can actually be done to permanently — make sure that these residents are not evicted and don’t become homeless,” Sawant said.

RELATED: Sawant wants Seattle to hire EMT workers on verge of strike

Beyond asking the council to take an emergency action to temporarily stop the sale, Sawant also wants the council to look at other options. That includes a new zoning law in Portland that specifically protects mobile home parks from development, or perhaps even having the city buy the property.

But Sawant says others on the council seem less enthusiastic.

That’s because this property is tied to the city’s Mandatory Housing Affordability and upzoning, where developers are allowed to build higher up as long as they dedicate a certain amount of the units toward low income housing, or pay into a fund for them to be built elsewhere.

When Sawant earlier this week proposed removing the mobile home park from the upzone list, council member Rob Johnson suggested it may do more harm than good.

“Leaving out parcels from the Mandatory Housing Affordability program, I think that puts a greater emphasis on those areas for likely redevelopment, because again, a developer wouldn’t be required to pay or perform under the city affordable housing program, so I get concerned about leaving out pockets of the city,” Johnson said.

Sawant says there is a more pressing issue.

“It is not an option on my mind to allow the displacement, eviction, and very real prospect of homelessness for many of these senior residents,” Sawant said, questioning how throwing people out of their affordable homes helps the city’s homeless crisis.

It all gets a bit political for Mickelsen, who says she just wants a sense of security for herself and her neighbors.

“When you live in a community that you serve and you look after and get up and at night when they got emergencies and go to hospitals, and you hold their hands while they’re dying –you can’t just walk away from it,” she said.

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Sawant calls for emergency stop to sale of mobile home park for seniors