City of Kent files lawsuit to declare Phoenix Court Apartments public nuisance

Aug 16, 2023, 6:50 PM | Updated: Aug 17, 2023, 11:21 am

kent officer shot...

Three Kent Police Department vehicles responding to a crime scene. (Photo: KIRO 7)

(Photo: KIRO 7)

The City of Kent filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court Tuesday to declare the Phoenix Court Apartments a public nuisance and seek an injunction, according to a press statement.

The city explained that it has elected to take legal action after over a year of insisting that ownership improves the safety of the complex.

Calling the complex in the East Hill neighborhood, “a hotbed of criminal activity, from shootings to stolen vehicles to drug dealing,” the city said it called meetings with management in July and October of last year and in January of this year. The city reported The property owner refused to attend the third meeting. and the city then “issued a Chronic Criminal Nuisance letter to the property owner and the management company detailing required remedies.”

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The city noted in its release that while some progress was made to make safety improvements to the property, crime has continued.

KIRO 7 notes there were seven shootings in five months at the Phoenix Court Apartments this year, with incidents taking place Feb. 11, May 17June 4, June 22, June 30, July 15 and July 27.

Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla recently called the complex a problem area.

“I’m just going to be very transparent. We are having major issues with crime at that particular apartment,” Padilla said, according to KIRO 7. “Right now it is the most serious location we’re concerned about. It somehow became the focus of major drug activity, and the violence that comes with major drug activity,” he said.

Looking at the overall numbers, Kent has had 17 homicides this year dwarfing last year’s count (nine), with more than four months of 2023 remaining.

In its release, the City of Kent said responding to major incidents at Phoenix Court are drawn away from other calls throughout the city.

“The current state of the Phoenix Court Apartments poses a significantly higher risk to public safety and consumes a disproportionate amount of emergency first responder resources as compared to its peer and neighboring apartment complexes,” Padilla said in the statement. “This is not just a high crime issue, it’s an issue of property ownership and management failing to meet its legal obligation to ensure tenants have a reasonably safe place to live.”

Kent crime news: Driver arrested for possible DUI, 12-year-old killed in crash

As the news release explains, the city’s lawsuit seeks a number of remedies. They include requiring ownership to complete a long list of tasks, including:

  • Evict tenants that engage in criminal conduct or host guests who engage in criminal conduct
  • Allow existing tenants to vacate their apartments without penalty and in some cases receive relocation assistance
  • Complete the security fencing and gate surrounding the property, ensure the entrance code is changed regularly, and ensure the fence is kept in good repair
  • Improve the safety of the complex by: Installing security cameras at each building; improving facility lighting; maintaining a 24/7 security presence

“Residents of the Phoenix Court Apartments and the surrounding neighborhood deserve to live in a safe place,” Kent Mayor Dana Ralph said in the release. “It is beyond frustrating that the city must spend its resources to force the property owner to provide the safe living experience that, as a landlord, they are required by law to provide.”

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City of Kent files lawsuit to declare Phoenix Court Apartments public nuisance