Engineer’s report forces waterfront evictions

Kirk Boxleitner, Carmen Jaramillo, Brennan LaBrie and Chris McDaniel news@ptleader.com Kirk Boxleitner, Carmen Jaramillo, Brennan LaBrie and Chris McDaniel news@ptleader.com
Posted 5/29/19

The day before Memorial Day weekend saw the Admiralty Apartments shedding its southside tenants after a structural engineer declared the building unsafe.

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Engineer’s report forces waterfront evictions

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The day before Memorial Day weekend saw the Admiralty Apartments shedding its southside tenants after a structural engineer declared the building unsafe.

Port Townsend City Manager David Timmons, on the scene May 24 as police oversaw residents’ removal of their belongings, said the previous owner of the Taylor Street building passed away last September, leaving it to a daughter.

“She and her husband decided to clean it up, and hired a structural engineer to assess it,” Timmons said. “They found out it was in bad shape from that, but it wasn’t until the follow-up inspection today that they found out the south wall, which faces the water, was in imminent danger of failure. It actually has a bulge.”

Even prior to the May 24 inspection, Timmons had long harbored concerns about the Admiralty Apartments building.

"It has always been my fear, because this has been one of the most at-risk buildings on the waterfront with residents with special needs,” said Timmons, who recounted how, during the Japanese tsunami alert of 2011, “We asked people to voluntarily vacate, because we knew it was going to take a longer period of time to empty that building out."

Timmons’ worries were exacerbated by the building being made from Portland concrete, which was mixed with seawater.

“You can see outside the building where the bricks have actually popped,” Timmons said. “A lot of the bricks used downtown were made with seawater, so they are very soft and brittle.”

Regardless, Timmons said, “Now it is time to move forward, because the building is structurally unsound,” and the engineer recommended the six units on the south side be vacated immediately.

On the afternoon of May 24, several older tenants stood outside the building with a police officer, Ash Moore, while a fire marshall was inside.

“People still may need accommodations, but no one’s getting kicked out on the street,” Moore said.

David Teske, a 73-year-old resident of Admiralty Apartments for the past 10 years, was one of six tenants evicted, all on the south side of the building.

Teske reported receiving “a series of notices over the last six months, where we were led to think there was going to be some construction work here,” possibly in July of 2020.

Roughly a week before their eviction, Teske and his fellow tenants received 90-day notices, informing them their leases would be terminated, and citing problems with the building.

“And then today, they said we’ve got to go now,” Teske said. “Two hours. I was escorted out of my apartment by the police and fire departments.”

According to Timmons, four of the six units had already been vacated - “one was a city employee, which we didn’t know about beforehand” - but there were two gentlemen in wheelchairs (Teske was one) who were still in need of accommodations, and the police were trying to assist them with transportation and finding new lodgings.

“The owner has been trying to work with them,” Timmons said. “They have provided some housing specialists, and brought in HUD officials, to try and help out all their tenants. They are doing the best they can."

Timmons told The Leader the landlords had expected to do a major remodel to add more units, prior to the May 24 inspection.

Instead, Timmons reported the the owner has since hired a contractor to shore up the building, so that once it’s stabilized, the tenants should be able to go back in to get their things.

“They will have to go through a motherlode of regulations,” Timmons said. “You’ve got the shoreline and the historical overlay district, and it’s a historical building on top of all that.”

Timmons did not have the name of the owner on hand.

“We have been dealing with the property manager,” said Timmons. “Apparently, there is a big hole in the wall from the storm this year.”

Timmons said the corporation is using the same engineering contractor the city uses, PND Engineers of Seattle.

"They specialize in water stuff,” Timmons said. “We used them on the Quincy Street project and some of the work downtown.”

In the meantime, Teske’s belongings are still in his apartment. He’ll be staying in a hotel for the time being, paid for by the owners of the Admiralty Apartments, until a new home is located for him.

“They tell me they’re going to put me up in the Hadlock Inn,” Teske said May 24. “I’m going to suck it up and take it like a man. I’m going to be fine. I’m a permanent tourist. I’ve been here since 1971, off and on. I don’t have anything critical to say about how this has been handled. I think everyone has taken it with a pretty good spirit.”

When Marilyn Kurka, the building manager, spoke with The Leader May 28, she was able to provide updates on the status of those former tenants.

Of the three market-rate tenants, one returned to their other home on Bainbridge Island, one relocated to a new place to live, and Kurka herself, the third market-rate tenant, is dislocated and currently living in her camper, while pursuing a property.

Of the three subsidized tenants, one man is on a 30-day trip to visit his brother in New York, while another has been moved into a different unit within the Admiralty Apartments complex, but in the building that sits along Water Street, which has not been declared unsafe.

Kurka credited the owners with paying for hotel rooms for three of their six evacuated tenants on the night they had to leave.

“They’re just trying to catch up as fast as they can,” Kurka said. “They must replace or repair it and keep it affordable housing. They were thrown a curveball that they were not ready for. We’re all running as fast as we can. We’re certainly going to do the right thing to help everybody find housing.”

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