Mayor proposes tougher fines for owners of blighted property
A controversial figure in the Roosevelt neighborhood for his dilapidated properties that spill across three blocks, Hugh Sisley is the poster child for a proposal unveiled Thursday by Mayor Greg Nickels to ratchet up fines against landlords with properties in disrepair.
Seattle Times neighborhoods reporter
Shoulders hunched forward, Hugh Sisley roamed 65th Street on Thursday, his dark glasses shading his 80-year-old eyes from the bright sun — and maybe the glare from City Hall.
A controversial figure in the Roosevelt neighborhood for his dilapidated properties that spill across three blocks, Sisley is the poster child for a proposal unveiled Thursday by Mayor Greg Nickels to ratchet up fines against landlords with properties in disrepair.
A Seattle Municipal Court judge recently ordered Sisley to pay about $75,000 in penalties for code violations at a vacant lot and an adjacent parcel on 66th Street he owns.
At a news conference, Nickels, without naming Sisley, referred to him as "the most egregious example" of those at whom his proposal is directed.
Blown-up color photos of heaped garbage bags by a house and a vacant lot littered with junk — Sisley owns both parcels — were mounted on easels next to Nickels.
Sisley has been seeking a zoning change for redevelopment of his property.
The proposed legislation, Nickels said, is "important work that gets to the heart of keeping our neighborhoods safe and livable." The mayor's proposal, which requires City Council approval, would amend city codes to punish repeat offenders who allow their homes to become blighted, turn their open spaces into junkyards or let bushes and weeds take over sidewalks.
The city Department of Planning and Development handled 2,440 cases last year, and owners corrected the violations in three-quarters of the cases. In the rest, the city sought fines — collecting more than $137,000 — and went to court in about 100 cases.
Nearly two-thirds of the cases in which the city went to court involve land-use violations. Nickels proposes doubling the fine for violations to $150 a day. After 10 days of breaking the law, violators would face fines of up to $500 a day. Fines for building and maintenance violations would jump from $15 a day to $150 a day for the first 10 days and then up to $500 a day after that.
"That's preposterous," said David Vogel, Sisley's attorney. Vogel said Sisley will appeal the judgment the city won against him. Sisley is working with a national developer who would like to bulldoze the run-down houses and build a 10-story urban village, Vogel said.
Jim O'Halloran, president of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association, said Sisley has had years to make a deal happen, and the association doesn't support Sisley's desire for a 10-story tower.
Sisley accuses the city of unfairly withholding a zoning change he needs to develop the urban village, which would be close to a planned light-rail station.
Alan Justad, a planning-department spokesman, said that even if an owner anticipates a change in zoning, "you still need to keep your place clean and safe."
Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or email@example.com
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