Shattered Greenwood Businesses, Verging on Collapse Seek Support, Justice One Year Later from Puget Sound Energy (PSE)
“Negligence blew a hole in our home. But it doesn’t have to kill our dream.”
Dana Robinson Slote, Council Communications, 206-615-0061
Seattle, WA – Councilmember Mike O’Brien (District 6, Northwest Seattle) joined Greenwood-area business owners nearly one year after the March 9 explosion which traumatized the neighborhood and decimated local businesses.
While some attendees lost revenue from being closed for days or months, others spoke about a complete and total loss of their businesses altogether. All were assembled to both explain and illustrate the true cost of recovery and repair, and the need for reimbursement by Puget Sound Energy (PSE). Participants shared personal accounts of the devastating effects the blast had on their businesses, the crippling impact on the surrounding community, and the stalled efforts around reimbursement by PSE.
On September 20th, the federal disaster investigators determined that PSE was responsible for the explosion. “What we know is this: through no fault of their own, a number of owners are still suffering from a blast that was the result of negligence,” said O’Brien. “Meanwhile, PSE has not offered any compensation to these individuals, and hasn’t changed their standard operating procedure that would otherwise create safer conditions for all PSE customers and the surrounding community. If our local businesses continue to struggle or shutter all together under a non-response by PSE, then how can we be sure the company won’t be negligent again?”
Business districts like Greenwood thrive in large part due to the uniqueness of its shops and cafes. “We are a vibrant and fragile eco-system that has been unfairly threatened a shortsighted lack of corporate responsibility to these businesses and the broader region it serves,” said Chris Maykut, Chaco Canyon Organic Café. “One year later we are still struggling to recapture what we had. All we want is to be made whole again.”
Chef Eleni Henry, owner of Kouzina, had her structure designated as “unsafe” and yellow-tagged two days after the blast. “More than ten months later, I’m rendered unable to meet my weekly deliveries of gluten-free products to Seattle Children’s patients and others. My wholesale business is a total loss,” said Henry, who tried – but failed — to sell her customer base. “No one wants the business if a kitchen is not available,” she added. “If I don’t have a space by the end of the month I’ll have no choice but to shutter for good.”
Nikki Visel, Taproot Theater, spoke to the ways in which their security has been compromised. Four sets of entry doors on the sidewalk do not shut or lock properly as a result of the blast, and devising new routines to assure the security of kids onsite for classes has been necessary. “Anyone who has natural gas coming into their home or business – and that’s everyone — should be concerned PSE’s negligence and utter lack of compassion for the local businesses that were decimated and the surrounding community we serve,” said Visel.
Louise McKay, Bureau of Fearless Ideas, recounted the effects on their tutoring space and the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company, which closed between March through August for structural repairs and lead contamination. “After the blast, we had to cancel our Spring Workshops. But the real loss was the revenue which came primarily from the closure of our retail store, the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company, as well as the loss of staff time that was necessarily spent on dealing with explosion-related logistics and unexpected challenges rather than on fundraising and planning for the future.”
“What would you want if someone blew up your home?” said Davey Oil, co-owner of G&O Family Cyclery. “What happened to us shouldn’t happen to anyone. And it’s unconscionable that PSE hasn’t done anything for the community they pulverized. Negligence blew a hole in our home. But it doesn’t have to kill our dreams.”
“It’s staggering that no one paid with their lives in an explosion of this magnitude. But the true cost is the profit lost by the community represented before you today,” O’Brien concluded. “We need to know the that places we live and work are well secured and being monitored; we defer to the experts to check all the natural gas lines, and determined that they are safe, and will not cause a devastating explosion like the one experienced in Greenwood.”
Business owners encouraged participants, customers and community members to contact the CEO of PSE Kimberly Harris directly: at 425-462-3897 and Kimberly.Harris@pse.com and demand PSE make the local businesses financially whole, and to take full responsibility for their actions.
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