I congratulate the owners of Saba Ethiopian Cuisine for filing civil rights charges against the corporate developer that evicted them in July. In standing up for their rights, Saba owners are standing up for the rights of all small businesses that are resisting gentrification and displacement. My press release from Sept. 25:
Sawant to City: Expedite Discrimination Complaint Filed by Saba Ethiopian Restaurant Against Corporate Developer
Immigrant business charges illegal eviction, abuse by corporate developers
SEATTLE – Councilmember Kshama Sawant (District 3, Central Seattle), chair of the Council’s Human Services, Equitable Development and Renters Rights urged the City’s Office of Civil Rights to take steps on behalf of Saba Ethiopian Cuisine owner Workie Wubushet, who filed a discrimination complaint last week against their former landlord, corporate developer Alchemy Real Estate (operating through its affiliate, Centric Partners LLC), and enforce existing civil rights laws to fight gentrification and the displacement of small businesses.
The complaint alleges that Alchemy/Centric violated the City of Seattle’s Unfair Housing Practices Law when it evicted Saba, a successful, immigrant-owned business, in order to rebuild the property for profit. The complaint further states that “the City has a duty to put a halt to racist gentrification/eviction orders by enforcing its anti-discrimination ordinance.”
“Our movement is 100 percent committed to standing with Saba and holding Alchemy/Centric accountable. This discrimination complaint is just one more step we’re taking to hold the corporate developer accountable for relocating Saba in the Central District,” Sawant said.
Saba restaurant was evicted by the corporate developer in July, after having operated successfully in the Central Area for nearly 20 years. Saba restaurant has collected over 2,700 community signatures demanding justice, and is fighting on behalf of all small businesses throughout the city. Following this, on July 29, Councilmember Sawant chaired a Human Services Committee meeting, at which Saba patrons and supporters spoke out in support of the business and against their displacement by Centric.
At the July 29 committee meeting, Mrs. Wubushet described in detail how she sought a meeting with the corporate developer representatives to attempt to resolve issues. The Seattle Channel committee meeting recording of Mrs. Wubushet’s full testimony begins at minute 41:30 in which she describes Alchemy/Centric representatives Jay Miller and Gabe Rosenshine ordering her to come alone, and once she was at the meeting Mr. Rosenshine “started screaming, and slammed the table…I just started crying,” Wubushet recalled at the committee meeting. “He slapped again the table, and said ‘I’ll see you at the court!’” she recounted.
The abuse charge against Mr. Rosenshine is part of the civil rights complaint.
“What has been happening to small business owners like me is very sad, sick and disturbing. After I was abusively treated and then evicted, it made me feel America has no laws,” Wubushet said.
“Gentrification is killing small businesses. My mom was bullied and then displaced by greedy, unethical Centric,” said Saba Teklegiorgis, daughter of Mrs. Wubushet. “Every month we see immigrant-owned businesses that are getting pushed out of the community they helped build. Thankfully we have so much support from the community, including Councilmember Sawant. The support gives us the courage to continue to fight on. We are committed to fighting for justice from Centric, and so we can re-open our restaurant in the neighborhood.”
“When my office worked with security officers who reported religious discrimination and other labor law violation at Amazon corporation, the staff at the City’s Office of Civil Rights diligently investigated to the full extent of their powers. Community members and I look forward to similar diligence and urgency in the City’s investigation of Saba’s discrimination complaint,” concluded Sawant.