My response to Cornell & Associates comments to media & rights of their tenants

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Yesterday, in response to Ben Lomond Tenants’ Collective’s serious proposal for how to protect neighbors financially impacted by Covid19, the Co-President of Cornell & Associates, Bart Flora, said to the Seattle Times, “I don’t see why they think we’re different than anyone else. We don’t have some magic pot of money.” 

What  a shockingly insulting response to tenants working in good faith to navigate a pandemic. Please read my letter to Cornell & Associates in response to their comments to the media, and follow this link to email them in solidarity with the Ben Lomond tenants.

Tuesday April 28, 2020

Cornell & Associates Co-Presidents J. Blake Cornell and Bart Flora

Cc: Ben Lomond Building Manager, Adam Landry

I am following up on my letter to you dated Saturday, April 25, in which I urged you to respond to your tenants in the Ben Lomond building, many of whom are in straitened circumstances due to the pandemic, by meeting their demands before May rent becomes due

You have also received a second demand letter from your tenants, who are organized as the Ben Lomond Tenants’ Collective. And nearly 200 community members have written to you in solidarity with the Ben Lomond Tenants’ Collective, explaining why “request help from parents” or “utilize funds from savings” is a completely unacceptable response from you to tenants whose lives have been thrown into chaos by the current economic and public health crises. 

Disappointingly, instead of responding with even a shred of compassion for families who could soon be on the streets, you made light of their situation by glibly telling the Seattle Times that you “don’t get” why tenants would appeal to you for assistance because you “don’t have some magic pot of money.” 

Your attempt to ridicule your tenants is shocking, especially after you had the audacity to suggest to them that they should take on credit card debt to pay the rent. Cornell is one of the biggest residential property management corporations  in the Seattle area, managing over 5,500 apartments, with 75 multifamily residential buildings in Capitol Hill alone. My Council office retrieved this information from your website before you took it down this weekend, right after the community letters began reaching you.

Before you deactivated your website, it also included your boast of always achieving “maximum income under constantly changing economic conditions, while increasing property value” for yourself and your property-owning clients. Surely, by your own claim, you have accumulated the financial resources to allow you to meet the COVID19-related emergency demands of your tenants. And if you were indeed “in this together” with your tenants, as you declared in your letters to them, you would agree to absorb the costs of lost rent from tenants who have lost their income due to the Coronavirus crisis. 

However, as I mentioned in my previous letter, if you claim to be in financial hardship, I once again welcome you to talk to my office, and insist that you attend a meeting of the Renters’ Rights committee alongside your tenants and open your books, so we can evaluate your respective situations and see what course of action would be best for the community as a whole. 

Thank you,

Kshama Sawant