City to take legal action against owner of old Seattle Times building

SEATTLE -- The city of Seattle will begin legal action against the owner of the old Seattle Times building after the company ignored repeated requests to properly secure it, the Department of Planning and Development said.

The building at 1120 John St. has become a problem spot since being vacated by the newspaper in 2011. In recent months, squatters have taken up residency inside and on Thursday a blaze was sparked in an old printing press room after someone discarded smoking material.

After a complaint to the city on August 6, British Columbia-based Onni Group was notified that it would be fined up to $1,500 a day if the building were not properly secured from trespassers.

Since that time, it failed more than 10 inspections, according to public records.

“It's been several months that we've been in contact with these property owners and, although they have done a few things there, it’s clearly been insufficient,” said Faith Lumsden, code compliance director of  the Seattle Department of Planning and Development. “And we've been in repeated contact with them and can't get them to take the steps they need to take to really secure the building and keep the folks who've been in there out."

Lumsden said the city has begun the process of filing a lawsuit against Onni to collect at least $92,000 in fines that have accumulated.

Onni could not be reached for comment Thursday by phone or by email.

The company, based in Vancouver, has filed plans with the city to turn the building into high-rise commercial and residential units.

According to the Seattle Police Department, officers have responded to the address at least a dozen times in recent months. Calls ranged from complaints about trespassers and vandalism to drug crimes. The Seattle Fire Department has responded to the address more than 10 times since the building became vacant, including calls for medical emergencies in the area around the building and alarms going off inside.