For many people with less-than-perfect pasts, the owner of the Shogun Plaza apartments gave them a second chance, but others say he put their safety at risk to line his own pockets.
About 50 tenants of the apartments, located at 905 E. Third Ave., were notified Friday morning they would have to move out by midnight the same day after officials with the Spokane Fire Department and city of Spokane deemed the building unsafe.
“We figured this was a blessing,” said Ambre Love, who was homeless until moving in yesterday. “And they’re telling us we’ve got to go.”
A notice addressed to the building’s owner, Jong S. Lee, and property manager Jerry Hedal, said the office/warehouse building was unfit for human habitation because it lacks a fire alarm and fire sprinkler system, does not have windows in many rooms, does not have safe exits and lacks approved wiring, plumbing, interior wall and room construction. The building contains combustible debris and hazardous wiring in several areas, according to the notice.
“In its present condition, this building is substandard, unsafe and represents an unreasonable threat to life and property,” the notice said.
Tenants said Lee conducts no background or credit checks and allows people to move in for very little money to make a quick dollar. An employee of Lee’s, Tinh Nguyen, said Lee is trying to help the community.
“The owner, when he opened this place, he was just trying to help people get back on their feet,” Nguyen said. “Trying to help for charity.”
He also said Lee was told when he bought the building it was for a multifamily residence, not a warehouse or office space, and that the notice to vacate was unexpected.
Tenant Chris Atkins, who was recently released from jail, said Lee gave him a job and a home when others would not.
“He’s a really good man,” he said. “He’s got a huge heart.”
Other tenants disagree and said Lee knew all along the building was unsafe.
“I’m livid,” said Lori Averill. “I mean, what do you do? What are all these people going to do? …
“He’s just greedy. He doesn’t fix anything. It’s horrible. Horrible.”