Beach Drive apartment building becomes ‘sober living’ complex: New ownership explains what that means, refutes rumors

(WSB photo)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“It is not shared housing, a treatment facility, or a halfway house. It is simply an apartment building where all tenants commit to a sober lifestyle and all drug and alcohol use, possession, or consumption is prohibited.”

That’s how the new owners of the waterfront Beachwood Apartments at 4027 Beach Drive SW (map), a company called Seattle Sober Living, explain what they’re doing with the 10-unit building. After we received questions from readers who were curious and/or concerned after rumors started circulating in the community, we contacted SSL to request an interview, and got a quick, affirmative reply. The company bought the building earlier this year and stresses that it will be operated as an apartment building – albeit one whose tenants must meet a particular condition.

“Founded by local families, Seattle Sober Living is a local company focused on providing housing options that support individual tenants’ sobriety,” SSL’s David Gould told WSB in an interview conducted via e-mail. “This effort is deeply personal for the organization’s founders, as each have been touched in a profound way by loved ones struggling with addiction. As such, Seattle Sober Living’s focus is on helping everyday people – our family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors – to successfully live drug and alcohol free.”

Gould says this type of housing is “almost impossible to find in Washington State.” (The website says that was a problem for the company’s five founding families, who “had to send their loved ones away to find a safe and sober environment.”) But, he emphasized repeatedly in our exchange, this remains an apartment building, with units being leased to tenants – not a halfway house or transitional housing:

“Under federal and local laws, transitional housing is temporary housing provided to certain vulnerable populations like homeless individuals or families. Transitional housing must provide individualized support services to its clients like alcohol and drug additional treatment, job training, health care, childcare and assistance in locating permanent housing, among other services. Seattle Sober Living is not transitional housing. Consistent with state law, Seattle Sober Living is a private landlord providing a drug and alcohol free environment to help individuals succeed on their personal sobriety journey. Seattle Sober Living does not provide drug and alcohol counseling, treatment or rehabilitation services or other support services. Seattle Sober Living is privately founded and does not accept public subsidies or limit the maximum length of a tenants’ residency. Seattle Sober Living simply leases individual apartment units to tenants – with the key difference being that all units must be drug and alcohol free.” The parameters for this are set under this state law.

Gould added, “Contrary to the rumors, we are not providing housing for people currently using drugs or alcohol, nor are we subsidized transitional housing for vulnerable populations. We would ask our community to recognize that these are people, just like you and me. Simply put, we provide drug- and alcohol-free apartment units. … Each renter will sign a lease and will have their own apartment unit, consistent with any neighborhood apartment building. The only difference is that, as part of each tenant’s housing agreement, and consistent with state law, they must remain drug- and alcohol-free to remain in their apartment. The use or possession of drugs or alcohol will result in expedited eviction as authorized under state law.”

We asked how many people are expected to live there. Gould says, “There are 10 units in the building. One will be a full-time residence for the on-site manager and one will be used for the management office. The eight additional residences includes 6 two-bedrooms and 2 one-bedrooms. The maximum occupancy if all rooms are fully utilized (with roommates) would be 26 people – but realistically, we would have 15-20. This occupancy rate is therefore the same as under the previous ownership. The rumor that there would be 50 or more people in the building is false.” The units, he adds, are fully furnished. The work that’s being done right now is “to add new paint, carpet and minor electrical upgrades.”

So far, he said, they have three tenants and are accepting applications from prospective tenants who will be screened by onsite management. This is Seattle Sober Living’s only property. “We believe a majority of our tenants will be from the Seattle/Puget Sound region – and here’s why…in Seattle and Washington State, demand for these types of services and housing far exceeds supply for in-state after-care for recovering addicts (in fact, it’s almost non-existent). For a majority of those in Washington State who seek treatment, they must do so out-of-state and then once treatment is complete, their after-care is also out-of-state, which translates to months if not years away from families and loved ones. Seattle Sober House provides an in-state option to help keep families and loved ones together during an individual’s path toward living a clean and sober life.”

The Seattle Sober Living home page describes this as “a community for men.” We asked Gould why just one gender. “As of now, our primary potential tenant will be male. In our experience, we find that environment is most productive for individuals focusing on sobriety. This is standard for housing similar to ours nationwide. We adhere to all state and local rental housing laws.” (In a later followup on the gender issue, he said, “After-care independent housing usually focuses on either male or female residents, as it helps each person stay focused solely on sobriety. That said, we would certainly also lease to a female potential tenant if they were interested.”)

Because of the specific drug/alcohol-free-housing law mentioned above, “Under Washington law, we must provide an employee to monitor for compliance with the drug/alcohol free environment. Additionally, there is a code of conduct that each tenant agrees to as part of the lease to be accountable to their sobriety and that of other tenants. The use or possession of drugs or alcohol will result in expedited eviction as authorized under state law.”

For those who follow the rules, “There is no set time limit on residency.”

While they’re not operating anything that requires community notification, Gould says, “We plan to send a letter and Frequently Asked Questions document to close-in neighbors within the week. We will also set up an informational email that neighbors are welcome to use if they have questions. The owners will field these questions and are happy to respond.”

FOOTNOTE: Research reminded us that the sale of this building touched off a citywide discussion last spring, after tenant Janice Harper wrote an open letter published by Seattle Weekly under the headline “Dear Landlord,” about the housing-affordability crisis and a tenant’s suicide. Its future as a “sober living” building was apparently not known at that time; we didn’t hear about this plan until a recent e-mail from a neighbor, pointing us to the website.

42 Replies to "Beach Drive apartment building becomes 'sober living' complex: New ownership explains what that means, refutes rumors"

  • Kathy September 26, 2015 (8:53 pm)

    Sober living houses are an extremely important step in a person’s ability to live a sober lifestyle. There are several sober houses in the Seattle area under the name of Oxford Houses. They have played a huge role in a relative’s recovery and we should welcome this organization’s efforts to provide this housing for individuals who need this support.

  • well then September 26, 2015 (9:37 pm)

    I think many, myself included, assumed the building would be sold to soul-crushing top profit developers.

    How very wrong to have assumed that, in retrospect. Understandable, given the new normal for this city, but wrong nonetheless.

    God speed to the new tenants and to the family friends and relatives of William McHalffey.

  • Jim P. September 26, 2015 (10:07 pm)

    “It is simply an apartment building where all tenants commit to a sober lifestyle and all drug and alcohol use, possession, or consumption is prohibited.””

    OH, just like being on parole. And I bet it works just about as well.

    How does management plan to enforce it? Will there be surprise inspections or will they just take someone’s word?

    I understand that serious alcoholics get *very* good at concealing their liquor in the darndest places. (Had a good friend who’s husband kept his vodka stash in a nasal spray bottle for allergies. Let him have a snort or two even in staff meetings.

    Yes, I am a cynic. I wish these people well but only time will tell if this scheme will be good or bad for the neighborhood.

    • WSB September 26, 2015 (10:19 pm)

      Jim – If you read the text on the home page (very brief) and/or the state law linked in the story, you’ll note the mention of (former) “random drug testing” aka (latter) “(v) The landlord has the right to require the tenant to take a urine analysis test regarding drug or alcohol usage.”

  • KnockedOverByAFeather September 26, 2015 (10:19 pm)

    I’ve been wondering about this place for months! Gonna wonder some more! I still miss Bill though – and hope his next life is happier.

  • Northwest September 26, 2015 (10:23 pm)

    My girlfriend rents downtown between Western and Elliot ave Belltown and Waterfront area of Seattle. The 30’s crowd which are the majority of the tenants at her building are getting back from partying at 2am-3am on weekends or on the patio or roof deck at all hours over the weekend drinking. For some that are problem drinkers who no longer drink it’s real difficult to be around this all the time Jim P. .

  • JanS September 26, 2015 (10:46 pm)

    so..just an apartment building, and people pledge to not drink, do drugs, etc.? Their website sounds like it’s more than that. Time will tell. The website also says that it’s for men only. Can they discriminate like that? Do not women who are recovering need a place, too> My building is mixed sexes, why isn’t that one? It actually sounds to me that it’s more than just an apartment building. It’s not open to everyone…only men who are in recovery. I get the feeling there will be other strings, too. My best to those who will be living there. Addiction can be a terrible thing.

  • KnockedOverByAFeather September 26, 2015 (10:57 pm)

    Knocked Over By A Feather won’t fit as a name – but it fits my reaction.

    I suspect that the future renters of this building, given its location, will have substantial financial resources. Not all addicts/alcoholics are low income. Imagine being in recovery and returning each night to a high-rent, fast-living community where everyone is uncorking bottles and cutting lines to celebrate the end of another wild business day – and you have to brace yourself to get through the evening on club soda. Might be nice to come home and enjoy a sunset without the pressure of joining a boozy party.

  • chemist September 26, 2015 (11:14 pm)

    Won’t this part of the law require that any live-in management also be participating in AA/NA/etc? That section of RCW also seems to indicate the SSL would need to be providing NA/AA type programs/access as “(iii) Individual and group support for recovery; and (iv) Access to a specified program of recovery”

    “(a) Each of the dwelling units on the premises is occupied or held for occupancy by at least one tenant who is a recovering alcoholic or drug addict and is participating in a program of recovery;”

  • dsa September 27, 2015 (12:56 am)

    What do you all care? Instead, they could just as easily rent units out to alcoholics who are not on the wagon.

  • Diane September 27, 2015 (1:45 am)

    if these are just apartments, curious how they circumvent fair housing laws by only allowing males

  • Diane September 27, 2015 (1:54 am)

    based on their website, these are not just apartments; this is a sober living program; and it says just men:
    “Fellowship. Self-respect. Honesty. Recovery.
    Sobriety requires work. Seattle Sober Living emphasizes accountability through random drug testing, mandatory AA or NA meetings, daily chores, wake up times and curfews, job requirements, furthering education, and volunteering. These things make it possible for men to reclaim their lives.

    Men are encouraged and required to become productive, contributing members of society. This is achieved through the structure provided, willingness of the men, built-in fellowship, and the modeling provided by live in managers and staff of Seattle Sober Living.”

  • murrien September 27, 2015 (3:46 am)

    I went to a college that had drug/alcohol free housing available. Some people chose it so they had no additional temptations, some choose it to be able to study and sleep. My current building allows no pets. Allergies are serious for some folks. That’s why they live here. Just having a dog walk through the hallway can set off a reaction. I don’t see a difference.

  • sober since 1996 September 27, 2015 (5:58 am)

    So none of the units will be for recovering alcoholic women? I hope they are successfully sued. I’m a woman who has not had a drink since 1996. Being in mixed AA groups was not a distraction from or barrier to remaining sober.

  • ohboy September 27, 2015 (6:57 am)

    Whoa! These people need a helping hand people!they are trying for the better..jeez

  • JoB September 27, 2015 (8:19 am)

    although i applaud the concept, i don’t think it’s much consolation to the former tenants.. many of whom were already clean and sober

  • ScubaFrog September 27, 2015 (9:54 am)

    JoB you’re assuming that all non-AA’ers are “clean and sober”. How could you possibly know about the former tenants and their possible drinking and/or drug use/abuse habits.

    There are a tremendous amount of homes and complexes that are Women-Only, ‘sober since 1996’, do a little research perhaps.

    There are clearly a lot of unfortunate stigmas attached to sober addicts/alcoholics, if some of the comments here reflect how society feels about alcoholism, addiction and sobriety in 2015. How unfortunate to judge and demean these men and women, who are trying to turn their lives around.

    You just can’t win with some people.

  • JeffK September 27, 2015 (10:04 am)

    sober since 1996, I applaud your sobriety. However, why the need to take away from another program? Why can’t male, female, mixed group buildings all exist. Not everything is solved by lawsuits. Just because this place is not all things to all people does not invalidate it.

    Jim P., as others have eluded – thousands of drunks all over town are currently in possession of alcohol. Should we call the police? Criminalize them so they can eventually be released on ‘parole’? Do they belong in half-way houses? Just not in your neighborhood?

    All right, the knee-jerk skepticism has gotten my ire up this morning. Let’s support people trying to fix their lives. Let’s support a small-scale community based program that improves lives. A positive community heals itself instead of ostracizing those struggling.

  • chemist September 27, 2015 (10:16 am)

    ohboy, I’m entirely supportive of proper facilities for supporting someone’s quest for kicking a harmful addiction and learning to live beyond that. The response given to Tracy (the first few lines in the article) makes it sound like it’s just an apartment with a few extra conditions in a lease about testing. That’s what is confusing. The law requires the facility be more than that, so it must be. This isn’t just like an apartment for a non-smoker who prefers not to smell cigarette smoke.

  • JoB September 27, 2015 (10:51 am)

    I don’t know why people think they can decide what other people assume and then reply to that as though it had substance.

    I don’t assume that people who don’t attend AA are clean and sober any more than i assume that all who do are currently clean and sober…

    and i don’t think i stated anything that would lead you to believe that i think that.

    I have been clean and sober nearly 25 years… although i do not and did not choose to attend AA.. it has not been a cakewalk. still isn’t.

    I also suspect you don’t know the story of that property.. that was residence to mostly low income long term Seattle residents who really didn’t have anyplace else to go.

    Odds are at least a few of them could tell their own clean and sober sagas… i personally know at least one who could and did…but the odds are really bad that a single one of them could afford the rents for this new clean and sober facility.

    If you think recovering alcoholics and drug addicts just can’t win.. imagine how hard it is if you don’t have the funds to finance recovery facilities.

  • ohboy September 27, 2015 (11:46 am)

    Just let it be! Is anyone really complicating your life? HURRAY Someone is TRyING to make life better!

  • Diane September 27, 2015 (2:10 pm)

    any info on how much they’re charging for these “apartments” that are really part of a recovery program house?
    my recovery started 34 yrs ago; my first 2 months I lived in a women’s recovery house; it was free

  • Jen September 27, 2015 (4:09 pm)

    I wish everyone was this concerned when any neighbor moved in anywhere. Meaning, we never know who our neighbors are in general and possibly if we did know, we’d be very concerned. Comparing recovering alcoholics to people out on parole rates up there with a comment that was said about this place in a different forum, a woman posted ‘they are in recovery, has anyone checked the sex offender list’. How about thinking positive that whoever lives there may actually turn their life around? Might, dare I say, contribute to the neighborhood in a positive way? Most of these comments seem to be fear of the unknown, get to know them, maybe they are actually nice people.

  • Jason September 27, 2015 (4:24 pm)

    Sober people!? There goes the neighborhood.

  • SeeBill? September 27, 2015 (10:53 pm)

    I cannot understand why random joe public thinks this is any of their business or concern. Rents in west Seattle have increased sharply. There are many, many alcoholics, and people that drink far too much. All the recovering and non-recovering alcoholics, and excessive drinkers, and non-drinkers, who don’t live in this building, live somewhere else. I would assume that because the residents of this building are accountable, and have made a commitment to not drink, and that alcohol is not openly allowed here- that there is probably less drinking going on here than in other places. And if it is not less, then it is more. And drinking alcohol and paying high rents are both legal, and very common occurances in west Seattle. Furthermore, perhaps this whole sober house issue is not your dealio to worry about, and your energy would be better spent working on your own problems.

  • aa September 28, 2015 (7:49 am)

    The nice thing about a sober living house is at least these people are trying to better their lives. And through that mend relationships.

    I’d trade you a SL living house for the 24 unit micro gal-dang unit that’s going up on my street any day!

  • Kimmy September 28, 2015 (8:41 am)

    Diane – I think they are actual apartments, not just alleged apartments. Seems completely reasonable to charge people money to rent space, regardless if on their path to recovery, of their relationship with drugs, their gender, etc. Seems like common sense to me, and a great use of the building.

  • don September 28, 2015 (11:46 am)

    I think its great that another sober house is going up. I wish them success and hope they can open more houses in the coming years. As for the accountability of the residents to remain sober the article mentioned both a super and an occupied office with a company employee. I am quite positive that they will do inspections. One post mentioned alcoholics are good at hiding their alcohol. That is true. The people staying in this house are recovering alcoholics. They have completed detox. They completed a month long rehabilitation program prior to this new house. They are sober and want to remain that way. If they relapse they will be kicked out. For the house being male only, anyone in aa would tell you that in early recovery people need to focus on staying sober and working on themselves. Having the opposite sex around in a sober house can derail a person’s recovery and ruin that focus. Ok last thought…would you prefer to live next to people who are sober every day or next to people that get drunk or do drugs every day?

  • Jennifer September 28, 2015 (12:20 pm)

    As a woman in recovery, I wholeheartedly support this sort of endeavor in our community. I believe a facility like this is much needed and what better place to rebuild your life than in beautiful West Seattle? Our city is a diverse and wonderful place to live and speaking from personal experience, there is no better place to get sober. The tragic story of a previous tenant just reinforces the need for this sort of support for people living with addiction. I wish Seattle Sober Living nothing but success in their mission.

  • Ex-Westwood Resident September 28, 2015 (12:33 pm)

    While I applaud this, I do have a question…
    If the Landlord can stipulate and require that NO alcohol or drugs are allowed by residents, can the Landlords of these “micro” apartments, that provide ZERO parking for tenants, stipulate and require that they must not own cars?

    • WSB September 28, 2015 (12:39 pm)

      There’s nothing in the state law cited regarding vehicles. However, I did ask them about this, as one of the many questions I asked in our online exchange. (They are NOT micro-apartments, by the way.) It wasn’t relevant to what I was writing about as the story took shape but since you ask, this was how David Gould answered my question about parking: “This building has been an apartment with on-street parking for decades. Our tenants will not be adding congestion to current on-street parking levels, as most residents will not have cars. In fact, we anticipate less than 50% of residents at any given time will come with a vehicle. This would therefore be less on-street parking than the previous owner and tenants.”

  • Diane September 28, 2015 (1:21 pm)

    Kimmy; read their website; these are not just apartments; this is a recovery program
    if they were just apartments, it would likely violate fair housing laws to discriminate by only allowing males

  • neighbor September 28, 2015 (3:45 pm)

    As a neighbor, I am interested in;
    Actual occupancy numbers and the frequency of turn-overs.
    Qualifications of the supervisor(s) doing the intake assessment/screenings of the tenants.
    Are there any state, city or county compliances required of a private for profit, Sober Living homes that Beachwood Investments LLC/Seattle Sober Living must adhere to?

    • WSB September 28, 2015 (3:58 pm)

      The state law is linked in the story – follow the link for the full text. Re: actual occupancy numbers, the story says they have three tenants (that would be as of this weekend, as I wrote this story the same day I received the responses, Staurday). Frequency of turnovers – would be too soon to say, if they’ve just rented to their first three tenants. Qualifications – you can probably contact them via the address on their website (which is how I reached David Gould in the first place) to ask about that; that was not among the myriad topics I asked about.
      I hope the neighbors will let us know if and when they get the FAQ type document that he indicated would be sent this week – TR

  • RCS September 28, 2015 (5:50 pm)

    Most of you commenters have rotten souls… You’re terrible, terrible people.

    These are people who are trying to stay away from alcohol. You’re attaching all kinds of stigmas to that – by assuming crime or violence was somehow involved. These could be people who could simply be working through their struggle. Some of you can’t even control your eating habits or pumpkin spice latte addiction – and yet you throw stones.

    I’d rather have a building with no alcohol next door to me than a bunch of partiers making noise until 4am.

  • aa September 28, 2015 (6:39 pm)

    Oh Neighbor, do you have this information on all your neighbors? I don’t know what the turnover is in the rentals on my street… do you?

    I agree with RCS, some people commenting are inaccurately associating people staying sober with criminal activity. These tenants are more likely to be someone’s father or brother who wants to live a better life without drinking and they are more likely to succeed if you say hello/ have a nice day rather than unreasonably expect answers to your questions. There is no reason to associate crime or danger with them.

  • huh? September 28, 2015 (7:47 pm)

    @Diane, how can you be upset about male only, when you said you stayed at a “woman’s recovery house”?

  • Diane September 28, 2015 (9:13 pm)

    @huh; read what I said; I was in a recovery program, and that is perfectly fine to be just male or just female; if these people are trying to pass off this recovery program as just “apartments” (which appears not true based on their website) then they need to adhere to fair housing laws; if it’s a recovery program for men only, that’s fantastic; just call it what is really is, a men’s recovery program; it seems to me they’re trying to console neighbors who are freaked out about alcoholics next door (kinda funny, since alcoholics are everywhere) by calling these apts

  • huh? September 28, 2015 (10:46 pm)

    @Diane, who cares what they call it, or how they zone it, or whatever. It’s a majority 2 bd housing, as mentioned co-ed rooms may distract from recovery. As long as PEOPLE are recovering, why the problem?

  • Diane September 29, 2015 (12:31 am)

    if you don’t get it from what I’ve already explained, many times, I give up

  • neighbor September 29, 2015 (11:33 am)

    @WSB thank you for this article.

  • ws_suzanne September 29, 2015 (4:29 pm)

    Indeed — Thank you WSB for covering this issue. Your reporting along with the comments have added enormously to my understanding of the changes that will be coming to this apartment house, filled with great character from the 1920’s-ish time it was built.

    It’s one of my favorite buildings along the waterfront. The very fortunate residents will have an astounding connection to Puget Sound, Vashon, the Olympics, Weatherwatch Park, and all the beauty surrounding this location. I hope this deep connection helps them in their healing process.

    And I’m so grateful to know that it was Bill McHalffey who gave a friend and me a tour of the building when there was a vacancy several years ago. He was exceptionally kind and I’m very sorry to hear that he took his life when this building was sold. Truly heartbreaking.

Sorry, comment time is over.