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GEE closure: The signs of shutdown

Before we headed out again to check out the closure status and seek new pix, WSB reader Andy S sent us the photo below (thank you!). He says copies of this flyer are up at all the entrances, and “the place is a ghost town”:

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Bulletin: GEE closing TODAY

Shortly after we posted the pix in the post below, a PR person for GEE wrote back to confirm we weren’t seeing things:

Yes, Gee Automotive has to close its door at the end of business today, as they do not have enough staff available to keep it open until October 7. It is no surprise that many of their employees have found positions with other dealerships in the area, as they are great people.

GEE West Seattle situation update

October 5, 2007 1:33 pm
|    Comments Off on GEE West Seattle situation update
 |   Triangle | West Seattle businesses | West Seattle news

We have sent the GEE (all capital letters is their official branding, so we will go with that from here on out) Automotive PR team a note asking if the Sunday closing is still on, or if there’s any progress toward a buyer. We’ll let you know what we hear back. Meantime, a few notes: As promised, we did check court records for the names of the four additional former Huling employees whose names were mentioned in the GEE lawsuit, separate from the three who are facing trial; records do not show charges filed at this point against those other four. Meantime, since we drive through Fauntleroy/Alaska at least four times a day, it’s easy to notice when things change, and three things caught our eye at the Gee lots this afternoon. First, some of the cars are no longer pulled all the way up to the sidewalk:

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Second, a U-Haul truck happened to be out by one of the service bays (yes, we know, could be absolutely coincidental, could even be there for some service work).

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Third, the “conventional media” is circling (again):

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Will this be the one that beats back the backhoes?

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Almost six months have passed since we first told you a teardown-to-mixed-use proposal was on the drawing board for the elegant old brick apartments shown above, at 3811 California (across from the also-in-limbo Charlestown Cafe), drawing laments from dozens of commenters (as well as from us). The four-story project planned for the site appeared to be proceeding full speed ahead. But maybe not – according to the following e-mail we received late last night from one of the current tenants:

I realize this is an old story for most, but for anyone interested in the fate of this beautiful building, we (the tenants) received a notice from the landlords today stating the following:

“The Landmark Preservation Board has determined that this property may meet the standards for Landmark Designation. Before this can be determined by the board, it is necessary to access the units for construction details.”

They’ll be doing a walk-through sometime tomorrow. The real significance for me is that this is the first documentation we’ve received at all from the landlords regarding the potential fate of our homes.

(On a side note, the notices were slipped into our mail slots in Omni
Construction envelopes — my first thought was they were our vacate
notices. Glad to see they weren’t!)

We will check today with the Landmarks Preservation Board to find out more about the expected inspection and what might happen next.

Gees vs. Hulings lawsuit: Read it here

We couldn’t get the lawsuit document online from King County Superior Court — too fresh, they said, check back in a few days — but we were able to get it just moments ago from Gee Automotive’s PR firm, and have uploaded it to our server. Click here to read it (12-page PDF). We will be reading it along with you. (Also a reminder if you missed it last night, we posted a lengthy statement from Sharon Huling regarding some of the accusations that already had appeared publicly, pre-lawsuit.) 5:35 PM UPDATE: If you don’t have the time or inclination to read the whole suit (actually fairly brief as such things go), here are a few random notes from our first readthrough:Read More

Hasta luego, ex-Hacienda

What’s left of the old Guadalajara Hacienda restaurant on Cali north of Morgan Junction is likely to be swept away any second now (if the backhoe’s not there already; we will be driving by shortly) – the city just granted a permit for townhouses on the site (and five other related project permits for townhouses and single-family homes, all California Ave addresses: 5919, 5921, 5925, 5927, 5929). The restaurant closed last February; the following photo was taken shortly afterward (the “bell tower” has since been taken down but the bulk of the building has stood, deteriorating):

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Gee situation update: A Huling family rebuttal

As the date for the threatened shutdown at Gee West Seattle approaches, we just heard again from the Huling family.geehulingicon.jpg Sharon Huling is the wife of Steve Huling, who ran the business before the sale to Gee. She e-mailed WSB to say, “Below is a statement that I would like to make on behalf of our family to the community. … It would be greatly appreciated if you would post it as there has been additional press about the Gee’s accusations printed today in the West Seattle Herald.” (The Herald article she refers to is here; the Times article mentioned below is here.) Her statement, unedited:

To our fellow community members,

It is upsetting to see our family’s reputation attacked in the newspapers. But I remain confident that the truth will come out – it always does – and thus our reputation will be restored. The Seattle Times article was pretty brutal to us, 19 quotes from the Gees, 5 or 6 from Steve, and select few facts. If you do the math, that’s about a 3:1 ratio (Gees:Hulings). There are also several statements in the West Seattle that warrant correcting if only in the pursuit of honesty and neighborly obligation:

First; the Gees made a promise to us not to disclose the sale price of the dealership, which they have now done (though inaccurately) and in the paper. By doing so they have broken their promise.

Second; last winter our family did not give $100,000 to the victim. What happened is this; Steve, on behalf of Huling Bros. and immediately upon learning about the questionable sale of the truck to the victim, unwound the truck sale and refunded the money to the customer. This occurred over a year ago at the time of sale. Then in January, immediately upon learning from the police that 3 former employees would be charged with a crime, our family chose to act with integrity and make restitution to the gentleman for the $70,000 our employees were accused of stealing though we were not obligated to do this. But to be perfectly clear, Huling Bros. and Steve were never accused of doing anything wrong.

Third; my husband did call Ryan Gee and Cline Davis immediately (I was present) upon learning from the police that former employees would be charged with a crime and it is they who chose not to return his phone calls thus missing out on the opportunity to secure some goodwill and stand with our family together against injustice.

Ryan Gee appears to being trying to fix the blame on my husband Steve and try him in the media. The Gees have clearly stated that they have a self-serving motive; suing us. It is very sad to read because of the vehemence of their attack and its inaccuracies. Just because Mr. Gee says something doesn’t make it so. In our great country we still honor the belief that people are innocent until proven guilty. My husband is an honorable man and I encourage the media to investigate the accuracy of Ryan’s statements, their reputation and track record in business east of the mountains and especially here with the people who worked for both of us. There you will find a story of the true tragedy; the people who will soon find themselves without a job.

Fourth; I am confused about Ryan Gee saying that their partnership “ran out of money” in his press release because one of their business partners – Wolff family members (Wolff Enterprises, LLC associated with Wolff Cos, etc.) from Spokane and Arizona – are worth hundreds of millions, possibly even a billion dollars. The Wolff”s are huge developers on a national level. One can only speculate that as such they could have made other choices like staying open until they are able to sell the dealerships thus not leaving 160 employees out on the street to fend for themselves. Our hearts go out to them and their families. Again, that is the real tragedy of this story. Still I am glad to see that our old Puget Sound competitors have been calling and making offers to many of our former employees whom they obviously value.

Fifth; I think that it is disingenuous to think that you can sell 3 dealerships in 2 weeks time, especially in this down market, this is the intent the Gees expressed to their employees last week when they announced their immediate plans to sell or close the business by Oct. 7th. It took us over a year to select a broker and find a buyer.

Sixth; besides breaking their promise of confidentiality, the Gees, as my husband stated in the WSH, broke other promises like changing the closing date for the sale at the last minute, more than once, and now they have broken their lease agreement. There have been other broken promises like saying they would meet to discuss differences, then not showing up or canceling at the last minute. Ryan has stated that they chose not to use the Huling name when in reality they did not buy the rights to use the Huling Bros. name, we purchased our name back during negotiations. What happened, happened to us, to Huling Bros. – the Gee’s are not us – a message they failed miserably at communicating to the public, a responsibility that lies with them.

Despite all of the negative press initiated by Ryan and his team, our family is doing well. There is nothing that I have written here that isn’t common knowledge, but I would like to add some additional perspective; in June the Gees – through their lawyer – wrote to Steve and his brother Tom saying that if they did not sell to them the properties the dealerships stand on “for less than market value” then they would sue us. My husband still has this letter. Ryan’s recent actions, with his threat to sue us in the Gee’s recent press release, lend credence to this statement.

We are thankful for and we welcome the positive reinforcement from our friends, former employees and former satisfied customers whom we cultivated through our good standing in the Seattle business community for over 60 years. Under Steve’s leadership our dealership sold thousands of cars a year over the course of many years. Huling Bros. consistently earned the highest ratings for customer service in the industry from the manufacturers and the public. Steve was also was awarded the Time Magazine Dealer Quality Award for the state of Washington and belonged to many civic and business organizations. We will continue to support and be active members of the community. We are deeply saddened that 3 men, who only worked for Huling Bros. a few short months, have caused so much heartache, for the victim and for everyone involved. We are people of integrity and we will continue to hold our heads high.

Most sincerely,
Sharon Huling

We are e-mailing Gee Automotive with a link to this post and offering them the opportunity to publish an unedited statement here too, if they so choose. Meantime, the clock ticks to this Sunday, when we will see if one of West Seattle’s biggest businesses does indeed close, costing more than 100 people their jobs.

More on today’s West Seattle Bridge suicide

(Our original report is below.) This is at least the third one since mid-June, that we know of; the other two didn’t get much attention elsewhere (here are our posts from June 19, and September 27) but this one is all over the rest of the “conventional media” because the man who killed himself first pulled a gun at his doctor’s office on Queen Anne. Here’s the Times story; the P-I story; the KING story; the KIRO story. No further details about the man’s identity so far except that he was 30 years old; we heard a radio report some time ago that he jumped while “driving home” so that could mean he lived in WS.

Yet another West Seattle Bridge suicide

The Aurora Bridge has gotten all the local attention in this sad arena but it may be time for some signs and phones on our bridges too. One of the people who wrote us about the deadly West Seattle bridge jump last week just e-mailed to say “it’s happened again” (she works in the area). The 911 log shows a “7 per rule” call (which usually means life-threatening injury/illness suspected) for that vicinity an hour ago – SW Spokane/Delridge. (1:15 PM update, just received another report from the area, so we’re taking the question mark off the headline). National suicide-prevention hotline: 800/SUICIDE. Local Crisis Clinic: 206/461-3222. Suicide is an epidemic and needs to be addressed, not hidden in shame-ridden reticence to talk about it. If you didn’t read it when we posted it last June, read this 2004 Seattle Weekly article (whose author, Philip Dawdy, has an excellent blog about mental-health issues, Furious Seasons), which addresses it better than anything we’ve ever seen. 1:35 PM UPDATE: Unlike last week’s jump, this one is getting “conventional media” coverage — this story just posted says the person committed suicide after confronting his psychiatrist.

Doomed duplex, the follow-up

Among the newly granted permits in the city’s latest “daily issuance report”: demolition of this duplex at 5935 Fauntleroy, which we wrote about exactly four months ago after hearing from its saddened, and surprised, tenants:

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What’s replacing it? The usual. Meantime, we’re going to see if we can dig up the ex-tenants’ e-mail address and find out where they landed.

Another apartment building on the block

Remember SeventyOne, the condo-converted 1-bedroom apartments south of Morgan Junction, once proclaimed by signage as “midcentury retro”? A similar complex less than a mile north on Cali has just appeared in for-sale listings: The Cal-Ray Apartments at 6000 California, offered for $1,995,000. Its official flyer (photo below is from that flyer, created by the listing-holders at Summerfield) doesn’t mention conversion but does suggest “strong potential for redevelopment.”

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La Rustica to stay closed 1 more week

October 1, 2007 2:09 pm
|    Comments Off on La Rustica to stay closed 1 more week
 |   West Seattle fires | West Seattle news | West Seattle restaurants

The popular, cozy Italian bistro on Beach Drive has been closed since the kitchen fire 10 days ago. La Rustica‘s owners were first hoping to reopen tomorrow, but we just checked with the family, and they say it will be one more week:

La Rustica will reopen Tuesday Oct. 9th. After assessing the damage from the fire and the time it would take to repair, we decided this would be a good time to refurbish and update the kitchen. Since it is such a small kitchen we are looking forward to the better use of space and efficiency. Thank you all again for your continued support and patience during this fire repair/remodel. We will see you all soon!

Truly,
The Pellegrini family

Gee situation: A comment from Sharon Huling

We have an informal policy that if anyone involved in or close to a situation surfaces in comments on a post about it, we will single out that comment to be sure you see it, rather than just leave it there to be discovered, or not. So, if you missed it below this post, the following comment came in very early this morning, signed Sharon Huling. (The residence-related remarks relate to a discussion in that original comment thread.)

My family and I are deeply saddened for our friends and former employees who will be losing their jobs when Gee West Seattle closes its doors. Our hearts go out to them.

I have lived in West Seattle for 27 years. My husband and kids were all raised here. We are listed in the phone book, though we have never lived on Sunset. We love WS and will continue to be a part of this community.

There have been many inaccurate and wrongful accusations recently in the news, in blogs and in the above quote from MD Johnson, Inc. With the Gee’s pointing the blame and threatening a lawsuit there really isn’t much that I can say except that the truth will come out in due time.

Bulletin … Salty’s is small

That’s according to the French newspaper Le Monde (4th paragraph from the bottom, “un petit restaurant de West Seattle”), as written up at Cornichon.org. (Of course, the Parisians got the name wrong, so perhaps the size lost something in the translation as well.)

3809 Admiral fire update

While we were out getting “day after” pix of the fire scene @ 3809 Admiral, eagle-eyed WSB readers noted that the P-I is reporting Seattle Fire investigators blame the fire on “smoking materials.” 1st pic is the exterior damage, 2nd pic is the pile of burned-out stuff in the driveway. For those who have been through house fires, provided everyone got out OK (as was the case here), that’s one of the worst things afterward, regardless of who or what’s to blame — that charred mass that was your stuff, sitting for hours, days, maybe weeks, out in the driveway or the front yard.

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Call it a trade-off … they’ll keep helping, if you help too

Often, readers tell us WSB has helped them learn something they didn’t know about our community, what’s happening around WS, or the services available. We have to say, it’s been educational for us too. Only after 15 years in WS are we beginning to learn about the full scope of what’s out there. The West Seattle Community Safety Partnership is one of many groups that just weren’t on our radar, for whatever reason. But it should have been on ours, and allow us to be so bold as to say it should be on yours. Long ago, the WSCSP was known as the “anti-crime council” — but its scope goes beyond crime. mug-lois.jpgAs demonstrated at Tuesday night’s meeting, the group is there to gather and share information about how to pro-actively protect yourself and your family and improve your neighborhood. Its officers are volunteers, but the group is assisted by a regular allotment of time provided by the Seattle Neighborhood Group for one of its staffers, Lois Grammon-Simpson (SNGi photo of Lois at right), who lives in WS. The room all but gasped Tuesday night when Lois revealed that SNG might stop providing the group with her services, as has already happened for a similar group in Southeast Seattle. But it’s not too late to change the course …Read More

From the papers

P-I columnist Robert Jamieson looks at an incident in WS that left a man injured after a clash with an off-duty police officer.
The Times says Holy Family on Roxbury is one of the first area Catholic churches to take on the Latin Mass that the Pope now says is OK again.

Bridges’ beauty

OK, so driving on them isn’t always a dream, but an engineering group says the WS bridges are among our area’s most amazing creations of the past half-century.

Two items from Alki

P-I ON PRODUCE: Eric’s produce stand by the Homestead is featured in this P-I article.

STATUE OF LIBERTY GROUP GETS TO START RECEIVING $: With days to go till the Tuesday unveiling and Thursday public meeting (7 pm @ the Bathhouse), Paul Carr announced in e-mail:

Seattle Statue of Liberty Committee—Phase II is happy to report we finally have our sponsoring 501(c)(3) organization, Urban Sparks. Urban Sparks began here in Seattle when they saw the need for community groups to have a Fiscal Sponsor. They have sponsored several other local groups doing local parks projects.

We can now begin, in earnest, to complete the Alki Statue of Liberty Project by accepting donations. Our thanks particularly to Pam Kliment of the Seattle Parks Department, who suggested this organization to us recently.

Paul says they’ll have more information up on their sealady.org website later this week. Meantime, if anyone spots Lady Liberty making the big move before for Tuesday night — we would love to get another photo like this one.

Trial nears for driver in Tatsuo Nakata death

August 23, 2007 8:08 pm
|    Comments Off on Trial nears for driver in Tatsuo Nakata death
 |   West Seattle news

Nine months after the 47th/Admiral crash that killed Tatsuo Nakata, the driver is a few weeks away from going to trial, according to this P-I update from a hearing today.

Pilfered pastries

The new edition of The Stranger features the tale of a police chase that ended in High Point, after the pursued vehicle left a trail of treats.