A property company that owns a slew of condo and apartment buildings on gay-friendly Capitol Hill has donated thousands of dollars to Preserve Marriage Washington—the campaign battling gay marriage in our state—after allegedly trying to prevent two tenants from hosting a pro-gay-marriage fundraiser in the courtyard of one of its apartment buildings.
- Kelly O The Granada Apartments on Belmont Ave
And one week following the event, Breier-Scheetz Properties made a $20,000 contribution to Preserve Marriage Washington, helping push the anti-gay marriage campaign's fundraising total to $524,944, according to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).
All told, according to King County property records, the company owns nine residential buildings on Capitol Hill—meaning it collects rent from hundreds, if not thousands of gay and gay-friendly tenants living in its 438 apartment and condo units in the neighborhood.
"I feel sick about this," says 26-year-old April, one such tenant who believes that the anti-gay donation was motivated by her months-long fight with the property company to host a fundraiser for Washington United for Marriage, the campaign to legalize gay marriage in our state. April lives in the Granada Apartments, a 96-unit building located less than a mile from the United for Marriage headquarters on Capitol Hill.
No one from Breier-Scheetz Properties returned repeated interview requests. However, April says trouble began back in June when she first approached her apartment manager (and Breier-Scheetz employee) JoAnn Huth with the idea of holding an intimate pro-gay-marriage fundraiser in her building's lush courtyard.
"I told her what it was for and she said it was totally fine right then," says April, who requested that her last name be withheld. But that message changed a few weeks later, when April and her boyfriend and fellow tenant, Ben Allen, attempted to pin down a date for the event. Huth reportedly told the couple that Frederick Scheetz, the owner of Breier-Scheetz Properties, had informed her the event "was not something we want to have at the Granada." The explanation struck April as strange. Granada's tenants are continuously hosting events in its courtyard and, to her knowledge, no one has ever been told they couldn't have a party. "There was even a wedding reception held here just last month," she says.
Huth declined to be interviewed for this story.
But in numerous follow-up conversations, April says Huth repeatedly told her that the marriage equality event simply couldn't happen. "When I asked what the owner's concerns were, she wouldn't tell me," April says. "She just repeated her talking point: 'It's not something we want to have here.'"
An email sent from Huth seems to confirm this [sic throughout]:
"I have spoken with the owner in regards to a fund raiser in our courtyard here at The Granada and has decided that it would not be something be want to do," Huth wrote in an email to April dated July 25. "I'm sorry know this disappointment to you."
April then reached out to Scheetz directly to try and alleviate his unspecified concerns. In a July 28 email, she explained that the guest list would only include 15-20 people, that the event would only run from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., that no building doors would be left propped open, and that she would be responsible for all cleanup and any damage caused by the event. "If you have logistical concerns about the event please do let me know so we can work through those together," she wrote. "I hope we can work things out so that I can do a good thing for a good cause!"
April never heard back from Scheetz directly. Instead, she received another clipped email from Huth. "I just received a call from the owner about the letter/email you sent him," Huth wrote. "Although he really appreciates the nice letter he is firm on his decision not to have the fund raiser in the courtyard."
"By that point, I knew why they were saying no—they obviously had a problem with gay marriage," April says. "I felt uncomfortable letting the issue go."
So April contacted a lawyer.
On August 1, Breier-Scheetz Properties received a letter threatening legal action if the property company didn't change its stance on allowing the pro-gay-marriage party to go ahead as scheduled. The letter read in part: "The only apparent reason for you to bar [April's] event is due to her political ideology or the political ideology, sexual orientation, or gender identity of her guests. All three of these are protected classes in the city of Seattle, and... [that] is illegal discrimination."
The couple never heard back from Scheetz or Huth. But on Thursday, August 16, following the advice of their lawyer, April and Allen went ahead with their fundraiser. It was, as promised, a low-key affair: they decorated the courtyard with streamers, played music on a laptop, and had beer and homemade gay marriage cupcakes featuring matching guy robot couples and matching girl cowboys. In two hours, the couple raised $1,800 from their friends for marriage equality.
Then, the following Friday, August 24, Breier-Scheetz Properties made its $20,000 donation to stop gay marriage in Washington.
"It's hard not to feel responsible for this donation," April says. "Maybe they were planning it all along but with the timing..." she trails off. "I've lived in the Granada for two years. At this point, I've paid them almost exactly $20,000 in rent. It kills me that they’re taking money from people who believe in equality and giving it to a hate group."
This donation is just the latest in a string of contributions to conservative causes over the years. A quick scan of PDC reports show that the company has contributed to Republican Rob McKenna in past election cycles, while Scheetz and his wife have personally donated to the campaigns of Dino Rossi and conservative wingnut and semi-benched judge Richard B. Saunders, as well as anti-choice groups.
Still, marriage equality hits a little closer to home for most Capitol Hill residents: "I think that if other tenants knew they're rent money was going to hate organizations, they'd be as enraged as I am," April says.
As I mentioned earlier, Breier-Scheetz Properties owns nine residential buildings on Capitol Hill, all within easy walking distance of Washington United for Marriage headquarters. They are:
· The Hillsborough Condominiums, 740 Bellevue Ave E
· Lenawee Apartments, 1629 Harvard Ave
· Terrace Crest Apartments, 517 9th Ave
· The New McDermott Apartments, 1514 Bellevue Ave
· Mission Inn Apartments, 1743 Boylston Ave
· The Granada Apartments, 1736 Belmont Ave
· Corinthian Apartments, 1705 Summit Ave
· Second and Pine Apartments, 211 Pine St
· And a duplex on Howell Street located at 604 E Howell St
April and Allen are now hunting for a new apartment. While they acknowledge that it's not practical for every gay-marriage supporter who pays rent to the company to follow suit, they hope that a few tenants, at least, will feel motivated to throw pro-marriage-equality fundraisers in their buildings.
The email address for Breier-Scheetz Properties is firstname.lastname@example.org. (Eds note: After reading in the comments that the previous email address didn't work, I hunted down this one.)
"I hope some people feel inspired to send them a message: Don’t come into our community, take our money, and use it against us," Allen says.