Monday, December 1, 2008

When Is a Store Not a Store?

When it's a warehouse.

The space at 2510 Beacon Ave. S., current home of Hui Trading, is zoned Neighborhood Commercial 2 ("A moderately-sized pedestrian-oriented shopping area that provides a full range of retail sales and services to the surrounding neighborhood"). In other words, it's supposed to be pedestrian retail.

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However, if you look at the Seattle DPD's own webpage for this
property, you will see that its present use is being listed as a warehouse:

"Present Use: Warehouse"

Which, in fact, it is. It's a food import / wholesaling business, and this is where the food is stored before heading out to restaurants.

The business is mentioned in a P-I story as being a rice importer/wholesaler:

"Wen Hui, the owner of Hui Intertrading, which supplies about 100 restaurants in the Seattle area with rice, said Wednesday that it was now taking seven weeks, rather than four weeks, for shipments of rice to arrive from Thailand."

It's no big secret that this is a warehouse and not a store. The first DPD complaint about this was logged way back in 2004. But someone high up at the DPD must have a crush on Mr. Hui or something, because the Department let Hui Trading fail to pass inspections on this single complaint 11 consecutive times in 2004... and in 2005... and in 2006... and in 2007 without being forced to "comply" until February 2008 -- four years after the complaint was filed.

But they didn't really comply. It's still a warehouse. When Inspector Kevin Hou came around for his 12th inspection, they must have finally used Jedi mind control on him or something to make him think that it was a retail store.

So some pesky neighbor filed another complaint in May. They failed a few inspections by Inspector James Blackmon, so at some point the importer decided to cloak their warehouse with a printout in the window, which you gotta see to believe:


These are not the droids you're looking for, Inspector Blackmon!

So, anyway, the neighbors have complained again.

They've failed the first inspection. Their front doors were locked during business hours:


We'll see how this goes. They've been unlawfully operating a warehouse in that space since at least 2004, and neighbors have been continually complaining about it since 2004. It seems like they get to perpetually be in violation year after year after year after year without any consequences.

I just hope that this complaint doesn't get dismissed if the doors happen to be unlocked during the next inspection. I wish the inspector could just look at that room full of sealed brown cardboard boxes piled on the floor, without any cash registers or salespeople or merchandise displays or price tags, and say, "Duh -- this is a warehouse, not a store," and be done with it once and for all.


ZT said...

I always wondered why these prime locations have never been retail-friendly. Definitely hurts that part of Beacon Hill.

litlnemo said...

See my comment replying to you just now on the Beacon Hill Blog story about this -- there is now one of those Costco "Open" signs in the front door (unlit) and an actual glass-box counter inside on the left side.

So, either:

1. They really are putting in some sort of retail service


2. These are props to make them more likely to bamboozle an inspector.

Currently the counter doesn't look as if it's used for anything, and the open sign wasn't lit (though it was during business hours). I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article, i've driven by that hideous building for years and always wondered what it was (besides a neighborhood blight). With the light rail station i was hopeful some positive change in that retail district might be under way soon but so far its been a disappointment.

JvA said...

Hey, Litlnemo. I think they need to do more than add some minimal retail service -- I think tthey need to stop using the space as a warehouse. Do you know anything about this?

tlp said...

Its definitely a Land Use violation. Another route to check is their Certificate of Occupancy, and whatever their business license states. If they are occupying the building in a different manner than what is listed on that, then the Fire Marshall can get called in to inspect. Other than that, I've found the Health Department to be the only City Inspection dept. with teeth. Nice work!

Anonymous said...

How can others file complaints? Can you link to the city page that tells how to do this?

JvA said...

How to file a complaint:

* The address is 2510 Beacon Ave. S.

* The property owner's name is Wen Hui.

* The code being violated is the "operation of a warehouse in a retail zone (NC2P40)."

* The violation has been ongoing since 2004.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered what the heck this was!

litlnemo said...

DPD now says: "NOTICE OF VIOLATION: SENT Compliance due:05-JAN-09".

JvA said...

Hmm. I hope this means more than that they just need to remember to leave the warehouse door unlocked that day.

Anonymous said...

The city is very hesitant to enforce violations like this when the owners are Asian. They are afraid of being accused of being culturally insensitive or racist.

I know saying that makes me sound racist, but that's not the case: City departments are really quite sensitive to situations like this, and they probably should be. But occasionally, people abuse the system.

Anonymous said...

That warehouse has to go. The history of violations is just ridiculous.

zak said...

Today I actually saw a "For Rent" sign in the window, not sure if it is for real...

tim said...

thanks for providing the link for the website to lodge complaints to the city ... this is the only way to have your voice heard. I am anxiously looking forward some changes in Beacon Hill with the addition of the light rail and the capped reservoir park at Jefferson

litlnemo said...

The city has sent a second notice of violation -- I don't know why. "NOTICE OF VIOLATION: SENT Compliance due:13-JAN-09"

Segue Fischlin said...

Be careful about judging these guys. Zoning is the reason that your neighborhood is being bulldozed for mini-malls and condos and the reason that you have to drive to your grocery store instead of walk. Obviously they provide an important service to Seattle businesses. Just because something is zoned as "retail" doesn't mean anybody wants to run a retail store there. Loosen up people.