City of Kent files public nuisance suit against Phoenix Court Apartments

Seeks injunction in efforts to improve safety at crime-ridden complex

The city of Kent filed a lawsuit Aug. 15 with the King County Superior Court to declare the crime-ridden Phoenix Court Apartments a public nuisance and seek an injunction.

This action comes after over a year of insisting that ownership improve the safety of the apartment complex, according to an Aug. 16 city media release.

The Phoenix Court Apartments, 23913 111th Pl. SE, have been a hotbed of criminal activity, from shootings to stolen vehicles to drug dealing.

The crime stats so far in 2023 (through Aug. 7) include three homicides, 22 shots fired calls, 11 verified shootings, 23 stolen vehicle recoveries, 576 computer-aided dispatch calls and 124 case reports, according to Kent Police stats listed in the complaint.

In 2022, the complex had no homicides but had 33 shots fired calls, 16 verified shootings, 44 stolen vehicle recoveries, 813 computed-aided dispatch calls and 157 case reports, according to police stats.

In July 2022, city officials called a meeting with Phoenix Court management to discuss concerns over criminal activity at the complex.

When insufficient progress was made to remedy the problem, city officials, in October 2022, called another meeting with management and Kenton Ridge LLC, the Mercer Island company that owns the Phoenix Court Apartments.

The suit is filed against Kenton Ridge; Michael Kwan, the governing member of Kenton Ridge and his wife, Margaret Kwan; and Allied Residential, a Renton-based company that manages the apartments.

Ownership committed to making needed improvements, according to the city media release. Seeing insufficient progress, city officials called a third meeting in January 2023 with the property owner and the management company.

The property owner refused to attend this meeting. That same day, the city issued a Chronic Criminal Nuisance letter to the property owner and the management company detailing required remedies. While some progress was made to make safety improvements to the property, crime has continued.

The danger caused to Phoenix Court residents and the residents and businesses surrounding the complex must stop, according to the city statement. Criminal conduct at the Phoenix Court Apartments has caused fear among residents of the complex and the surrounding community.

That includes impacts to the nearby Montessori school and Sunbeams Lutheran School for elementary students. Officials from each school have complained to the city about problems from the apartment complex.

Numerous people have been injured and some have been killed in incidents at the apartments property or in incidents that began at Phoenix Court and spilled over to other properties.

The continuing crime has also caused a significant strain on police resources. Police responding to major incidents at Phoenix Court are drawn away from other calls throughout town.

“Almost all police departments in the Puget Sound have faced challenges with police staffing, which results in overstretched resources to meet the high demand of emergency 911 calls,” said Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla. “It’s not even close. The current state of the Phoenix Court Apartments poses a significantly higher risk to public safety and consumes a disproportionate amount of emergency first responder resources as compared to its peer and neighboring apartment complexes.

“This is not just a high-crime issue, it’s an issue of property ownership and management failing to meet its legal obligation to ensure tenants have a reasonably safe place to live.”

The lawsuit seeks a number of remedies from the King County Superior Court, including requirements that ownership:

• Evict tenants that engage in criminal conduct or host guests who engage in criminal conduct.

• Allow existing tenants to vacate their apartment without penalty and in some cases receive relocation assistance from the owner of Phoenix Court.

• Complete the security fencing and gate surrounding the property, ensure the entrance code is changed regularly and ensure the fence is kept in good repair.

• Improve the safety of the complex by: installing security cameras at each building; improving facility lighting; maintaining a 24/7 security presence; enforcing parking restrictions; maintaining regular office hours in a visible location; immediately repairing damaged windows, doors, and otherwise maintaining the property to code; securing any empty units; and holding tenant safety meetings.

“Residents of the Phoenix Court Apartments and the surrounding neighborhood deserve to live in a safe place,” said Kent Mayor Dana Ralph. “It is beyond frustrating that the city must spend its resources to force the property owner to provide the safe living experience that, as a landlord, they are required by law to provide.

“Our hope is that this action will get the attention of the property owner, swift action will be taken, and that Phoenix Court will be a safe place for its residents and the greater community.”

The Kent Reporter has reached out to Phoenix Court Apartments, Michael Kwan and Allied Residential for comment but has not yet received responses.