Bothell Asst. City Manager Battuello receives award for Park Royal assistance

Success stories can come from the unlikeliest of places. Just ask Terrie Battuello.

Success stories can come from the unlikeliest of places. Just ask Terrie Battuello.

The Bothell assistant city manager had to vacate an entire apartment complex last year, and she did it around Christmas.

Students at the University of Washington now study her approach as a public-policy triumph, and the Washington City/County Management Association (WCCMA) has recognized her actions with its Assistant Excellence in Leadership Award.

None of this happened because Battuello was acting the Scrooge.

The roof at Bothell’s Park Royal Apartments was pooling water and leaking it into residents’ homes, threatening them with asbestos and coating their walls with toxic mold. There were also reports of rodent infestations and failing floor joists.

Battuello’s job was to lead the tenants out of squalor and into safety. She helped complete the task without leaving anyone stranded.

“I’m not saying this was an ideal situation, but we did everything we could to solve the problem in a way that put people at the center of the solution instead of as a victim,” she said. “I was very happy to be a part of that.”

The key to Battuello’s success was her ability to form a public partnership with around 20 agencies, including Hopelink, the Red Cross, the King County Health District and even Waste Management.

“It was just the government working together in a way that we hope for, but people never really feel is realized,” she said.

Park Royal had a history of housing-code violations dating back 10 years, and the landlords have had a habit of doing the minimum to get back in compliance with each offense.

City officials undertook efforts to develop a comprehensive list of violations late last year by inspecting each residence and having engineers do a structural analysis of the building.

The goal was to make the complex livable or shut it down.

Park Royal failed its inspection, mainly due to a dilapidated roof and related structural problems.

City authorities ordered the residents to vacate within 60 days, and they worked with the Red Cross and Bothell Fire and EMS to develop plans for a shelter in the event of an emergency evacuation.

“The people there were not going to be safe for an extended period of time,” Battuello said.

Bothell’s City Council approved around $30,000 for Hopelink to assist with relocation efforts, and the moving process began.

The rainy season hit around that same time, prompting city officials to monitor Park Royal on a near-daily basis to make sure the structures there didn’t pose an immediate threat as tenants made their arrangements.

“It was fairly non-eventful, but a long, stressful event,” Battuello said. “It was an opportunity for the city to collaborate with a lot of people.”

Hopelink helped the tenants — approximately 100 of them — find new housing options, and all but one family from the complex avoided spending time in a shelter, according to the city.

The city used interpreters to convey its plans to the mostly-immigrant renters.

Two-thirds of those displaced during the process still live in Bothell, Battuello said.

“I feel so much better about where they all are now,” said Bothell resident Diana Ng, who became an advocate for Park Royal residents after coaching many of their kids in soccer. “The city of Bothell did the right thing, and all of them are in better places.”

Waste Management did its part in the effort to bring about safer living conditions by agreeing to remove trash from the site after Park Royal’s landlords refused to pay their bill, leaving garbage to pile up in the parking lot alongside dumpsters.

Local clergy also helped by counseling residents during times of stress.

The city is now going after Park Royal’s landlords to recoup the costs of its efforts.

Battuello claims the owners are making a good-faith effort to restore their complex. They’ve already gutted the building and rebuilt the roof, she said.

The city has required the structure to remain vacant until it complies with all current building codes.