King County still paying over $330,000 a month for vacant hotel

King County is stuck paying $330,750 a month for a former hotel in Renton, WA.

The former Red Lion Hotel in Renton was leased by the county and used as an emergency shelter during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce crowding at mass shelters and control the spread of the virus.

King County was using the shelter initially in April, 2020. Therefore the lease is estimated to have cost the county $10.9 million so far.

Public reaction to the hotel housing homeless people was not welcoming and caused the Renton City Council to pass emergency legislation that led to the eviction of hundreds of homeless people from the building.

Chase Gallagher, communications director for King County Executive Dow Constantine’s Office, said the county moved the residents out of the facility and into other shelters including Health through Housing locations.

The Renton Red Lion had nearly 220 residents staying there. Approximately 100 people moved to a Health through Housing location in North Seattle in Nov. 2021. The rest moved in June 2022, according to Gallagher.

The county continued the lease in case the space was needed again.

Gallagher added that King County is in negotiations with the property owner to fix damages to the building or account for repairs, as part of the lease closeout. Notably, six rooms were damaged from smoke and water when a resident started a fire in his room when the hotel was used as a shelter.

“King County is in the process of terminating the lease on the Renton COVID de-intensification facility,” Gallagher said to The Center Square in an email. “Since we now do not see the need to retain the property as a contingency, the lease will end when we settle with the owner. We expect to come to an agreement on those terms and end the lease in the next month or two."

Because the former hotel is still being leased by the county on a month-to-month basis, the King County Facilities Management Division has security patrols and has been installing plywood to cover windows to prevent any further damage or vandalism.

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