Inside story of the sale of Edith Macefield’s home

Three and half years after offering $1 million for Edith Macefield’s home, the same developers offered owner Barry Martin $275,000 for the small house, Martin says. But he decided to take a $310,000 offer from Reach Returns, leaving the Ballard Blocks developers empty-handed once again. “The thing that struck me the most is he understood what Edith was doing,” Martin said of Reach Returns co-founder Greg Pinneo. “He gets it.” (See earlier story: Edith Macefield’s house sold, to be elevated.)

The deal came together when Martin discovered an old letter from Pinneo in an envelope Edith kept of real estate inquiries. “I went through them and called four or five of them,” Martin said, but Pinneo was the only interested buyer. With an offer from the Ballard Blocks developer on the table, and a new offer from Pinneo in hand, Martin said he remembered seeing a story about the Edith Macefield tattoos. “I’m thinking, what a bunch of whack jobs,” he said. But as he heard from the people who wore the tattoos, he said he realized the depth of affection the neighborhood has for Edith’s memory. “She wasn’t doing anything other than being deliberate about what she wanted, which was to be left alone, live and die, there in her house.” He then decided to sell to Pinneo.

“She made us all look right in the mirror and ask the hard questions,” Pinneo says. “I’ve never met her, but I feel connected to her because she lived her credo, lived her philosophy. I felt compelled to let this deep thinking live on.” As for Martin, he says he’s relieved it’s over. “She got into my head pretty good,” he said. “I feel good about it, and I think that she would, too.” He said he’s also looking forward to Reach Return’s bold plans for the property, although he wonders how it’s structurally going to come together. “I’m kind of excited,” he said. “Part of me thinks Edith would be thrilled about it.” As for the money, Martin says it’s going to a good cause: putting his two kids through college.

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35 thoughts to “Inside story of the sale of Edith Macefield’s home”

  1. For $310K it would have almost been worth buying it just to live in. Close to a grocery, bar, bus stop, and a church (if that's your thing). It would be a lot more interesting than a plain old condo for the same price.

  2. But the reality is that NO ONE knows what Edith would think, 'cause she's dead. And the only one who spent any effort to get to know her is Martin. So you can all wear your tattoos, write this woman as a working class hero…but you really don't know shit.

    But if some of you out there can gain some inspiration from all this, more power to you.

  3. I'm happy that Martin will be able to put his kids through college but it makes me sick to think that Pinneo owns that property. He used to be my landlord and the man has no integrity. If Edith had been renting that house from him, he'd have jacked up the rent till she'd be forced to leave and then torn the place down (and he'd charge her enormous damage fees to pay for the renovation). Here's a good example of the type of landlord he is:
    If Harbor House was last spring's poster child for housing-crunch horrors, this season's demonstration case is a small apartment building at 100 E. Edgar Street in Eastlake. KOMO and KING TV had a go at it, and the Post-Intelligencer did a long take-out on Monday. It's a grim case, but a timely one—arriving just as the Seattle City Council considers ordinances to (slightly) mitigate the ravages on renters of roughshod-landlording and a runaway housing market.

    On August 31 Greg Pinneo of Edmonds wrote to the 11 Edgar Street tenants that he'd bought the building, their bargain rents would rise drastically, and they'd also have to pony up new damage deposits and month's rents in advance. As the law allows, they had 10 days to say if they'd pay or move out. William Smith, a disabled retiree on a ventilator, had paid $465 for a one-bedroom, 499-square-foot flat and parking space. His new rent: $970, plus $75 a month for a storage locker that had been gratis. He must also come up with $1,195 for deposit and last month's rent that weren't required in all his 30 years on Edgar Street. But hey, Michele Pasquale's rent for what she calls “a tiny studio” with parking only went up 83 percent, to $915.

    “It's not a livable city if you can't afford to live in it,” says Smith, adding that he'll go look up relatives in Oregon: “I can't sleep on a park bench. I need electricity for my ventilator.” He adds that “three or four” tenants are stuck, for now, at Edgar Street; the rest are moving out—including one who just had radical surgery.

    And that just might be the point, suggests Lisa Herbold, an aide to council member Nick Licata and a former Seattle Tenants' Union staffer. With its Lake Union views, the run-down Edgar Street property seems ripe for upscaling. The city's Tenant Relocation Ordinance says an owner who wants to empty and renovate must give current residents 90 days' notice and $500 assistance. (The city kicks in another $500.) But if they move out “voluntarily,” the landlord neither waits nor pays.

    Herbold says that Pinneo “told one tenant that as soon as she moves out, he's going to put in hardwood floors—proof he plans renovation.” she adds that the biggest single rent increase she'd ever seen before this one came when rents doubled, fees were added, and everyone moved out of a small Queen Anne­area building—after Pinneo bought it.

    Pinneo himself declines to comment, except to say, “This is taking way too much of my time and emotion—I've got to make a living. I don't care what other people say. I know who I am.” Administrative-law records show that last year the state revoked Pinneo's real estate broker's license for getting multiple financing on properties without disclosing these to the lenders.

  4. I'm pretty sure we got a flyer from this couple about half a year ago. One of those mass mail out “my wife and I are interested in purchasing a small home in Ballard to live in” things. Didn't believe it for a second. This kind of letter always go in recycle immediately.

  5. y'know – the decision was Edith's to make although I cannot say I would have made the same choice. at that time, I thought all the attention and the symbolism her refusal to sell received was a bit odd. she probably didn't view it as anything symbolic, just her decision that she made and which a bunch of other people latched onto as a means to vent their own concerns about development in Ballard.

    now, this whole pinneo story had made it even odder. the building design looks silly. the apparent backstories about pinneo as a landlord are not attractive. and the property is now…being developed into something other than a residential use. so there you go, you anti-developers…looks like you got your wish, eh? Maybe the tattoos can be elevated as well to reflect the new design.

  6. Again everyone forgets that this woman had actually decided to sell but them broke her hip and could not move. This plan is almost as idiotic as the whole story was to begin with.

    I still chuckle when I think of the fools who tattooed their bodies over a story that was never real to begin with. I suppose they will be the ones to buy tiles also. LORD there really is a sucker born every minute.

  7. Way to go Martin! Your complete lack of rationale and due diligence enabled one of the worst decisions of your lifetime. You sold out to one of the worst cronies in the city.

    I'm sure your kids education will be worth it though. I've been suspicious of how you obtained this house from the beginning, since nobody ever takes advantage of the elderly. Now that you've sold it to such a high class individual all my doubts are erased.

  8. Oh lay off. Martin is a nice man. But, too bad he didn't sell to the developers so this whole misguided affair would be over and the folks with the tattoos would feel all the righteous indignation they so clearly desired. But he didn't and now we get more fruitloops in the hood.

  9. The meaning of any story is what you read into it. A Macefield House tattoo is no more or less ridiculous than a tattoo of a religious symbol — at least this is a story with verifiable roots, that occurred in this community in our lifetimes.

  10. I drove by yesterday to see a slimey/smarmy man and family being interviewed by someone with a video camera in front of Edith's house and the banner. I had no idea who they were but the man in particular looked like trouble.

    I didn't know Edith and I don't know what she would or woudn't have wanted. But I'm not too thrilled with this scam artist's plans.

  11. Martin is the guy who sold, your beef is with Greg Pinneo. The devil is in the details!

    For the record, Pinneo sounds like a horse's patoot. I'm just sayin'.

  12. Scam. They sell thousands of tiles by playing the “preserve Edith's memory” game. Then, they walk away, forclose on the house, and pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars. Do not buy a tile.

  13. SR, Don't celebrate any holidays if you're so concerned about accuracy.
    I don't buy in to the story of Edith taking a stand against development story, but I do have to give her respect for not cashing out when it became inconvenient to do so. Most of us would have taken the money over some comfort.
    What people make of the story and the inspiration they find is their business as long as they don't start selling it as some crusade, like oh, I don't know, some developer who abuses his position as landlord to wreak havoc on a whole bunch of people and then buys a home with a story to whitewash his own past…but that would be ridiculous and nobody would buy in to something like that.

  14. Maybe Pinneo's angle is to buy the house for $310K, sell some tiles and pocket the money, and then become such a PITA that the Ballard Blocks folks finally give in and buy him out for a 1/2 mil just to get rid of him.

    Or maybe just wait until the market comes back around and the BB people start to really want the space.

    IMHO the house in the sky thing will NEVER happen.

    Oh yeah, and there is the marketing thing, how many people had ever heard of his company before yesterday?

  15. The structural and economical feasibility of lifting this rickety old house 50 feet into the air will kill this whole stupid idea anyway, so don't sweat it.

  16. The only fact I can add is this 1997 brief in the Times about a Gregory Pinneo being sentenced to 13 months in prison for a real-estate loan scam …

    Yesterday, before I knew about a prison sentence, before I knew anything beyond what I read here on myballard, this whole sale gave me a very bad feeling. It was the quote from Pinneo that pretty much made my skin crawl: “(Edith Macefield) made us all look right in the mirror and ask the hard questions. I’ve never met her, but I feel connected to her because she lived her credo, lived her philosophy. I felt compelled to let this deep thinking live on.”

    Maybe it's all sincere, maybe my instincts are totally wrong. I'd actually like to be wrong. For now, I'm going to stop Googling about this. Because what I find is just making me feel more queasy. Stuff like this (for whatever it's worth) …

  17. Oh I feel sorry for you. He owes lots of people money and apparently he thinks he does not have to pay it back. Shame on everyone expecting the guru to pay back money he has borrowed?????? Who does he think he is.

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