The Driftwood Lodge, used for decades by state lawmakers and others during legislative sessions, is not on this year’s official housing list provided by the Legislative Affairs Agency. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The Driftwood Lodge, used for decades by state lawmakers and others during legislative sessions, is not on this year’s official housing list provided by the Legislative Affairs Agency. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Historic Assembly Building to open as legislative housing next week, Driftwood off official list

Lodge hit by complaints last year after Tlingit and Haida purchase; officials say that’s not a factor

One notable old building has been added and another notable old building removed from the official Legislative Housing List as state lawmakers, their staff and others involved with the upcoming session at the Alaska State Capitol prepare to arrive.

Given Juneau’s tight year-round housing situation in recent years, the annual scramble for legislative housing during the four-month session (or longer, if one or more special sessions are called) has also gotten more intense. But providing some relief this year is the conversion of the historic Assembly Building, built in 1932 and located across the street from the Capitol, which was gifted by the city to the Legislature for the purpose of converting the space to housing.

Workers near completion of converting the historic Assembly Building to legislative housing on Tuesday. Officials said work should be completed in time for people to move in Jan. 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Workers near completion of converting the historic Assembly Building to legislative housing on Tuesday. Officials said work should be completed in time for people to move in Jan. 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The work is scheduled to be complete in time for people to move in Jan. 10, Jessica Geary, executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency, stated in an email earlier this week.

“The property manager shows that currently 24 of 33 units are rented,” she wrote. “Seven of those units are rented to legislators with the remainder rented to staff.”

However, missing from this year’s official housing list is The Driftwood Lodge, a 62-room (including 32 suites) guest facility built in 1964 that was purchased last winter by the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. Tlingit and Haida President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson said at the time the lodge’s proximity to Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall and the site of the Juneau Indian Village was what initially motivated purchase efforts.

The lodge has been used by legislators and staff as housing during sessions for decades. But controversy arose at the end of last year’s session when Jeff Landfield, editor of the Alaska Landmine, alleged in a June 1 article the “new owners of the Driftwood in Juneau have transformed a charming hotel into a nightmare.”

Landfield reported non-session guests were unusually disruptive during the Alaska Folk Festival in April, and there were numerous disputes with management including people either unable to stay for periods booked after the official last day of the session and/or the rates charged during that period.

Geary and Peterson, in interviews with the Empire responding to the Landmine article, stated discussions between Legislative Affairs and lodge officials appeared to resolve the issues of contention. In subsequent interviews this week, both said the past issues had nothing to do with the Driftwood not being included in this year’s official housing list.

“To my knowledge, nothing else has happened,” Geary wrote in her email. “I had met with them last year at the conclusion of session, and everything was worked out and seemed fine. Prior to activating the 2024 housing list, we phoned them and left a voicemail, as well as sent two separate email messages asking if they wanted to list with us. As we didn’t receive a response in the affirmative, it is my opinion that the Driftwood chose not to list with us this year.”

Peterson, on Thursday, confirmed Tlingit and Haida opted not to register for the official housing list, as they are trying to focus on tourism and other opportunities.

“It was just kind of like we didn’t really see a need to,” he said, referring to offering legislative housing. “If they want to do that they’re welcome, but honestly we’re trying to focus on some plans, make some improvements, things like that.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 22

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, June 20, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Pins supporting the repeal of ranked choice voting are seen on April 20 at the Republican state convention in Anchorage. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
State judge upholds most fines against group seeking repeal of Alaska ranked choice voting

An Anchorage Superior Court judge has ruled that opponents of Alaska’s ranked… Continue reading

Joshua Midgett and Kelsey Bryce Riker appear on stage as the emcees for MixCast 2023 at the Crystal Saloon. (Photo courtesy Juneau Ghost Light Theatre)
And now for someone completely different: Familiar faces show new personas at annual MixCast cabaret

Fundraiser for Juneau Ghost Light Theatre on Saturday taking place amidst week of local Pride events

Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire
A section of Angoon along the coast is seen on June 14. Angoon was destroyed by the U.S. Navy in 1882; here is where they first pulled up to shore.
Long-awaited U.S. Navy apology for 1882 bombardment will bring healing to Angoon

“How many times has our government apologized to any American Native group?”

Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon announced this week she plans to seek a third three-year term. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Mayor Beth Weldon seeking third term amidst personal and political challenges

Low mill rate, more housing cited by lifelong Juneau resident as achievements during past term.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, June 19, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A king salmon is laid out for inspection by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at the Mike Pusich Douglas Harbor during the Golden North Salmon Derby on Aug. 25, 2019. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file photo)
Emergency order bans king salmon fishing in many Juneau waters between June 24 and Aug. 31

Alaska Department of Fish and Game says low projected spawning population necessitates restrictions

Three cruise ships are docked along Juneau’s waterfront on the evening on May 10, as a Princess cruise ship on the right is departing the capital city. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Sitka residents join those in Juneau proposing hard caps on cruise ships as tourism grows

Two ballot measures could be presented to local voters in the two Southeast Alaska towns this fall

Most Read