City of Seattle Abandoning White Center Idea? Burien…Now’s Your Chance!
The City of Seattle might abandon a long-running effort to stretch Seattle’s southern borders to include White Center and surrounding residential communities.
The City Council plans to vote on whether to pull the plug on Mayor Greg Nickels’ hopes for the city to annex an unincorporated area dubbed North Highline. Nickels acknowledges that the move would drain city coffers. But he has insisted it is the “right thing to do.”
If the council reverses its 2006 endorsement of the concept, the city of Burien will be free to pursue its efforts to annex the area.
More than 32,000 people live in North Highline, which is bordered by Seattle to the north, Burien to the south, and SeaTac and Tukwila to the east. It’s a relatively impoverished and ethnically diverse area.
Except for White Center, it is largely residential.
Nickels’ office says serving that community would cost Seattle $5 million a year, plus $6 million in one-time transitional costs.
Other municipalities get a tax break from the state when they annex unincorporated urban areas. But the Legislature specifically excluded cities as large as Seattle. City lobbyists have unsuccessfully pushed lawmakers to broaden the tax break.
Some on the council do not think the city should take on another community to serve, especially without that tax break. Some say Seattle still is not adequately serving neighborhoods it annexed decades ago, such as North Seattle communities that lack sidewalks and other infrastructure.
“Just look at South Park and Georgetown, who were annexed exactly 100 years ago, and by and large ignored until quite recently,” said Councilwoman Jan Drago at a recent council committee meeting.
Today, “this administration is paying attention to South Park and Georgetown. But I have no hope that if we were to annex North Highline that we would meet their expectations of service.
“We need to fulfill our promises and commitment to the current residents of Seattle before we consider taking on new citizens.”
Earlier this month, a council committee recommended that the full council remove annexation consideration from Seattle’s official long-term land-use strategy, known as the comprehensive plan.
In terms of annexation negotiations with Burien and the county, such a move would mean “we don’t have a seat at the table,” said Kenny Pittman, a senior policy analyst for Nickels.
Both Burien and Seattle designated the 6-square-mile area a “potential annexation area” about one year ago. (Tukwila and SeaTac have also designated small portions of the area.)
Last year, Burien and Seattle officials agreed to mediation over their dueling designations, but it has not happened.
Any final annexation decision will be made by North Highline voters.
Meanwhile, the Mayor’s Office has not given up on persuading the Legislature to amend the tax break to include Seattle. But that would be a much more difficult pitch to sell should the council remove potential annexation from the city’s comprehensive plan, said Pittman, who has been working on the annexation proposal since 2003.
“It just basically undermines that effort,” Pittman said. “The ‘potential annexation area’ designation shows the Legislature that we’re serious.”
Monday’s council meeting is the last of the year for Seattle — and the agenda is packed.sc
Council members are expected to pass measures that aim to block office and retail development in Seattle’s industrial neighborhoods.
The council also plans to vote to approve the sale of a block across from City Hall to a private developer that plans to build condos, office space, as well as city-owned retail and civic square facilities.
The annexation question is among a number of proposed changes to the comprehensive plan, which the council updates annually.
The Urban Planning and Development Committee recommended that the council endorse specific goals for the city’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nickels’ office had objected, saying one of the targets was based on politics, not science.
The committee approved goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2024, compared with 1990 levels, and 80 percent by 2050.
“There is an urgency to this that we are becoming increasingly aware of,” said Councilman Peter Steinbrueck, who chairs the committee. “This is an aggressive, but important, goal to set.”
Nickels’ spokesman Marty McOmber said the 2024 goal is “just basically a guess.”
By contrast, McOmber said, the 2050 long-term target reflects a threshold accepted by the climate science community as the amount “we need to get to in order to avoid the most damaging impact” of global warming.
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