What Will Happen to the Lora Lake Apartments?
The long-standing controversy over the Lora Lake Apartments in Burien may soon come to a close, with 162 units of affordable housing saved, and a package of benefits to the city of Burien.
The Burien City Council approved by a 4-to-2 vote in November a nonbinding agreement with King County, the King County Housing Authority, the Port of Seattle and the city of Seattle. Under the agreement, the Housing Authority will purchase the apartments at fair market value from the Port, the county said.
The county will purchase two separate properties south of the apartments from the Port and Seattle City Light, to be developed into commercial purposes, which is what Burien originally sought. Burien will also receive a combined $1 million from the county and the Housing Authority for a transit project.
The Port had planned for several years to demolish the Lora Lake Apartments, which sit near the third runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and to work with Burien to bring business to the area. But in the midst of an affordable-housing crisis, the Housing Authority, which was operating the complex, began lobbying against the demolition last summer.
The complex originally had 234 units, but some already have been razed. Last spring the remaining units became a rallying point for affordable housing and the prevention of homelessness, with legislators and community activists bearing down on Burien.
Burien officials have said they feel the city has become the scapegoat for a regional problem; in fact, they said, Burien has a higher percentage of affordable housing than Seattle.
At their meeting, council members also reiterated their concern that the Lora Lake Apartments are not a safe place for families to live, between the air and the noise pollution from the third runway. Still, some council members said they wanted to avoid the cost of fighting the issue further in court, and to move on to other important city business.
Four members voted to sign the agreement, said Deputy Mayor Rose Clark – but not one person was pleased about it.
â€œThe council felt very pressured, fearing that future needs would be blocked by the county or the state,â€ said Clark, who voted against signing the agreement. â€œIt was kind of like blackmail, I believe.â€
At one point last spring, County Executive Ron Sims threatened to pull the county out of a multimillion-dollar park-and-ride, retail and housing complex in downtown Burien, a key piece of that cityâ€™s redevelopment plan.
Late last summer, the Housing Authority got an injunction to stop the demolition of the remaining units. Recently, state Rep. Dave Upthegrove, D-Des Moines, became the mediator for talks among the parties.
On Monday, Sims hailed the agreement as a â€œgreat outcomeâ€ that meets important regional goals on housing and transit-oriented development.
â€œI want to commend all the parties involved for the vision and creative solution that will serve the region well,â€ he said in a statement.
Lora Lake Apartments have been vacant since they were turned over to the Port in July. The authority anticipates that they will be ready for residents to move in April 2008.