LETTER: Why Are Citizens Complaining About Burien's Shoreline Master Plan?

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So why are the citizens of Burien complaining about the Shoreline Master Plan (SMP)?

Perhaps it is because they are witnessing the creation of still one more badly crafted, inaccurate document by the City of Burien’s staff. No matter how much public input the citizens are trying to provide to help clean it up and turn it into a workable document, the City Council, the Planning Commission and the city staff are ignoring them. The City of Burien operates on the 5 D Method of Government when dealing with citizens: Deny, Deflect, Derail, Delay and Don’t allow or listen to citizen comments. Over 400 citizens signed a petition and asked that the work on the SMP be slowed down so that it could be correctly written. The Community Development Director, Scott Greenberg, has made it clear, through the Planning Commission, that no further public comment is going to be allowed at the meetings regarding the SMP. The document is going to be hurried through the Planning Commission in spite of its errors.

This is not the first time that Mr. Greenberg has used this strategy to fast track ordinances and plans that he wants incorporated into city documents. While authoritarian control of the Planning Commission has moved documents along quickly in the past and in the direction he and his predecessors have wanted them written, it has left the citizens of Burien with documents that are poorly written, riddled with errors and ripe for potential lawsuits. When citizens make honest requests to have these ordinances or plans corrected, they are pretty much told to get lost. It was this general attitude by city staff that resulted in Burien losing a lawsuit for approximately $14,000,000.

Additionally, other documents that are of little interest to him or the City Manager, Mike Martin, remain in antiquated condition which also creates situations that put the city at risk of being sued. There are many of these outdated ordinances and codes that no one can make any sense of-including the city staff. A number of Burien’s documents still reference King County Codes that King County got rid of 14 years ago.

As an example, Burien’s most current Critical Areas Ordinance, dated 2003, which is supposed to be based on Best Available Science (BAS), contained a Critical Areas Map that was in disagreement with the written document. It still contains a wetland rating scale that is based on no science. Additionally, the Critical Areas Ordinance does not agree with the Comprehensive Plan which is the “guiding” document for the city.

The Comprehensive Plan, which is also supposed to be based on the Best Available Science, does not agree with the Best Available Science in the Critical Areas Ordinance. For the past seven years of 2003-2010, the Comprehensive Plan contained a different Critical Areas Map which showed the neighborhood of Hurstwood to be a wetland. However, Hurstwood was not a wetland because homes were obviously built in it. Someone in city hall made an error and turned to property lines into wetland lines on the map. How did this go unnoticed for so long?

Then, within the Comprehensive Plan, there are Policy descriptions that do not agree with the maps contained in the Plan. As a result of these errors, there are then errors in the zoning codes. This is clearly sloppy workmanship at tax payer expense and probably could have been prevented if sufficient citizen input had been allowed, seriously considered and the correct amount of time had been given to editing.

Now, these same errors are being replicated and perpetuated in the Shoreline Master Plan. The city staff does not welcome comments and does not wish to address or correct errors. The city staff’s only major goal is to get the Shoreline Master Plan done quickly regardless of its quality or accuracy. The real losers in this process are the citizens. The SMP draft is one more piece of junk paper being produced at a cost of over $117,000 to the citizens of Burien and the State of Washington.

For those new citizens recently annexed to Burien-approach this city government with caution. What ever happened to government of the people, by the people and for the people?

I guess not in Burien.

– Chestine Edgar

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Have something you’d like to say? Then email us your “Letter to the Editor” by clicking here. Be sure to include your real name and a way to contact you, and, pending our review, we’ll most likely post it. Otherwise, feel free to leave a Comment below…]

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9 Responses to “LETTER: Why Are Citizens Complaining About Burien's Shoreline Master Plan?”
  1. Maxine says:

    “What ever happened to government of the people, by the people and for the people?”

    Chestine, do you ever wonder what happened to public property for public???

  2. TcB says:

    I couldn’t find information about the City Burien losing a lawsuit for 14 Million. I did see a lawsuit against Highline water district for 4 Million. Could you provide more information about this? I would just like to understand these issues better.

    • Jim Branson says:

      I believe she is talking about the Westmark development. If you Google Westmark and Burien you will find a P-I article about the City losing a $10.5 million lawsuit because the City staff did not follow their own procedures and laws. Apparently the total amount has grown to $14 million, probably because of more delaying by the City.

  3. Betsy says:

    Maxine: no one is saying to take public property away from the public. the city is trying to take private property away from people who pay for it and maintain it– that’s unlawful. you wouldn’t want the city swooping in and taking away your porch or lawn or front or back yard or your living room would you?…or perhaps you are okay with that and the city can come over and have a public picnic on your property?

  4. Robin says:

    I’m pretty sure Maxine is referring to the fact that most of Lake Burien is public property, yet the residents seem convinced that it belongs to them. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh; I had a lot more empathy for the LB residents before I started reading this blog. When they oppose public access to the lake that is just what they are proposing; taking public property away from the public.

    There is no proposal for a “public picnic” on private property. I invite you to cut and paste an excerpt from the SMP (not something published with second-hand descriptions of the SMP) that says such a thing is proposed. If the lake were accessible to the public then the residents on the lake would be in the same spot as beach front owners everywhere; living in a nice place that abuts public property. No one wants to put a public picnic table on your property.

    I live on salt water and am well aware of where my property line ends. On a low tide day there are plenty of people on the beach; many of whom are on a long walk to or from Seahurst Park. It’s the same as having people walk by on the sidewalk in front of your house. In almost a decade no one has ever bothered us. In fact, the dog owners on the street side of our property are much worse in their failure to scoop.

    I just think ignoring the fact that the lake is public property if futile. Perhaps the Lake Burien residents could pool their funds and buy the lake? If that sounds crazy, then how crazy does it sound if the State just gives it to them?

    That said, I support Ms. Edgar and all the others who are voicing their opinions about government. She (and they) have put a lot of time and effort into it. They have made many valuable contributions to the process. I wholeheartedly support their right to discuss THEIR property.

    • Ed Savage says:

      Just a clarification in your example of people waling down the sidewalk and people walking down the beach being the same thing: It is not.
      I have been paying taxes for my property which is defined as running to mean low tide for 35 years. People walk across it and we love it because it just brings so much much pleasure to everyone. It’s great.
      People walk down the sidewalk because it is part of the City right of way or what is called the ROW and is owned outright by the City. This is not private property and is not used as part of your property assessment of what you need to pay in taxes.
      So in the case of the beach, we as private property owners maintain the beach, clean up the garbage, tell people that they cannot build fires on our beach, let them know they are welcome take a clam or not, welcome them to bring their dogs and throw balls for them, etc. It is all our cost, our responsibility, and ours to manage and we do a great job.
      On the sidewalk, the public is allowed to be on it, pass, do what ever they want and we are not allowed to say a thing because it is not part of our private property.
      There is a net benefit for the public to use the private beaches. Our taxes are assessed for the value of the property including the beach, the government collects the property tax; the property is maintained like it was private property, and people are for the most part courteous (98%). This is a hefty cost we pay as private citizens. Taxes alone were $13,000 for me last year.
      Think of one thing the City of Burien, King County, WA Sate manages as well as one of the private property owners on the Salt Water (who own the beach).
      No garbage, no crime, open hours of operation, all micromanaged by hundreds of maintainers invested in the best it can be.
      There is a huge difference between between these two walking areas.

  5. Definitelyserious says:

    Chestine has a good point that the city is continuing to make errors upon the errors it has already made in it’s Shoreline Management Plan and other plans it has implemented in the past. This is costing the citizens much stress, time and money. The way the city council has responded to their comments has been grossly unfair and demeaning to them. The council and staff favor the citizens of North Highline and disregard the citizens who incorporated in the first place. Thank you Ms Edgar for speaking up on the issues.

  6. Stephen Lamphear says:

    My observation of the SMP process is that people are upset for a variety of reasons: the one I notice most is that they are not getting heard by a council that has made a decision before the process is done.

    The Forum on Monday the 14th was purportedly in response to citizen demands for one. The carefully orchestrated event hardly qualifies as a response. The citizens want interaction/discussion/dialog with the council and staff — not more monologue by so-called experts and inadequately knowledgeable councilmembers. Monday night was 2 hours with 3/4 of it taken up by those so-called experts and council blathering. Only one of the so-called experts had actually walked the shoreline.

    The Imperial Burien Council does not want to share the public’s business with the public. During my time on the council (1998-2005), we had study sessions where officials and citizens could interact on issues and actually engage in an exchange of ideas. That’s not for the Imperial Council.

    Because most councilmembers were clear that they had made up their minds (such as they are), the only viable recourse to the public is a lawsuit. A sad state of affairs.

  7. Julie Dow says:

    June 21, the next forum on issues should be more informative. The council did try to respond by directing staff to set these sessions up. If the council is listening is yet to be known (and it’s telling that the only expert who actually has walked the beach is the one hired to defend homeowners). These are not perfect sessions (far from it) but they are important. More substance and less style coming Monday…..there was not all that much to say this past session as much of the “science” the SMP is “based on” is suppostion as it relates to Burien – I think they call it extrapolation but a guess is a guess. The session this Monday is to deal with the issues this “guess work” science has created for real people with real homes and our city’s long term future. Topics include real estate values and insurance – important for all who own homes in Burien. Please attend, 7pm June 21 city hall.

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