LETTER: Resident's Rebuttal To German Visitor's Letter About Lake Burien

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Haltern am See, Germany from elevation approx. 1 mile.

Burien, WA from elevation approx 1 mile.

I’m sure Boris Seiverts is a nice guy, but his “letter to Burien about its lake” is WAY off the mark (read it here).

Let’s start with some facts about Burien and the city he makes a comparison with, Haltern am See, Germany.

Haltern am See is a rural town with a population of around 38,000 people in 61 sq. miles of land area and a population density of 621 people per sq. mile. The “lake” is a reservoir created by a dam built in 1930 that holds over 700 million cubic feet of water for distribution to surrounding communities. The extensive shoreline is largely undeveloped. Haltern has no other shoreline.

Burien is an urban city with a population of around 31,000 people in 7.4 sq. miles of land area and a population density of 4,287 people per sq. mile. Lake Burien is a natural lake that is a very small fraction of the size of the Haltern See. The shoreline is fully developed with homes. Burien owns Seahurst Park including approximately one mile of Puget Sound shoreline that is largely undeveloped.

Perhaps we should build a dam on Lake Burien? Or rename the city “Burien on the Sound”, so our home prices will double, as happened in Haltern? Mr. Sieverts’ letter suggests public access at Lake Burien would not harm the water quality of the lake if the city took the right approach, such as providing a public bath, with attendants. I wonder why property owners near public access locations on Puget Sound are always picking up garbage left by the public. Must be the lack of attendants. Mr. Sieverts may have relatives here, but he knows nothing about Burien or issues relating to the conflict between public access and private shorelines. If you are going to print an article that goes on for 3 pages in your paper, at least make it something relevant to our community.

Marco Spani

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45 Responses to “LETTER: Resident's Rebuttal To German Visitor's Letter About Lake Burien”
  1. JJ Greive says:

    It IS a public lake, and because the homeowners on the shoreline are wealthy and have political clout does not mean that it is their lake. We all have rights to this lake! It is ridiculous that we don’t have public access. It is the same thing in Malibu beach in California. the wealthy own beach front homes and complain that they bought on a public beach. They have great clout, some of the richest people in the most expensive homes in the area. But the beach is public! They city government needs to get a little backbone and do what is right for the community, not pander to a very few wealthy homeowners that think our lake it theirs alone.

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    • Really? says:

      JJ, while the water may be termed “public”, actually state owned, the shoreline is not. It is privately owned, and it’s erroneous to bring up wealth of the surrounding property owners. By the way, do you demand your neighbor’s car keys because they own an auto you envy?

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  2. Angela says:

    I have always wanted public access at Lake Burien. We may have water access at Seahurst, but it’s difficult to swim there – only if it is very hot outside.
    Get over your sense of privilege and share with the public!
    The rest of us Burien folks deserve access to the lake too…

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  3. Chris says:

    Hmm, the whole notion of public access on Lake Burien is loser from the start. There’s little chance this is ever going to happen. Would it be nice? Sure. But I don’t think it’s the right thing to do, considering the city doesn’t own one ounce of land on the lake.

    I would think the council isn’t going to touch this with a ten foot pole, as most of the homeowners are fairly civice-minded and involved in the community.

    I simply don’t see this ever happening.

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    • c'mon says:

      Don’t worry Chris. Most of the people raising an issue about lake access will forget about it once their property taxes go up from annexing North Highline. It will give them something actually worthwhile to get pissy about….

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  4. Rachel says:

    I can understand why those who have had exclusive access to the lake would want to keep it that way. It’s human nature. That doesn’t make them right. It is ludicrous that there is a lake in the middle of the city that has no public access. I grew up in Burien and had a friend who lived on the lake. The first time I saw it, I couldn’t BELIEVE it had been there all the time and that I couldn’t use it unless I visited her. Oh, and the tax excuse (mentioned in Mr. Sievert’s letter) is also laughable. The excuses the property owner makes are quite thin indeed and only make sense to the neighbors who discuss them in earnest during backyard barbecues on “their” lake.

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  5. "privileged" says:

    Hey Angela, my sense of privilege comes from the fact that Lake Burien is a pristene wildlife habitat that is protected.

    There is public lake access at Arbor Lake, now a part of Burien. Should make for some great swimming.

    You probably need to choose at Lake B: you can either save the enviroment, or as JJ has suggested screw the rich as they are unentitled, but not both.

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    • Angela B says:

      The other bodies of water that are enclosed in the area such as Arbor lake are not swim-able. If Lake Burien was such a pristine wildlife habitat it would be protected by the state and not privately owned. People would not be allowed to swim there at all. So I do understand that its private property and people are worried about pollution, which makes complete sense. However there are other parks that are kept very clean and are visited by many.

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      • Eric says:

        I think these are false claims about keeping Lake Burien clean. If the adjacent landowners really were concerned about the water quality of the lake they would be on sewers and not using leaking septic tanks.

        I think the real argument is they don’t want “those people” using “their” lake. Call it a class thing or whatever, but don’t hide behind false environmental concerns.

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        • Really? says:

          Eric, the property owners living around Lake Burien pay large sums in various methods to enjoy living on this lake or for that matter Three Tree Point, or any view property. Not that they enjoy paying, but to the owners, it’s worth it. Sure, you pay a premium to live on these properties, but it’s a great example of supply and demand. What’s outright rude is the sense of entitlement that some think that they can have something for nothing that is not theirs.

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          • Robin says:


            I was about to say the same to you. It seems you have a sense of entitlement to something that’s not yours – the lake. It’s publicly owned. Yes, the property around it is privately owned, today, but maybe not in the future. This whole debate came up because the City showed an interest in buying land to open up public access. No one wants access to YOUR property, but you might want to get out a King County Parcel map to remind yourself where YOUR property ends and the PUBLIC property begins.

            I also pay an amount that’s *almost* equal to the cost of a new car, annually, in property taxes. Those taxes are for the property that I own. I do not own the entire Puget Sound simply because my property abuts it.

            Like I’ve said in previous posts, I had a lot more empathy for LB residents before I started reading what they had to say on these blogs. Unless you all get together and buy the lake from the State, it’s not yours. Stop suggesting that the State give it to you. If I live near Mount Rainier should the State give me that site, too?

            Further more, a lot of Lake Burien residents have been angry that the Planning Commission and Council have not listened to them, the public. However, when a ‘different’ public expresses their interest to have access to a PUBLIC water feature on this blog, they are subsequently shot down or insulted by the LB residents. So only some of the ‘public’ gets to have a say in public policy?

            And as for the original letter, stating that Lake Burien is natural and that the corresponding German lake is just a reservoir with a dam, let’s pull out that weir come mid-August and see how much of a ‘natural’ lake remains. Is the weir even licensed per RCW 77.57.020 or 030?

            I’m sure the majority of the Lake residents are reasonable people. I’m waiting to hear from them on this blog.

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      • "privileged" says:

        Are you saying that only the government is capable of protecting waterways? I believe the studies have shown the private efforts at LB have worked pretty good.

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      • LB supporter says:

        Why do you think “The other bodies of water that are enclosed in the area such as Arbor lake are not swim-able.” Could it be beause public access has ruined them? Trust me – nobody in the public cares about keeping Lake Burien clean like the people who live there. By the way – can I have your address? I want to come have a picnic in your front yard and leave all my garbage and crap laying around in your yard.

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        • Robin says:

          LB supporter,

          No one wants to have a picnic in your front yard. No one is proposing public access to private property. Public access to public property is what is proposed. You live near public property. A lot of people live near public property.

          Just clearing that up.

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          • LB supporter says:

            I don’t live on LB. I live on a street where people DO come and have a picnic in my front yard – literally on my private property. I would hate to see that happen to LB residents too.

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  6. Hellcat Sarah says:

    As a long, long, long time Burien resident who has also lived in several other states for stints of time, I didn’t know Lake B existed until I moved into a second floor apt on the SW corner of the lake. Sure.. there have been a few times I’ve wished I had access and even thought about jumping the fence at the vacant lot behind the bldg, but my feeling’s are not bootie hurt over not having access. Why?? Because it’s too dang small to support over use!! So, kudos to people who have lived there forever, inherited from relatives, or made enough money to buy a home on the lake.. Thanks for doing your best to keep it clean and natural for the the creatures that depend on the habitat. I don’t need access to it.

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  7. The Man says:

    Why do you pople demand access to a private land? How selfish that? If you wnat access to the lake, work really ard, make sacrafices and buy the next house that comes up for sale. DUH!

    Has our country become so socialist that even property rights ae trampled? The only “Sense of privelege” here is from those who think they have some right to other people’s things “just because” Shameful.

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    • Robin says:

      I think ‘The Man’ also needs to get out his King County Parcel Map. The majority of the Lake is PUBLIC.

      Come back and argue that one. No one wants access to the ring of private land around the lake. People are expressing an interest in a public entity BUYING one of those private parcels to provide PUBLIC access to the PUBLIC lake.

      No one is trying to take anything away from the LB residents. Did I mention the surface of the lake is PUBLIC?

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    • Maxine says:

      I hope for your sake that your irony is purposeful, Man. In case you don’t get it, are the socialists the ones who want the public to have access to public property, or the ones who want to take public property for their own private enjoyment? Are you a Wall Street banker, by chance?

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  8. Maxine says:

    I’ve lived here for decades, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to visit Lake Burien once. I was struck by a few things: the beauty and serenity, the complete lack of natural shoreline, and the fact that none of the rest of us, the taxpayers who own the lake, ever get to see it. If the shoreline property owners really cared about the environment, they wouldn’t have destroyed all of the natural shoreline. Unfortunately, it sounds like most of these shoreline property owners want to keep their neighbors away from the public resource we all own, and they assume we’re all vandals and criminals. If you want to own it, buy it outright. Otherwise, quit expecting us to subsidize your “private” playground.

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  9. Coverofnight says:

    Hey, no skin off my nose if I don’t have access to the Lake. Leave it be……it’s been fine as is for decades – why is everyone’s knickers in a bunch now?

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  10. Thom G says:

    Duh Dudes-

    This Boris Sieverts guy is a whacko. He makes his living giving tours of garbage dumps and wastelands. He says that the best parts of cities are where there are dumps because that is where the adventure is. Basically he thinks that Burien is a dump or at least hopes to make it into one. See his guide to visiting cities. (http://www.monu.org/monu4/VisitingCities2.pdf) He is hoping that Lake Burien will become a spot to nude bathe, get drunk in the afternoon, act inappropiate, sleep it off and return with others to do the same. Maybe Arbor Lake can better meet his hopes. Why are we even spending time on this cuckoo bird?

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  11. anne stadler says:

    I have been following this discussion with interest! I am wondering if there is an obvious solution that would serve everyone’s well-being? What if the city bought the available access land; invited a representative circle of all stakeholders (some resident owners, some nearby business people, representatives of Burien’s government, environmentally concerned citizens, young people, etc.) to form a Conservation Trust for Lake Burien Access to manage it? That stakeholder group could create a vision and criteria for the access land and its users that would satisfy the desires of everyone concerned AND reflect the vision and values of Burien’s citizens.

    Essentially, such an action would apply Burien’s own founding principles to creating a new possibility out of a conflict that doesn’t sustain anyone’s future well-being!
    There are well-thought-out legal guidelines for such a Conservation Trust and I know of at least one organization in the Seattle area that can advise about setting it up.

    I HOPE an initiative of this kind emerges from this conversation because it seems un-Burien-like to treat Lake Burien as an object of separation and controversy right in the midst of a city that is committed to maintaining a vibrant sustainable quality of life!

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    • Robin says:


      That is a wonderful proposal. Thank you for bringing positive ideas to the discussion.

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    • Thom G says:

      Duh Anne-

      Let’s see who’s been looking to make the bucks and generate publicity.

      Matthew Stadler – your son – brought Boris Sieverts and his father to Burien to help sell copies of Mathew’s book and to promote Suddenly.org. They set out to convince Burien that it was a non-viable city.

      Your group – Sunyata.org – is making a video of Burien and is begging for charity donations to pay for the video. The purpose of the Burien video is to promote Matthew’s book, Suddenly.org and package it with a series of discussion questions to market to Mayors and City governments around the state and the country.

      Boris Sieverts doesn’t believe in reading local newspapers in the cities he visits. So why did he send a letter to the Highline Times? Boris doesn’t believe in paying attention to local politicians in the cities he visits. So why did he send the same letter to the Burien City Council? Why did he also send the same letter to the Burien Planning Commission? Doesn’t sound like Boris’s guide to visiting cities.

      So, who is really behind this premeditated email blitz which took place within a two day period?

      You and Matthew aren’t citizens of Burien but it works to your benefit to keep things stirred up in Burien. It sells books and keeps money rolling into your non-profit charity by creating controversy. The last thing Burien needs is to follow your advice and fill your pockets with still more money for consulting services.

      If you, Matthew and Boris are really committed to the future of Burien – move here, buy property, become a citizen of Burien and pay taxes.

      Duh by the way –

      Anyone who wants visual access to Lake Burien can take a hike down 156th & 12th. As long as you are not following Boris Sievert’s advice to be drunk, inappropriate and doing illegal things, no one will bother you.

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      • Erik Robins says:

        Ohhhhhhh…. snap!!! Thank you Thom for the info. Go figure. Why is it that those who don’t live here in Burien stir the pot the most. How many “Parks” is Burien gaining from the anexation? Are we going to be able to maintain these along with the ones we already have and try to obtain one on a little lake as well? We can’t even keep our roads in good condition.

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  12. gimmeabreak says:

    There are three non-facts in the above discussions that make their posts non-starters because the writers are not well informed.

    1. Eric: All homes on Lake Burien have been on sewers for almost 60 years. Many were installed at the homeowners’ expense before there was a sewer district.
    2. Robin: Pulling out the weir in August wouldn’t do anything to the lake because the lake is
    always below the weir in August. You seem to have as little understanding of the weir as the Shoreline Advisory Committee did.
    3. Anne: “What if the city bought the available access land….” : There is no available access land.

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    • Robin says:

      That’s an interesting proposal. My entire comment is invalid because I was off on one point. So, because I don’t know the exact water level of the lake in August, then:

      A) The lake isn’t owned by the State of Washington after all
      B) The weir does NOT require a license
      C) LB residents have been nothing but reasonable and polite on these blogs, and
      D) Property lines only apply to everyone else in the world. If you live on Lake Burien then you not only own your property but everything else it touches.

      I think your name says it all.

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      • gimmeabreak says:

        I recall that part of this same argument was used in a conversation at the Shoreline Advisory Committee. The licensing/permit query regarding the weir was raised there by people who didn’t know what or where it was, and the query was shown to be wrong.
        In all honesty if it was built today a permit would be required. But having been built more than 70 years ago your argument doesn’t hold water (but the weir does 🙂

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  13. Ralph Nichols says:

    Here’s the bottom line, folks, noted by Founding Father John Adams in A Defense of the American Constitutions, 1787 —

    The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If `Thou shalt not covet’ and `Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.

    Neither the erosion of property rights nor the redistribution of wealth are American principles.

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    • Robin says:


      Can you explain to me how ‘redistribution of wealth’ would occur if the City purchases a piece of property (that is, pays the current owner an agreed-upon amount for the title) with public funds, then makes said property available to the public, and uses said property for access to additional property (the surface of the lake) that currently belongs to the State of Washington?

      I’m interested in how that process would represent ‘redistribution of wealth’. No one wants to touch any of the private property on the lake. The proposal is to make an offer on a property up for sale.

      Sounds pretty darn American to me, but I look forward to your answer.

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  14. Ralph Nichols says:

    OK, Robin, I was well into an answer when the computer rebelled and reset this site. So I’ll write it in Word, do a cut and paste, and send my reply tomorrow.

    Stay tuned …

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  15. JJ Greive says:

    All the complaints I have heard, (littering, public intoxication, pollution etc) are already illegal and therefore all we need it for existing laws to be enforced. It is a public lake and I hold our elected officials responsible as spineless do nothings for letting a few wealthy landowners keeping the public away. Get over it, it is not your private lake, it is ours!!

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  16. Terry says:

    It’s a PUBLIC lake and if the city of Burien manages to purchase a small piece of land bordering it to create a PUBLIC access, we citizens would finally have something in return for all our tax dollars spent on it.

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  17. John Q Public says:

    Are you POSITIVE that your Burien city tax dollars are spent on Lake Burien? I would be curious to know how much city money, if any, goes toward the lake.

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  18. Terry says:

    Burien city tax dollars nothwithstanding, since Lake Burien is public property, the taxpayers of Washington State own it. As one of the Burien shorelines, public resources are currently being used to create and update shoreline regulations, and resources have been used in the past to conduct testing on water quality and as part of the King County lakes program. Government resources are also used to protect the Lake Burien watershed from stormwater runoff, and government would be responsible for clean up of any pollution that got into the lake, such as when an oil spill occurs in Puget Sound.

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  19. Thom G says:

    Duh Dudes-

    The unrestricted public does not have the right to use every drop of publicly owned waters for massive recreation for some real obvious reasons-caca, crap, dodo, poo poo, pootie, poop, piddle, feces, turds, garbage, pollution, environmental damage. Except for Lake Burien, Seahurst Park and all of the freshwaters in the Burien area are miserably fouled by unrestricted public access-Lora Lake (RIP), Miller Creek, Hicks Lake and Arbor Lake. http://www.b-townblog.com/index.php?s=arbor+lake

    Dudes– Rather than blogging about whether to make a mess of still one more small lake, raise money to keep the restrooms open in Burien. Raise money for Burien to hire park staff for park protection. Volunteer to clean Hicks Lake, Miller Creek or Arbor Lake.

    JJ Dude- you live near 2 of these publicly created cess pools-Hicks Lake and Arbor Lake. I’m sure your neighborhood lakes could use your physical clean-up help.
    Spineless politicans suck but spineless messy neighbors are even worse.

    A number of you bloggers don’t even live in Burien. Sign up to clean up the lakes and parks in your neighborhood. Get on a neighborhood clean up crew instead of yapping on the blog about what Burien should do.

    Dudes-We need to keep our local swimming pools open. They are warm, safe and easy to clean. Turds and turd juice don’t hit you in the face in pools. Push to make sure these pools get the bucks to stay open.

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  20. Ralph Nichols says:


    If you’re still looking for my reply to your previous inquiry, here it is:

    First, for the record, I added “redistribution of wealth” to the primary property rights reference because both are under assault – not only in the other Washington but here, too. It was a general postscript to John Adams’ statement, not a comment on anything taking place in Burien at this time.

    And it does appear that you and I agree that any public access to the lake should come from the purchase of private property – not a city condemnation of that property – that is for sale. I hope we also agree that no such purchase should be made for quite some time; i.e., until the city is in a far better financial position and basic services are being met on a regular basis without added taxes.

    A compelling example is the city’s current – and pressing – need to pay for an ongoing asphalt-overlay program, which in recent years has been neglected, to keep local streets in good condition.

    Back, now, to the linkage of these two rights. My concern – and based on some of the socio-economic politics we see this is not a far reach – is that certain groups, envious that they don’t have the same access to “this” or to “that,” which other people have due to their investments, will start pressing for similar access because it is their “right.”

    When imagined rights gain support, they begin to threaten legitimate rights. And property rights can be an easy target. When the taking of property becomes a possibility – or even the purchase of property on the market in response to these demands – public funds are used to pay for it. Public funds that come from taxes on one group of citizens to pay for something for another group of citizens involves, of course, the redistribution of wealth.

    So while nothing like that is envisioned regarding Lake Burien at this time, these twin specters always lurk in the background. Paranoia? Not after what we’ve seen in the other Washington and in Olympia just this year. Not at all.

    The bottom line: we must advance carefully, guided by the U.S. and state constitutions, and not by political winds, at all times.

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    • c'mon says:

      Right on Ralph!

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    • Lee Moyer says:

      You present a bunch of boogy man issues and then finally admit that none of that applies to the current access issue at Lake Burien. So, let’s stick to the relevent points.

      Condemnation was never suggested by the advocates of a park on Lake Burien, or by the Shoreline Master Plan, for that matter. Condemnation is a red herring used by the NIMBYs who oppose public access to stir emotions.

      Ruth Dykman Childrens’ Center is surplusing some property that could be used for a park on the lake. This is a rare opportunity. Twenty years from now, having this as a park will mean more to the citizens of Burien than our street paving schedule, although it is not actually an either or situation.

      It has nothing to do with envy or redistribution of wealth. The surface of the lake is a public resource that is currently not available to the public because the surrounding property is all privately owned. Creating a public access is not a “taking” or any infringement of property rights. The current situation is an infringement of the public’s rights.


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  21. Robin says:


    You said it all in this one statement:

    “When imagined rights gain support, they begin to threaten legitimate rights”

    The “imagined rights”, though, are represented by the residents of Lake Burien. They have an “imagined right” to a private lake. After so many years I can’t blame them, but the truth remains that they do not own the lake.

    The people of the State of Washington have a legitimate right to the lake; one that is threatened by the imagined rights of a few.

    If the lake was privately owned then none of this would be an issue. Only if it was privately owned would it be appropriate to point at those who want access and claim they are “coveting something that is not theirs” or compare a request for access to a request for someone else’s car keys. It is not privately owned.

    Due to investments, as you mentioned, my family and I live on the Puget Sound. I don’t, however, see the container ships passing though the sound as an infringement on my private property. I don’t paddle my Kayak out to yell at “certain groups”, whomever that might be, using the Sound, because it’s beyond my property line. I don’t own everything I see. If I did, the folks on Vashon Island would be very surprised.

    If you are angry about health care or any other current issue, that’s definitely your right. A better place to comment on that, with your quotes above, would be an article on health care, or whatever issue has you steamed. It does not apply to this issue, by your own admission.

    By your argument that all publicly purchased property represents a redistribution of wealth, we shouldn’t have any parks, public spaces, or streets for that matter. We would all vacation in our front or back yards and pay tolls to walk on privately owned sidewalks and streets.

    A park on Lake Burien is no different from any other park other than it represents an opportunity to open up a large amount of adjoining public space.

    In everything I have read, you are the one mentioning eminent domain. Not the City. Lee is correct in his reference to ‘red herring’

    Lastly, the City Council will be holding hearings and forums on this and other shoreline issues beginning in May. We are all welcome to comment at that time. Keep an eye on the Council calendar via the City’s website.

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  22. jimmy says:

    ok why do you guys keep trying to compare lake burien to arbor lake the areas are different around lb you don’t have dumbness gang members causing problems like at arbor lake comparing the two is like comparing a pile crap and a bmw ok we can fix arbor lake and some are trying but it is a hard thing to do since no one has really try to fix it in the past 20 years so every thing there has layers of gang tags in spray paint and tons of garbage and other crap and around lb you have rich ass snobs that don’t low income people like my self in there area witch really SUCKS

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