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LETTER: ‘Proposed Apartments Will Attract Low End Renters…’

To: Harbor Urban LLC

Re: Burien Town Square, Phase II Conceptual Design Package

Currently the Burien Comprehensive Plan calls for the phase II Town Square development to be mixed use units with permanence that provide a public benefit, become a focal point for Town Square and help focus on the arts, entertainment and regional attractions in the area (reference pages 2-48 to 2-52 and Section 19.15.025 of the City Zoning Code). We are not sure how your projected phase II apartment plan for this area has been allowed to advance to this level without an amendment to change the existing Comprehensive Plan. We (as citizens) have not seen this amendment brought forward by you or the city staff. The clear intent of the Comprehensive Plan was never to put in mediocre to low value apartment buildings into this area.

Mike Martin/Burien City Manager and Dan Trimble/Burien Economic Development Director have told the citizens that these will be “high
end” apartments in both construction and the amenities that are contained within them. However your plan dated September 14, 2012 (prepared by O’Connor Consulting Group, LLC and Compass Construction) does not fit this definition. Both this plan and the construction specs provided describe apartments that are not “high end” quality. The construction is mediocre at best and will decline rapidly with transient lodgers. The amenities do not exist within the structures. These apartments highly rely on the amenities that the citizens of Burien have built into the City proper such as the small park that immediately adjoins the City Hall and the library. Both areas are not adequate recreation space or facilities for hundreds of apartment dwellers. Additionally the businesses and recreation facilities that were to be on the bottom floor of the apartment complex do not exist. They have been eliminated from the design.

No one is going to rent in a supposed high end apartment building that does not have a high quality grocery store combined with it or immediately adjacent to it. There are absolutely no quality recreation facilities associated with the proposed apartments. This explains in part why the Town Square condos have not sold as expected. Within your proposed project there is no swimming pool, spa, extensive workout facilities, conference room, dance/exercise area, indoor recreation area and only a very questionable (per description) outdoor recreation area. Quality shopping and personal services areas are not contained in the complex or immediately adjacent to it. Currently the amenities that are being offered off site are a discount grocery store, Dollar Store, a pharmacy and a Staples. There are no “high end” restaurants in the vicinity and there is no entertainment/recreation in the complex or adjacent to it. In essence, these supposed high end renters you are going to bring in can go to the Dollar Store, be harassed at the transit center or watch TV at home. They will not rent in this area and there is no point in pretending this will happen. These proposed apartments will attract “low end” renters looking for cheap rent in Burien in a newer building. When the building ages there will be “low end” run down apartments in the middle of Town Square.

It remains questionable what the market in Burien will actually bear because new “high end” apartment units have not been built in the city. However, the apartment market in Burien does not appear to be robust. The higher end apartments that are mentioned in this plan on page 75 are not comparable to what is described in this plan for Burien. We have gone over to The Reserve and The Sanctuary at the Landing in Renton and they are not comparable to what is being described in this plan for Burien. The amenities both on grounds and off grounds far exceed what is being projected for the Burien Town Square Apartments. The quality of the interiors of the apartments exceeds what is being discussed for Burien. “High end” renters demand services that are contained in their living units and “high end” merchants immediately near by to serve them.

Since the proposed design does not meet these basic needs, we and many other Burien citizens are opposed to your project. Our first choice would be that you wait for the market to improve and then build additional condos to enhance the ones that have not sold. The second phase of condos should have the features and amenities that attract home owners and currently missing in the phase I condos. Both phase I and phase II condo owners should be able to share facilities with each other. The first floor business use should be developed based on what attracts “high end” renters or condominium owners to permanent neighborhoods. Recreation and entertainment must be key elements as well as “high end” food and service providers. We are not totally opposed to some “high end” apartments for Town Square but what you have proposed does not fit that definition. We believe that you know these are not “high end” apartments as you make your living doing developments.

We are forwarding this communication to the Burien City Staff as well as the City Council. We believe that this proposed phase II project for Town Square is not in keeping with the Comp Plan or the vision for the area. If undue pressure from the Burien government has forced you to adopt this plan, we think that it needs to be seriously rethought by both the City Council and the Burien City Manager. Informal media polls and citizen comments show the citizens are opposed to this kind of apartment development for Town Square.

Robert Howell
Robbie Howell
Chestine Edgar
Michael O’Neill
John Poitras
Linda Poitras
Debi Wagner

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