Burien Property Values Falling 35 percent Faster, Resident Tells City Council

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A portion of the presentation Dick West made to the Burien City Council Monday night, March 18. Click image to view larger version.

by Jack Mayne

The Burien City Council was told Monday night (March 18) that figures from the King County Assessor’s Office show that property values in Burien are falling faster than any of its South King County neighbors.

That’s according to Dick West, a resident in the “Area X” neighborhood that Burien annexed in 2009.

He told Council members during the public comment period that Burien is declining 35 percent faster than SeaTac, 35.1 percent faster than Tukwila, and 34.6 percent faster than Des Moines.

“This trend has been accelerating since 2008,” West said.

He showed photos of some deteriorating and foreclosed houses and said such homes are scattered throughout Burien.

“Each one affects the property values for three square miles and with the city having only 10.1 square miles these houses cannot be allowed to exist without serious financial results for the homeowners of Burien, the businesses of Burien and the City of Burien itself,” West said.

He quoted the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as saying “each one of these houses cost the city $34,000 per year in lost revenue and the surrounding home values go down by $220,000.”

West said eight houses he showed to the council members “have cost the Burien $589,000 in lost revenue since the Area X annexation. The residents of Burien have lost $208,125,000 in net worth last year above and beyond our surrounding municipalities because the city refuses to take action against these types of houses.

He claimed the Burien policy of “reactively dealing” with code issues produces more declining value homes.

“There are somewhere between 50 and 100 houses like this throughout Burien,” West said. “Some are bank repos and some are owned by slumlords.”

No new ordinances are needed to deal with the problem.

“It would take the city no more than 40 man hours to abate each one of these,” West said. “In one year the city would add $1.7 million dollars to the city coffers and increase homeowners’ net worth in excess of $1 billion by dealing with these houses using the existing Burien Municipal Code.”

Such action would send a “powerful message” to potential homebuyers that Burien will watch and deal effectively with such issues.

“What it does require is the city council to send new marching orders to the city manager to enforce the existing Burien Municipal Code,” West added.

ADDED 9:53 p.m. MONDAY 3/18/13: Council member Lucy Krakowiak brought up West’s comments at the end of Monday night’s council meeting as well as his comments about cleaning up a foreclosed house during a council session in February.

City Manager Mike Martin said his staff would look at the issue.

“We disagree in the main with virtually everything that was said,” Martin commented. “There may be something that we don’t understand, but we’ll come back to you with a report that bears a little more semblance of reality for you.”

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16 Responses to “Burien Property Values Falling 35 percent Faster, Resident Tells City Council”
  1. Chris says:

    Ok, and so he gathered information from the KC Assesor site OR did the assessor provide some sort of report. Unless it came directly from King County, I’m suspicious of the scientific validity of this claim.

  2. jim clingan says:

    I, too, question the validity of Mr. West’s data. In addition, I question the “reporting” on this blog. Mr. Mayne wrote the story as if he attended the meeting, which he did not. In addition, the blog editor, Scott Schaefer posted it at 7pm. I attended the meeting. It started at 7pm and Mr. West testified shortly thereafter. Unless Mrs. Mayne and Schaefer have esp, I suggest this post is nothing short of a good, old-fashioned hit-piece. So much for journalism.

    • Jack Mayne says:

      It was a piece of information sent to me before the meeting at my request and attributed to Mr. West. All of the assessment statements were attributable by him to the assessor’s office and Mr. West made comments I attributed to him. I won’t dignify the comments about hit pieces except to say that we live in a transitory stage where people go only to the sources they agree with and consider anything they don’t agree with to be “good, old fashioned hit pieces.” My record is out there and I stand by the story. If you have facts to refute them, please let me know and I will be happy to do a story and set the record straight. I would be happy to get a call from you at 206.274.6069.

  3. Jack Mayne says:

    Oh, and sir, I did watch the full council session on line, so I did report it live.

    • jim clingan says:

      I have no doubt, Mr. Mayne, about your experience as a reporter. I do question your statement that you reported this story live from a story that took place shortly after 7pm. I question that fact because your editor posted the story at 7pm. You obviously have a rare talent. Or you and your editor need to coordinate things better. Have a great day!

      • Mr. Clingan I believe there may be a misunderstanding here – Jack Mayne wrote this article based on an interview with Dick West that took place *prior* to his public comment at Monday night’s council meeting, and I posted it at 7 p.m. as that is when the council meeting began. Jack then watched the meeting online to monitor things and see if anyone reacted to West’s claims (note that we added Mike Martin’s response later). As you may notice in the article, we attribute all of West’s claims directly to him. Also note that Jack Mayne is already in contact with the King County Assessor and will be doing a followup story that either confirms or corrects West’s claims, based entirely on the facts. thanks, scott

  4. John says:

    Interesting that the first responders to this article which has a LOT of validity were solely to defend and cover up Mike Martin’s incompetence.

    Martins response to this resident is par for the course for him. He as usual acts like he is the BOSS of Burien.
    He needs to be directed as an city EMPLOYEE to respond to residents concerns not stonewall and deny as he always does and the current majority on the council let him get away with.
    Its a given that his cronies are always going to speak in his defense because without Mike Martin their influence over city business would quickly dwindle away.

    • Chris says:

      Hey DUDE, I’m not covering-up anyones ANYTHING. I’m speaking for myself, as I simply took that article at face value and some questions about the specifics of the claims made.

      And to Jack Mayne, did you get any statistics from the KC Assessor? While I won’t say this is a “hit” piece, the headline immediately gives the reader the impression that this is something important, but then once inside, you get supposition from a source. At worst the piece is a little on the sensationalistic side (especially with the graphic).

      More facts from the people that determine property AV would have made this article mo better….

      • Jack Mayne says:

        The King County assessor is the ONLY place for this information to come from and it most assuredly did come from them.

      • John says:


        I did not mean to include you in my observation and perhaps I painted with too broad a stroke so as not to point any specific fingers at anyone but we all know who the usual suspects are.

        As Jack stated this came from the King County assessors office and so has a lot of validity.

        Mr Martin as usual is in denial to anything that comes close to criticizing his imo deplorable job performance.

        I quote “We disagree in the main with virtually everything that was said,” Martin commented. “There may be something that we don’t understand, but we’ll come back to you with a report that bears a little more semblance of reality for you.”

        • Chris says:

          Thanks for your clarification. Civil discussion is good to see on these blogs. My point is that I will wait until the KC assessor comes out with the AV numbers for the ENTIRE city as a whole. This is the basis for all property tax levies, and is very telling about how “good” the city is doing/going to do.

          I do know for fact (based on my employment with another local government), that the AV numbers have faired better than most south King County cities. So when I see a claim of 35%, I question that assertion a little, considering the loss in AV during the recession has not come close that. I would like to dig a little deeper and find out where Burien itself stands.

  5. Shari says:

    Proactive code enforcement is a problem for most cities, even Seattle. The process is apparently somewhat byzantine legally, costly, lengthy…and yet is still one of the most needed breakthrough efforts possible in terms of revitalization of neighborhoods. I personally would love to see Burien make it a priority, but it’s evidently a really tough nut to crack on a large scale.

  6. Clark S. Jones says:

    A previous writer called this story a “hit piece.” I see it as just plain shoddy journalism.

    Is it a story when someone – anyone – makes allegations against the City and presents them at a council meeting?
    Where is there any mention of Mr. West’s credentials and expertise regarding property values? Why should we believe him when he explains why values in Burien have gone down? Was there any attempt by the reporter to determine if there was any truth to Mr. West’s claims?

    A credible journalist at least tries to present some answers, or at least a response from the appropriate person or agency. The Blog’s editor/publisher writes that the reporter will try and present the King County Assessor’s take on all of this at a later date. Why not wait and include it in the initial story? Present a complete package.. That’s what a professional would do.

    Mr. Mayne wrote the article entirely based on the allegations Mr. West presented at a the council meeting, nothing more. The allegations were posted on the Blog before they were actually made at the council meeting.. Mr. Mayne wrote the article as if he were there watching, based on what he expected West to say. They were not reported live, as he claims.

    This may be the B-Town Blog, where anything goes and no one is accountable for what they say in a letter, but this was presented as a news article. It reeks of shoddy journalism.

    Considering Mr. Mayne’s glorious past as a reporter and editor, the story shows just how far he’s fallen. If a reporter had turned this in when Mayne was PI city editor, he or she would have been escorted to the door.

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