LETTER: ‘I propose that Burien adopt a proactive approach to Code Enforcement’


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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following  letter is written by resident Dick West, who will read during the public commenting section of Monday night’s City Council meeting. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

I appreciate the City Manager and City Attorney sharing the staff’s position on the properties I have been talking about lately.

I believe the issue is reactive enforcement vs proactive enforcement.

The City Attorney was correct in stating that most cities use a reactive approach.

The real question is, “Why be like the rest of the cities when we can create something better?”

I don’t believe that cleaning up Burien’s $200 million dollar problem has to be expensive at all. In fact Burien already has all the tools it needs:

  • A well defined Municipal Code that is easy to understand.
  • A workforce that covers most streets at least once a month.

I propose that when City employees spot a problem house that they use a simple camera phone to send a picture to the Compliance Officer. From that point on it is largely an administrative issue.

All of the costs associated with abatement are fully recoverable, including staff time. This makes it revenue positive.

In becoming proactive, Burien and the neighborhoods will no longer be victimized by these trashy homes and the problems that come with them.

I don’t believe we can wait to the next budget cycle to become proactive.  The King County Assessor says we are now 5th from the bottom on assessed value change. If we continue to do nothing, in four years we will be at the bottom.

These houses are like graffiti. If they aren’t promptly dealt with then they tend to multiply. I don’t want to see that happen.

I want the Council to work with the City Manager and City Attorney to find ways of implementing the BMC so that the City can flourish and our neighborhoods are desirable.

I  propose a 40 man hour abatement program that I have attached to the City Clerks copy.  If the City disputes these numbers, they should bring their own numbers to the Council for discussion.

I propose that Burien adopt a proactive approach to Code Enforcement like this one:

I am allocating 4 hours for each step:

  1. City worker sees a problem and sends camera phone picture to the Compliance Officer: 4 hours
  2. Compliance Officer examines photo and BMC: 4 hours
  3. Compliance Officer visits site and takes additional photos: 4 hours
  4. Admin prepares letter and file for property: 4 hours
  5. City reviews response from property owner: 4 hours
  6. City responds with abatement demand: 4 hours
  7. If no action City contacts appropriate companies for abatement such junk removal companies, landscape contractors, etc.: 4 hours
  8. City reviews bids from abatement companies: 4 hours
  9. City issues purchase order for abatement: 4 hours
  10. City oversees abatement: 4 hours

TOTAL: 40 hours

  1. Over the course of a month I believe most if not all streets in Burien are driven by Burien employees while on the job.  It is likely that the employee reporting the problem will be called back to take followup pictures.  Thus the 4 hours.
  2. Having the camera phone picture sent to the Compliance Officer’s computer will facilitate a rapid response as well as enabling it to be put in a folder for transferring to other individuals such as the City Attorney or Admin.
  3. I believe this line item can be significantly reduced in hours by visiting more than one property at a time.
  4. Template type letters can reduce this hourly amount if they are prepared by the City Attorney.
  5. City Attorney reviews response from property owner against applicable statues.
  6. City Attorney directs Admin to write abatement demand letter.
  7. If property is not cleaned up, than the City contacts appropriate abatement companies from the City’s approved vendor list who have the necessary bonds, insurances, and expertise.  I don’t believe City employees should not be involved in the actual clean up of private property.
  8. Purchasing Department reviews bids and selects company to abate property.
  9. Purchasing Department issues purchase order for clean up.
  10. An individual from the City oversees abatement.

If the City has issues with any of my assumptions, I only ask that they bring their numbers to the Council for discussion.

Burien Municipal Code provides full recovery for all of the above expenses including time spent by the City employees and contractors performing the abatement.

Below is a chart that shows Burien’s performance over the last several years from the King County Assessor’s Office website (click image to see larger version):

DickWestchart050613

These numbers are taken from the King County Assessor’s Office website.  In the 2008 > 2009 time period, Burien was in the bottom 30 percentile of the 39 cities in King County based on assessed value change. This also was the current City Manager’s first full year on the job. In the 2011 > 2012 period Burien was close to the bottom 10 percentile.  The figures for 2012>2013 are not yet compiled by the Assessor’s Office.

I have also included the numbers for Kent, WA. Our City Manager was the City Manager of Kent prior to coming to Burien. You will note that a different management style has a significant effect on property value performance in Kent.  Areas are highlighted in green for easier viewing.

If the same City Council policies continue with the same City Manager, it is a mathematical certainty that the trend downward will continue.  The consequences will be dire if this trend is not reversed immediately through Council directives.

– Dick West

LINKS TO RELEVANT DOWNLOADS (PDF docs):

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Comments

11 Responses to “LETTER: ‘I propose that Burien adopt a proactive approach to Code Enforcement’”
  1. JJ Greive says:

    I don’t want or need city employees looking for more problems in the city. There is a process in place, and to ‘recruit’ the staff of the city to enforce codes out of their expertise sounds like a bad idea.
    Do you want all city employees looking over your fences or in your yards?

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    • Elizabeth says:

      While I have some concerns about his proposal, I don’t think he is suggesting that any city staff do any thing more than photograph was is obvious from the street while driving by. Anything behind a fence, in a backyard, etc would not be obvious and thus not photographed. It would also be up to the compliance officer to decide to proceed or not with the process once he/she reviews the images.

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    • Eaton B. Verz says:

      “Do you want all city employees looking over your fences or in your yards?”

      That already happens! Jim Bibby walks though peoples yards all the time.

      BTW JJ, I really miss your avatar!

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    • Coverofnight says:

      I agree with you JJ….this solution by Dick (may I call you Dick?) is an invitation for increased government intrusion into our private lives and and invitation to increase taxes for the increased staff that the departments will claim is needed to handle this increased workload.

      Face it, in most municipalities, you have lazy, sloppy neighbors that make your place look like you’re lving next to hillbillies! Inviting the government to police “good taste” is a truly bad idea!

      A slippery slope? Maybe…..I’d rather just say “NO” to more government!

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    • Rita says:

      I agree with Dick 100%! The city of Burien does a terrible job of of doing anything about problem properties. Lets get rid of the blue tarps, abandoned cars, trash that litter our city! Why in 2013 are we still talking about this issue, codes are in place, now Burien start to ENFORCE them with the same vigor as you do with digging out the ditches!

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  2. KBassen says:

    Are you suggesting the City become a huge homeowners association? Who is going to decide whats undesirable? Is it going to come down to making sure I’ve weeded my garden? I think there are already codes for junk vehicles and garbage. Unless this is only about abandoned or foreclosed homes I see a slippery slope.

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    • Elizabeth says:

      The city already is enforcing codes about number of vehicles on the property, excess amount of trash and junk on the property and unsafe living conditions, so they area already making these assessments. He is only saying that other city employees should be able to note and report them more proactively. I used to live next to a real dump of a home with cars, tires, recycling piled up, etc and would have appreciated a more proactive approach. However, I do think he may have underestimated the amount of time it takes to deal with the more difficult cases. Frankly, Burien is getting a reputation for being a dump and I would like to see some of these homes cleaned up.

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      • sallie tierney says:

        If you took a drive down my street you would not get the impression that any codes have been enforced for a very long time. I don’t know what the solution is but what Burien is doing now is just ignoring code violations with the hope that the whistle blowers will go away. I complained a few years ago about a neighbor burying their garbage in their yard and I was told by a city employee that: “People have a right to live the way they want.” The garbage is still being buried in the yard. There goes the water table – and the property values. Code? What code?

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  3. May says:

    —I believe the issue is reactive enforcement vs proactive enforcement—–

    Reactiv, proactive the isssue is that Michael Martin and Friends do not want anyone to be involved with anything at all. They want ot make all decisions and include only their friends to fullfil them. Look at Debra George got an extended contract because she is their friend. This is a joke. There is alot of money going out and guess what? it goes to their friends and you are paying for it.

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  4. Debbi says:

    I truly wish the city would proactively enforce the codes . I have worked hard to keep my property clean and neat ,It makes me crazy that the rental across the street has about 10-15 people living there in a 3 bedroom home. So many cars ( about 8) they have to park on the lawn. You folks that are worried about “government” kill me. People are the government , not the CIA . Do you even think about the fact that the value of your property is directly affected by those people who have no regard for their theirs. You should be more incensed that they are basically taking money out of your pocket than the “government ” enforcing existing code .

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