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Burien Council hears – but takes no action on – failing stairs at Eagle Landing Park

By Jack Mayne [1]

At Monday night’s meeting, the Burien City Council heard an offer to install piles to shore up the cliff where stairs to Eagle Landing Park have been declared unsafe, despite continued use by some residents seeking exercise and access to the beach.

The Council heard that local entrepreneur John White – who lives in an historical mansion near the top of the stairs – is willing to donate services of the pile driving company he owns to help stabilize the constant sliding caused by underground water flowing from a residential area at the top of the hill. White, who was not at the Monday meeting, has also expressed concerns that the city needs to consider ways to control the stormwater draining from homes uphill.


Eagle Landing stairs
The Burien city staff believes removing the entire stairway at Eagle Landing Park is necessary because of ongoing landslide activity. First there was shoreline erosion in 2014 which led to the removal of the lower portion of the stairway, but continued monitoring and city engineers say “the conditions on the lower hillside have progressively worsened.”

Parks Director Steve Roemer listed the history of the stairs that lead down to the beach below and told the Council that despite danger signs being “clearly posted” there is “public disregard” of the “signage and physical barricades” and now city staff is “recommending … moves forward to remove the entire stairway.”

Roemer said he has the money in his budget to pay for removal of “half these stairs, down to landing six” but he wanted to discuss it with the Council first because it would not be a popular decision “to go down this road to remove the entire stairs.”

During public comment period, the Council heard from area resident Katie Bysheim:

“We are not happy to lose Burien’s only other park with beach access that cost $2 million. Are we really going to leave the cause of the failure by not solving the underlying recurring problem? Is there a reason why we are not solving the storm drain issue from above? There is massive erosion at the top of the park. Nine square blocks of residential and stormwater flows into one 12-inch pipe that dumps directly into the park.”

Bysheim said engineers have said the washout on the beach below the stairs behind he bulkhead was “not all from storm damage” and there had been earth slides in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2012.

Take White’s offer
“If there is full funding to remove the stairs from the park, why can’t that be used to make repairs and give the community back this beautiful resource?”

White, owner and resident of a large historic home just north of the park, has said that “all pile driving costs would be and any of those type of repairs would be covered by my company.” White owns a pile driving company and the offer is potentially worth several thousands of dollars.

“Take the $150,000 for the viewing platform, use it with John’s generous donation and bring back our stairs,” said Bysheim.

Mayor Jimmy Matta asked if people are being kept out of the area and Roemer said that despite some fencing in the area, people keep climbing over and jumping down to stairs below.

“We are doing everything we can without being out there 24 hours a day,” said Roemer, adding it would be a difficult operation to try to get to the beach.

The Council took no action on the matter.

FAA and Sea-Tac
Councilmember Nancy Tosta asked and the Council unanimously approved a motion to hire again the Denton’s multinational law firm’s office in San Francisco. It would continue the city’s challenge to the Federal Aviation Administration’s renewal of its “categorical exclusion” (CATEX) to start again to use an automatic left turn for all turbo-prop airliners taking off to the north from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and thence over Burien. The move to challenge the legality of the turns is currently before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Tosta’s motion said the city’s cost was not to exceed $85,000.

The FAA had said it does not have to consider environmental concerns when it issued its “categorical exclusion,” effectively saying that it does not have to obey its own rules that normally would require consideration of any environmental impacts.

“We believe there is just cause as well as significant community concern about these flights that leads us to think that we would like to continue to push the FAA on their decision and basically appeal that categorical exclusion,” Tosta said.

Council proclamations
The Council also declared May 14 to 18 as Affordable Housing Week, “in an effort to raise public awareness, communities throughout King County” and “to inform the public of the critical need to preserve and increase affordable housing in our communities.”

The Council also proclaimed May 14 to 18 as National Police Week, and May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. New Burien Police Chief Theodore Boe was given the Council approved proclamation by Councilmember Bob Edgar (pictured, above).

Boe said it was humbling to be given the proclamation and to become the city’s new police chief.

Councilmembers also declared June 2 as Burien Pride Day, and the month of June to honor “transgender people across the nation (who) face unprecedented levels of discrimination in housing, employment, education, and public accommodation, as well as attacks on their civil rights.” The proclamation was presented to Debra George and the Burien Pride Committee.

[3]And the Council honored resident Dick Swaab (pictured, left) , who worked for King County Water District Number 20 for 40 years, starting as a meter reader and working his way up from field crew technician to field superintendent, then spending the last 13 years as general manager.

Swaab was honored by the Council because he is a “key contributor to the integrity of the water system, evaluating system weaknesses and taking corrective actions to provide the highest quality water to Burien residents.” The proclamation was initiated by Councilmember Krystal Marx, but read to the public by Deputy Mayor Austin Bell in Marx’s absence from the Monday meeting.

The Council also was introduced to new employees – Senior Planner Thara Johnson and Park and Facility Maintenance Worker Mark Tostenrude.

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