Airport noise persists; survey shows concerns about safety, homelessness


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By Jack Mayne

The City of Burien says it will continue fighting against even more airport noise which is driving residents and the Quiet Skies Coalition to push harder and retain legal pressure on Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but at the same time a survey shows citizens are generally pleased with the way the city is operating.

At the Monday (July 16) Burien City Council meeting, City attorney Lisa Marshall updated the Council over the city’s legal action in federal appeals court in San Francisco over the Federal Aviation Administration’s local policy to divert some small turboprop planes over Burien. She said the diversion route creates noise and the northbound take off route was once allowed only when pilots got permission from the control tower to turn over the city, mostly in the summer when the primary wind direction is north to south. Planes take off and land into the wind.

Fighting the change
The city last year filed a federal court petition appealing the flight change, Marshall said, and the FAA stopped the flights taking off to the west, then turning over Burien. However, after an environmental analysis, the FAA filed a “categorical exception” (CATEX) exempting it from having to file an environmental statement. It then resumed the flights over the city when turbo props jets take off to the north, a normal situation in summer months.

“This disagrees that the new route has no impact on noise sensitive land uses,” said Marshall, and so the city filed an appeal which should be concluded by the end of 2018, adding it is unlikely the city could get an interim halt of the flights during the appeal period.

Quiet Skies President and Burien resident Larry Cripe told the Monday Council meeting the noise from planes is “the single greatest threat to our city, longterm, they are up against and a fight we have to continue to fight.”

One way of that is to “start writing letters to the statehouse, starting with the governor. The unbridled expansion of this airport is unacceptable to this community.”

Cripe said the Burien group on July 26 is going to do a protest march on the Alaska Airline headquarters in SeaTac “and let them know just how dissatisfied we are.”

Debi Wagner, Burien resident and former member of the City Council, said a 787 Dreamliner came very low over her house recently and “as a result of missed approaches because of the congested corridor” that has newly affected where she lives.

“We are not used to this, it’s affecting our homes,” Wagner said.

Community survey
Burien every two years conducts a community survey to assess residents’ perceptions about the general quality of life in the city and their satisfaction with the city’s government. Almost half of the questions were similar to ones in the past, but this year added a number of questions about changing needs and demographics, said Burien Communications Officer Emily Inlow-Hood. She said a few questions about evening activities and the city’s noise ordinance, had indicated a possible discussion of a revision of the city noise ordinance.

The survey says results were weighted to reflect Burien’s population age, gender, race/ethnicity, and geographic area, and was taken during June 2018.

Survey results
The 53 survey questions were responded to by 1,317 resident online in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

People said the major problems in the city were public safety, affordable housing, crime and homelessness. Lesser Burien problems included population growth, gangs and economic growth.

Wide ranges of Burien residents said they were satisfied with the Burien Fire Department,

The survey showed 68 percent of people drive themselves to work, 14 percent said someone else drives them and 7 percent take the bus, but only 5 percent walk.

When asked about shopping services Burien residents want most, they widely wanted movies, concerts and “other entertainment.”

Residents were split on whether they like or do not like new business or construction for new business.

A clear majority – 71 percent – favored getting their local news from The B-Town Blog.

Law enforcement overview
Office of Law Enforcement Oversight (OLEO) Director Deborah Jacobs (pictured above) told the City Council meeting Monday about her independent government agency, with responsibility for reviewing internal complaints relating to the King County Sheriff’s Office, its policies and practices. The office may tell the department to do more of an investigation or probe into different areas of the case, Jacobs said, with an annual report in September each year. The agency also does general oversight of the office and reviews new Sheriff’s office policies, “they are not obligated to take” OLEO’s recommendations, “taking some and leaving some.”

The sheriff’s department “is a thinly budgeted office that does a lot with what it has, but training is an area where you can never have enough,” Jacobs said. Burien contracts with the Sheriff’s office for its police department.

Councilmember Nancy Tosta asked about the “70 to 80 percent of (officer’s) time that was the estimate” she said spent on paperwork, and wondered if anyone is working on ways to reduce the paperwork so Burien Police can spend more time on the street.

Jacobs said the new sheriff, Mitzi Johanknecht, was bringing new labor saving computer software into her systems to help the problem and suggested the Council hear from her department directly on problems.

New staff, fireworks overview
City Manager Brian Wilson introduced newly assigned police Capt. Jessica Sullivan (pictured above), along with newly hired city Finance Director Eric Christensen.

Wilson said Sullivan will be the number two person in the police department and had served earlier in her career as a detective in Burien.

Christensen has been with the city for three weeks and comes to the city with over 20 years budgeting and accounting experience, said Wilson.

Capt. Sullivan and Fire Marshall Ray Pettigrew told the Council of the recent holiday. Sullivan said there were 108 fireworks calls, but that many revealed no one when they got there.

“Things go up and go boom, officers get called to the scene, they look around and those things are difficult to pinpoint. If they can’t find it, they clear the scene and move to the next one.”

Sullivan said 60 of the fireworks calls were on the July 4, holiday and the department also had 85 other calls. There was one arrest for a reckless burning case in Moser Park.

The enforcement cost another 20 hours of overtime, she said.

Fire Marshall Pettigrew said they had 12 calls related to fireworks that resulted in fires, three on the 4th itself. He said he noticed the number of “all night long when I was out, I noticed police officers were out” working with people and maybe the emphasis will “continue the trend of fewer calls on the 4th.

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