Mary’s Place gets zoning map change as first step to allow multifamily housing


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By Jack Mayne

The Burien City Council approved a zoning map change on Monday (Dec. 17), a first step in Mary’s Place takeover of the former Lakeside-Milam Recovery Center to establish an apartment complex for low income residents, a change many in the surrounding neighborhood strongly opposed.

The Council approved four planning map amendment requests, but only one was to change the Mary’s Place property site designation from office to high density multi-family in anticipation of an affordable housing project. Mary’s Place provides “inclusive shelter and services center that supports women, children and families on their journey out of homelessness.”

The new apartment will be at 12845 Ambaum Blvd SW – the former Lakeside Milam Recovery Center that was closed in 2017.

“While we hope to be able to build affordable housing on the site, there are no plans to build anything at this point,” Mary’s Place Chief Communications Officer Linda Mitchell told The B-Town Blog.

Marty of Mary’s Place
Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place, said “we wish we had more time to work in this issue with our neighbors,” and added they would continue to work with the neighbors to iron out problems. “I want to assure you and the neighbors in the community tonight that regardless of the outcome of tonight’s vote, we are committed to a community engagement process to envision and plan what comes next. I know we can do great things together and we look forward to that opportunity.”

Hartman said it would “take all of us working together” to address the problems of homelessness in Burien, adding that “we are grateful for every one of our neighbors, your passion and your dedication.”

Comments on Mary’s Place
Sue Anderson of the 114-member Shorewood Neighborhood Preservation Coalition said she has signed a petition against high density in the neighborhood and said the Council should see the issue is “of ultimate importance to us.”

She and others of the coalition gave up their time to speak to an attorney the group hired to fight the potential of allowing Mary’s Place, which provides housing to women, children, and families, in a former recovery center in Burien where the organization will be able to accommodate about 200 people and states they will be able to support programs for employment and housing during the day.

Jenny Parch, pastor of Highline United Methodist Church, was in favor of the Mary’s Place facility “because you cannot say no to 200 units provided by Mary’s Place.”

David Feinberg urged the council to “address the housing crisis” and modify the city’s comprehensive plan as well as to support affordable housing because the Fox Cove Apartment issue has shown there is no “guarantee of affordable housing.”

Jeppa Hall said that in her youth her family experienced homelessness several times and “I know that housing in integral to mental, physical well being of famiies” and she benefited from subsidized housing. “Subsidized housing helps family thrive,” Hall said. “We must support Mary’s Place to build us affordable housing for families and children for unhoused people …. This is an awesome opportunity to help people thrive.”

Oppose high density
Alex Sidles, a lawyer for the Seattle firm of Bricklin Newman and Newman who represents the Shorewood Neighborhood Coalition, which opposes the comprehensive plan change to allow Mary’s Place, said high density properties are on only two parcels of the many areas of the affected neighborhood, what he called a “low density mode” not the high density required to permit the change to all of what multifamily plans of Mary’s Place. Sidles also noted the area is part of the Salmon Creek subarea plan where multifamily areas are “strongly discouraged.” To retain consistency, “this plan must be denied,” he said.

When the Council considered the increased density zoning Mary’s Place is requesting to enable them to house homeless within the area once used for an alcohol treatment facility, Councilmember Nancy Tosta wanted a reconsideration by the Burien Planning Commission of its proposed new plan for the surrounding mix in the housing – some single family, some varied multifamily. Her request required a response from the planners by mid-year 2019.

The area for Mary’s Place is on Ambaum and is now zoned for offices, and that zoning does allow housing at a rate of 75 percent of the floor area must be dedicated to office, but the remainder can be residential, said Community Development Director Chip Davis.

“Only 25 percent of the floor space can be for housing,” Davis told the Council.

Councilmember Bob Edgar said the request is a change of zoning for a single parcel in the area, not for an area-wide change as some in the neighborhood have maintained. “The decision before the City Council is a private request to amend the land use designation for an individual parcel and the decision is to be based on whether or not the request and the supporting evidence for making a land use change is consistent with the comprehensive land use plan ….”

Bell: If not here, where?
Deputy Mayor Austin Bell said this proposal is to “hold this particular request to a standard that we don’t hold others because of a lack of political courage by some.” This proposed change has met requirements, Bell said.

“This is a parcel on Ambaum, one the area’s busiest roads that has adequate transit, that will have even more transit with the coming H line, it’s near commercial.

“If not here, if this does not meet where we should be putting additional housing, then where?” he asked.

If changes like this are not made, Bell said the lack housing will increase and so will homelessness, noting we must put the housing some place or the lack will increase.

“If not here, where on earth will it go?”

Then Bell added that this is “only the first step in a much longer conversation. There are still many more items that have to be discussed,” including any potential or actual change in the zoning for the area.

“Stay with as we go through this process,” the deputy mayor said.

Councilmember Bob Edgar said Mary’s Place and the neighbors of the area should have more time to discuss and work out a number of problems, so he did not favor approving the zone change. He said that had only been one large group meeting on the project.

New revenue
In order to address increased demand for services and a predicted budget shortfall in 2021, Council and staff are analyzing different approaches to reducing expenses and increasing revenues. Council approved an increase in the City’s franchise rate differential from six to eight percent.

This will cost a typical Burien Seattle City Light residential customer between 20 cents to $3 more per billing cycle, depending on the level of use, and will generate approximately $400,000 in annual revenue.

Council told the city manager to explore either a utility tax or franchise rate increase with Burien water and sewer districts. The proposed increases could generate approximately $1 million in revenue.

It voted to increase the gambling tax on social card rooms to 11 percent, bringing it back up to pre-Recession levels. The tax will generate approximately $130,000 in revenue for the City.

Ban plastic bags
The Council also okayed banning plastic bags from being provided at point of sale, and also requires a minimum 10-cent fee for paper bags that businesses can keep to help defray the increased cost of paper bags.

The measure exempts “damp or contaminated items, such as roasted chicken bags,” exempts in-store plastic bags like produce bags, bulk item bags, and bags for meat. Also exempted from the 10-cent fee are low-income customers who qualify for food assistance programs.

Preparing for citizen comment
Mayor Jimmy Matta said at the opening of the final Burien City Council meeting of the year that he normally reads “a boring message but tonight I’m going to just let everybody know here today that I am responsible for order in this chamber. The issue that we are about to speak (about) has been a very tough issue for everyone in our community. I ask you to be respectful with each other. We are trying to build a community and we’re going from a small city to an urban city. We are going to be planning a city for our children, our grandchildren.”

Matta added that the Council has received “a lot of letters on both sides, a lot of emotion on both sides and both groups have done a good job of organizing …. Right now, tonight, it stands on the Council on making a decision and I can tell you that there has been a lot of losing sleep over this decision.”

The mayor said he hoped there would be no need to remove people who “are not respecting the chamber.”

Councilmember Tosta said many of the people gathered in the chamber had spoken about the Mary’s Place issue at earlier meetings and expressed the desire for the Council to limit speakers to the usual rule of two minutes each. Her motion to limit public comments and to still finish all of the business at the last official meeting of the year died without a second.

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