by Jack Mayne The Burien City Council sided with the city staff and rejected a Planning Commission decision and approved a downzoning of the Lake Burien area. The Monday (Dec. 15) meeting also finished some portions of the city’s Comprehensive Plan about its guidance on affordable housing and a criticism of moving a planned hearing on the controversial “trespass” ordinance. It also dropped on a 4 – 3 Burien’s Comprehensive Plan the Potential Annex Area (PAA) that would have permitted the city under state law to pursue the annexation despite residents of the North Highline Unincorporated Area. (See separate story) Lake Burien ‘downzoned’ The Lake Burien zoning change has been floating around and before both the Burien Planning Commission and the City Council for years. The problem on Monday was whether or not to accept the recommendation of the Burien Planning Commission, which had unanimously denied the Lake Burien Neighborhood request to change the neighborhood designation from Moderate Density Single-Family Residential to Low Density Single Family Residential. The approved request changes the area minimum lot size from a 7,200 to a 12,000 square-feet. Relatively few properties will be affected. Resident David Andrews said three members of the Burien City Council lived in the Lake Burien neighborhood and there are eight other properties adjoining theirs. Six of those were sub-dividable but would not now after the Council approved the change. Citing conflict of interest, he urged those Councilmembers to recuse themselves. All Council members voted on the measure He said he was opposed to the change that affects about 135 properties and the change would make 59 of the properties “non conforming,” which affects the property own “tremendously if he was to remodel …” Since property on both sides of the Lake Burien plot are at 7,200 there is “no need to change” the lot size. Resident Melinda Andrews told the Council the Planning Commission “did their due diligence” studied and researched and “unanimously voted no.” “I do not even understand how the City Council can even, in good conscience, can consider not voting no on this,” she told the councilmembers. Randy Ingersoll said any resident who lives on Lake Burien should not be voting on this “because it is a very bad conflict of interest” whether the person is for or against the proposal. He said he would not have been able to build the house he did a few years ago if the downzoning were approved. Lee Moyer said the people proposing the downzone are seeking to prevent public access to the lake. “If a lot owner can sell to a developer, a civic minded owner can sell to the city for a park,” he said. “The ecology flag seems to be one of convenience and distraction rather than mission and motivation. It certainly looks better than the flag that says ‘keep the public off our public lake’,” Moyer said. The zone change “has met all the criteria to be approved and passed,” said Chestine Edgar. “It has been recommended by the city staff and has been requested by the majority of residents in the area being discussed. For those reasons the Lake Burien neighborhood is requesting that the Council vote to approve this request.” Later, Greg Anderson questioned the idea that the majority of lake residents support the change in zoning. He said he called some Lake Burien neighbors who had signed a letter but that it did not mention a downzone, nor were they aware that was being suggested. Chestine Edgar said it was clear there would be a zone change – “there was no deception.” She said the percentage size of houses would not change, just the impervious surfaces. Chestine Edgar said the suggestion of some that the three Councilmembers who live on the lake recuse themselves because the “fairness doctrine” only applies in quasi-judicial situations and not to updating the Comprehensive plan, at issue at the Monday meeting. Joey Martinez, a Burien Planning Commission member and a planning commissioner who voted against the proposed Lake Burien downzone told the Council they should honor that vote and reject the rezoning. During final discussion on the rezone proposal, Councilmember Robison said the change impact had a “really minimal public benefit” but a large change for the opponents of the change. He felt areas such as Gregory Heights and Seahurst bring potentially greater problems for the lake. “I cannot support this amendment” to change the zoning, Robison said. Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz said she agreed with Robison and added the weight of the Planning Commission’s vote against the issue should be considered. “I find that it is unusual that there is a 7 – 0 unanimous Planning Commission decision and the (city) staff finds the exact opposite. If we are not going to consider their advice and give it great deference then I am not sure why we have a Planning Commission. “I do not support this motion, I do not think it is about environment – I don’t think it is the best way to protect the environment. I do think it is importance to our planning commission.” Councilmember Nancy Tosta, a former member of the Planning Commission who has heard much on the Lake Burien situation in the past, said she had come to a different view. The two reasons she would support the downzone was to control impervious surfaces that could result in damage to the lake, and to support low density which makes a city a better place. No other members commented and the final vote, effectively approving the lower density zone was passed 5–2, with Robison and Berkowitz voting against. ‘Trespass’ ordinance discussion moved to January Normally, confirming the Council agenda is a routine unanimous vote, but not Monday night (Dec. 15) in Burien. Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz objected. Several people who did not get the word on the change of plans showed up to talk about Ordinance #606, which has garnered criticism from many groups and individuals outside as well as inside the city. “I know I don’t have the votes, but I object to the removal of Ordinance 606 from the agenda, especially since it was done behind closed doors and not at an open meeting. I think that’s improper and also and I think it is also a critical problem for people who are being trespassed during the coldest months of the year.” Ordinance 606, is the much criticized legislation passed earlier in the year that authorizes police to “trespass” people who may physically offend the majority of citizens at a public place. The Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has called the measure unconstitutional and requested the Council rescind the “trespass” ordinance. The original long-range agenda had it slated for public comment and discussion at this meeting but that was changed to permit required on the biennial budget and comprehensive plan that had to be done by Jan. 1. The Council then voted 6-1 to confirm the agenda with Berkowitz the lone opponent. During the open commentary portion where citizens can address subjects not on the business agenda, former Council candidate Joey Martinez said the hoped when the trespass ordinance did come up for reconsideration that the Council would repeal it. “It is not good for our community – pushing people off that we feel are undesirables is unacceptable in my opinion and that is exactly what it does,” Martinez said. During discussion on housing, Councilmember Loren Berkowitz said she did not understand “’supporting housing for middle and upper incomes but just existing policies for low income levels will ensure a community that welcomes everyone’ – that seems to be putting the focus on a different place from the rest of the amendments we that just gone through.” She moved to remove “the part about supporting housing and just leave it with ‘insure a community which welcomes everyone’” Councilmember Debi Wagner replied that she wanted the reference to middle and upper incomes was “because we have an abundance of low and moderate income levels housing right now – we have an overabundance,” Wagner said. “I was trying to craft something that had an emphasis on other levels because I think we have left them out. We’ve had a lot of discussion about … the low and the moderate and nothing about the middle and upper.” In the end, the Council voted unanimously to have a policy that it intends to support housing for all income levels.]]>