By Scott Schaefer
Publisher/Editor

The abrupt Dec. 9 announcement by the City of Burien to close the Burien Community Annex on Jan. 31, 2020 – evicting seven non-profit organizations with just 53 days notice – has generated quite a maelstrom of outrage that’s rippling throughout the community.

Many were hopeful that the city would extend the deadline so the seven non-profits operating at the Annex could find new homes, but late Friday afternoon, Dec. 13, 2019, the city announced that the option to extend that deadline “is not an option the City can entertain.”

The city says it has explored an option to extend the eviction deadline for tenants past the Jan. 31, 2020 deadline, but…

“After a consultation regarding the insurance and liability issues surrounding the significant safety risks that are present, enabling tenants to stay in the building past January 31, 2020 is not an option the City can entertain,” the city said.

The city added that to enable tenants to stay in the building through Jan. 31, 2020, several areas must be mitigated immediately.

“We are on notice to resolve these issues and take immediate action:

    • Remove debris from ingress and egress of the building. Hallways need to be clear.
    • Ensure fire suppression system, alarms, fire extinguishers are present and working.
    • Install carbon monoxide alarms in all the rooms where tenants and patrons are present.
    • Ensure signage for potential lead in the water are posted, water in the facility is not suitable for drinking.”

Staff will be taking these steps to enhance safety through Jan. 31, 2020.

“The timing of not renewing these leases and the impacts to our tenants are regrettable. However, life-safety issues are of paramount concern to the City,” the city said. “The City remains focused on our Annex Tenant Support Team to assist tenants in relocating to other locations in Burien. We are in contact with our tenants and recognize the impacts to tenants and the value of the longstanding services they provide to the City of Burien.”

Much more information will be shared at the joint Chamber/City of Burien community meeting at the Community Center on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019 from 1–3 p.m. (we’ll be live streaming video from the event – be sure to “Like” our Facebook page here to get an alert).

Monday’s Roundtable agenda will include:

    • Solution exploration
    • Status briefing from the City
    • Specific discussion regarding the needs of our tenants and the pending closure of the Annex Building on Jan. 31, 2020

It is expected that Burien City Manager Brian Wilson will attend and hopefully present the city’s findings, as well as an explanation as to why tenants were only given a 53-day notice to vacate.

The Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce has also started an online fundraiser, with the goal of raising $25,000 to help the soon-to-be-evicted tenants – click here to donate.

Also, residents concerned about the Annex closure are encouraged to make public comment at Monday night’s City Council meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at Burien City Hall.

The following non-profits will have to find new homes by the end of January, as that’s the deadline the City of Burien is sticking to:

    • Burien Actors Theatre
    • Hi-Liners Musical Theatre
    • Para los Niños
    • Burien Cooperative Preschool
    • Transform Burien
    • Meals on Wheels
    • Journey Arts and Crafts

“The City of Burien terminated the lease to Transform Burien in the Burien Annex which serves 18,000 free meals a year to low-income people, those on fixed incomes, and the homeless,” Eric Dickman, Creative Director of Burien Actors Theatre (a fellow Annex tenant) wrote on Friday, Dec. 13. “Leaving people hungry in the dead of winter when utility bills are the highest. ‘Making Burien Awesome.'”

OUTRAGED RESIDENTS & TENANTS RESPOND
At least 67 letters have been written to the Burien City Council (at [email protected]) – all opposing the sudden closing (and all available to review within the Correspondence to the Council packet here). There is so much outrage and anger over this issue that we’re expecting pitchforks and fire at Monday afternoon’s Roundtable Meeting.

Below are a few excerpts:

“Without a clear indication of the pressing need to vacate the buildings at the Annex, I can’t help question what the motivation is for the precipitous eviction, putting all these valued institutions in jeopardy. I’m sure a lot of concerned citizens will be watching to see what urgent use that land is put to in the coming year.”

“A two week notice of non-renewal of a lease/rental seems unreasonable when the report indicated no immediate danger to the public. I would encourage some longer range solution such as a month to month arrangement so that these non-profits can search for reasonable solutions to continue to serve their constituents. The theater has season ticket holders through April, Transform Burien has a large homeless population to serve, the meals on wheels program serves many disabled and elderly citizens who will fail to thrive if the program shuts down (even for a short time). These populations deserve to have a more reasoned response to a non-emergency.”

“This building is home to 7 wonderful non-profit organizations that are an asset to our community. Less than 60 days notice to evict and at the worst time of year speaks to a callous disregard for your most vulnerable citizens. More time must be given to these organizations to relocate and rebuild.”

“I am currently involved with the Burien Co Op Preschool located in the Annex. I have been involved with both of my sons, and am currently there with my youngest. The environment is nothing but magical for the children, from dramatic play to the spacious outdoor areas with sensory activities, and play structures for imaginative play. Years of learning and growing have gone on in this space for this organization. There is no other space and environment like it. I understand the City of Normandy Park had a similar finding of their community center. I urge you to research how they were able to keep their doors open in spite of an unfavorable inspection. I request that the Council reconsider closure of the Annex on January 31, 2020, in order for the tenants to find new spaces and keep the doors open through the school year, June 2020.”

“The way this has been handled has been completely irresponsibly. When so many organizations that have such clear, immense positive impacts on our community are impacted in this manner – it’s as if the City just doesn’t care about quality of life or the future of our children. I appreciate the concern for safety. But if there is truly a concern about safety, why didn’t you close the premises completely? Surely there are parts of the building that ARE safe and can be used. Again, this has been handled with complete ineptitude. Timing it for the middle of the year is devastating for the Burien community.”

“…it is a well known fact that the city wants the site to be cleared so that in a few years they can con the (quickly forgetting) residents into building a brand new city building on a vacant lot, ‘that has been vacant for years’. We are talking about a stick built structure which can be repaired for hundreds of thousands, instead of a new built for millions. For ‘Years’ the city has been collecting a reasonable rent and has put minimal resources into upgrades and minimal daily maintenance under the disguise of, ‘you’re not really getting anything out of the building’. Which conveys that you’re not placing much value in the Latino non-profit school or the two community theatre programs that currently contribute to the City of Burien.”

“It is with much disappointment with the Burien city council and Burien city staff is too lazy to work on solutions to save and continue to support a community theatre. Amazing that we leave the homeless camping on public parks because we are too concerned about human rights, but when it comes to a contributor to the community it is easy to take away their rights and support. BURIEN staff and Council are lazy and always looking for the simplest solution even when the community is willing to step up and give assistance and support to the cause. No wonder Burien makes the news so much, lack of real leadership and innovative thinking. I’m embarrassed to be a BURIEN resident.

Gloria Witters of the Burien Co-Op Preschool wrote this:

“Please please consider our plight. Give us 5 months to finish our year here. We are not in imminent danger. Please you just don’t know what you are asking of us. This place is my life’s work. My pride and joy. An institution revered by this community. I have thousands of families that embrace the magic this place truly is. If you could just see thus place. Please have compassion on us, our 79 families and our Cotenants. We offer so much to Burien and losing our programs will be a blow to this community. Please please reconvene and reconsider this action. At least let us finish out our year at the very least. Please please reconsider”

“I understand the City of Normandy Park had a similar finding of their community center. I urge you to research how they were able to keep their doors open in spite of an unfavorable inspection. I request that the Council reconsider closure of the Annex on January 31, 2020, in order for the tenants to find new spaces and keep the doors open through the school year, June 2020.”

Normandy Park Rec Center

NORMANDY PARK SAVED ITS AGING REC CENTER
Of note, the Normandy Park City Council voted 7-0 in June, 2019 to keep its failing Rec Center open, despite the building being “not safe for use in its current state.”

We wonder if perhaps Normandy Park can provide consultation to Burien about this issue…?

City Manager Brian Wilson used the following response to many letter writers:

“This is a decision about safety. The City will not renew leases that expire on 12/31/2019 for a building that is unsafe; unsafe for our children, adults, and staff. We have received a verbal report from an independent consulting firm that specializes in these types of assessments and will receive a written report in January 2020. The timing of this and the impacts to our tenants are regrettable.

“We recognize the impacts to tenants and have established an ‘Annex Tennant Support Team’ within the City to explore support services and other locations for our tenants to locate. We are in contact with them and are reaching out to the Burien community as well.

“We also recognize the value of the longstanding services provided by the tenants located in the building.”

STATEMENTS FROM TENANTS
Many tenants have sent out emails or posted notices on social media to update their clients and customers:

The Hi-Liners:

Dear Friends,

Today we learned the unfortunate news that the City of Burien will not be renewing our lease at the Annex because the building is being shut down. Inspection of the building resulted in concern over the structural integrity of the building, and issues with many of its systems. While there is no immediate concern for health or safety, the necessary repairs/renovations needed are extensive, and the facility itself does not meet current earthquake code. The Annex tenants need to be out of the building by January 31. This means that we will still be having our Legally Blonde The Musical JR. performances at the Annex, but will be searching for another performance venue for our other DSC productions. Performance dates for those productions may need to be adjusted depending on performance space availability. Rehearsal days and times may also have to be adjusted. Additionally, we will be looking for another location for our dance classes.

We want to assure everyone that we will be okay. While the loss of the Annex space is unfortunate, being a nomadic theatre is not unknown to HMT. We rehearsed in schools and churches for years until we were fortunate enough to land at the Annex where we got to feel at home for the last 10 years. We are also fortunate that we have the PAC location to continue our weekday classes and rehearsals for at least the remainder of this season. We are working with the City to see if other facilities are available that meet our needs, but if you, our community, know of any possible locations, please let us know.

Please see the press release from the City of Burien for more information about the Annex closure here.


Burien Actors Theatre:

Looking for a form letter to send to the Burien City Council about its choice to terminate BAT’s lease? This one was cc’d to BAT and it is a great start.

“Brian J. Wilson and members of the Burien City Council:

I hope this email finds you well during the busy holiday season. Thank you for spending your valuable time to read this email and consider its contents.

I am writing in regards to the closing of the Annex Theatre building, home of the Burien Actors Theatre.

It is apparent that you care very deeply for the safety and well being of your citizens. I do not envy the weight you must carry from making the tough decision to close this building.

In reading your statement regarding the building closure, I noticed the claim that “…the Annex presents no immediate health, life, and safety danger.”

If this is true, this brings your decision for the timing of the building closure into question. As a city that claims to “celebrate arts and culture,” I’m struggling to understand the basis for the timing of your eviction. If there is no immediate danger present, as you say, I beg you to give the tenants more time to relocate. Giving the tenants until the end of June would allow planning time to secure alternate venues, allow smooth transitions as well as show that you do indeed care about the arts and culture in your community. You stated that you will be “making every effort to help find a new location.”� I would love to see an extension of the lease as a fulfillment of that promise.

If the statement that “…the Annex presents no immediate health, life, and safety danger’� is not true, I ask for some transparency in your decision-making process. With accurate and honest information, the citizens of Burien and tenants of the building can make informed decisions moving forward about their place in the Burien community.

Once again, thank you for your time, consideration, and putting the needs of your citizens and community first.”

Sincerely,


Burien Cooperative Preschool:

Hey Burien friends:

The city, following an inspection at the end of November, is opting to close the Annex building located at 4th and 146th rather than pay for necessary repairs. They have asked that all tenants of the building vacate by the end of January. Who does this affect?

Burien Co-Op Preschool – a staple of the community, in operation for 65 years and at its current location for 25. So much of what makes it magical is the physical space in which it occurs.

Transform Burien – one of the only organizations in Burien providing food, clothing, and shelter for its less fortunate citizens. It’s a sad irony that the organization itself will soon be homeless.

The Hi-Liners – musical theater performance opportunity and development for kids and teens in the community. While this group is no stranger to borrowing places, they had come to feel at home in the Annex. (Once a Hi-Liner, always a Hi-Liner.)

Burien Actors Theatre – another thriving arts community in Burien, BAT has served as a vehicle for so many artists to see their vision come to life, and bring heart and expression into the wider community.

Para los Niños – an organization that runs programs for bilingual families that range from providing school readiness and ESL education to helping parents develop the skills and motivation for community involvement. On top of that they have a vibrant support of culturally rich art education. There is also a bilingual Play and Learn that happens twice a week.

Meals on Wheels America – a service offering meals to senior citizens who are housebound, designed specifically around their nutritional needs.

Turning these organizations out without significant effort to help them situate in another appropriate location will be damaging to the entire community. Many are volunteer-run, and this change puts tremendous financial and personnel pressure on these institutions.

All of that to say, please stay involved.

Ask questions.

Demand that these organizations, which give character, beauty, compassion, and joy to our community, be supported!


Para Los Niños:

Dear community members and supporters of Para Los Niños,

As you may have heard, the City of Burien has notified tenants of the Burien Annex – Where PLN is housed – that we must vacate the building by January 31st due to findings on an inspection from November.

A time frame of two months is not enough for any of our organizations to move out. Burien Actors Theatre, Hiliners Musical Theatre, Burien Cooperative Preschool, Transform Burien, Meals on Wheels America, and Journey Arts and Crafts are also located at the Burien-Annex. As we consider our program priorities and the time involved in searching for a new facility that can meet our needs as well as align with our financial resources, we believe that a frame of time that matches the end of the school year is more realistic and achievable. The impacted organizations are still searching for ways to address this issue, but we wanted to provide our community and supporters with an update.

Our immediate ask is for the city to provide us with an extension to vacate until the end of the school year 2019.

What can you do to help us?
We are requesting your support by attending the City Council meeting with us this coming Monday, December 16th at 7:00 P.M. We will petition the city for this extension.  You can also email the Burien City Council at [email protected] and request that they let us finish the school year as we find a second home for Para Los Niños and our families.

Please give us a call at 206 229 5164 or email PLN Executive Director ([email protected]) if you have any questions.

GETTING INVOLVED!  ATTEND THESE TWO MEETINGS:

Please Reserve your space for RoundTable for nonprofits displaced:

      • Monday, Dec 16, 2019
        1:00 PM – 3:00 PM PST
        Burien Community Center
        14700 6th Ave SW
        Burien, WA 98166
      • CITY COUNCIL MEETING
        Monday, Dec 16, 2019 at 7:00 P.M.
        400 SW 152nd street
        Suite 300
        Burien WA 98166

At either meeting, City Manager Brian Wilson will explain in greater detail about the reason for the timing of the move and details about the consultant’s report.

There will be 25 headsets available with Spanish interpreters for the Monday night city council meeting. Should any member of the public wants to speak, they have to sign up at the meeting and will be given two minutes to address the City Council.


VIDEOS
Seattle-area TV stations have picked up this story:


Here’s text from the City of Burien’s website:

BURIEN COMMUNITY CENTER ANNEX BUILDING CLOSURE

The Burien Community Center Annex (“the Annex”) occupies the former Burien Community Center. The building sits next to a multi-amenity park that includes a popular skate park, basketball court, picnic tables, and open grassy spaces.

The City of Burien is closing the Annex because initial inspections have found significant concerns with the structural integrity of the building. Current tenants must be out of the building by January 31, 2020.

Why is the Annex being closed?

The City hired MENG Analysis in November 2019 to conduct an examination of the Annex in order to provide an assessment of the condition of the Annex’s roof, chimney, boiler, HVAC, air quality, electrical, foundation, and other fixtures. The City undertook this evaluation in order to inform the City’s decision to either salvage or demolish the Annex.

The consultant delivered a verbal assessment of the condition of the Annex to City officials on Monday, December 2, 2019. The consultant reported that while the Annex presents no immediate health, life, and safety danger, the building’s chimney, ventilation, plumbing, boiler, electrical, and ventilation systems are in serious need of repair and/or replacement. The extent to which these repairs are necessary may result in the City making a decision to demolish the building.

The final report from MENG Analysis detailing the condition of the building will be published mid-January on this page.

Annex tenant support

The City of Burien has assembled an internal team dedicated to assisting the tenants of the Annex with relocation. The Annex Tenant Support Team is evaluating other city facilities, seeking alternate sites in Burien, and working with external partners to support relocation efforts. The City will also be waiving rent for the month of January for all the organizations.

If you are interested in learning how you can contribute to this effort, please email City staff at [email protected].

Frequently asked questions

This decision was not taken lightly, as the City understands all of the vital services provided by these organizations. The verbal report from MENG Analysis given to the City on December 2, 2019 indicated that there are imminent structural, mechanical, and construction material failures, which present significant safety concerns. When the City requested this inspection, it was not expected that the findings would indicate that the building’s systems were failing so badly and could potentially put staff and participants in these organizations in harm’s way. The City is giving the organizations as much time as possible based on the assessed safety of the building.

The City of Burien has assembled an internal team dedicated to assisting the tenants of the Annex with relocation. The Annex Tenant Support Team is evaluating other city facilities, seeking alternate sites in Burien, and working with external partners to support relocation efforts. The City will also be waiving rent at the Annex for the month of January for all the organizations.

If you are interested in learning how you can contribute to this effort, please email City staff at [email protected].

Future plans are to be determined. The final MENG Analysis report will help the City make an informed decision on next steps.

The City does not plan to sell the property for private development. The City is committed to maintaining it as a public space.

The City has conducted repairs and maintenance to the facility over the years. This includes repairs to the roof, boiler, HVAC system, water line, and sewer lines. Also, fixtures have been replaced, walls have been painted, and some flooring has been replaced. The cost of operating and repairing the building far exceed the revenue received from the organizations renting the building.

The MENG Analysis report will determine which repairs would be needed to make the building safe. However, based on the preliminary verbal report, demolition may be the only feasible option.

The MENG Analysis report will provide an assessment of issues in the building as well as provide possible solutions.

The building will be secured until next steps are determined.

No, they will not need to pay rent in January.

History of the Burien Community Center Annex
Chelsea Park Elementary School was built on former farm and residential land. The school was constructed in the late 1940s to relieve overcrowding at Lake Burien, Hazel Valley, and Sunnydale Elementary Schools. Chelsea Park School closed in 1976.

“With funding from the 1968 Forward Thrust Parks and Recreation bond, the former school building was converted to the Highline Community Center and was managed by the King County Parks Department. Once the City of Burien incorporated in 1993, ownership of the buildings and grounds transferred to the City and it became the Burien Community Center. For many years, it served as the offices of the Burien Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department (PaRCS).

In 2010, the City relocated the PaRCS department to the former Burien Library building at 14700 6th Ave SW, which the City had acquired several years earlier. The former library building became the new Burien Community Center. This left the former building in need of a new name, and it was then renamed the Community Center Annex, or simply “The Annex.”

Nonprofit organizations have worked out of the building for decades.