By Jack Mayne

The Burien City Council is seeking a grant that would be used for consultation and community engagement regarding what to do about wants/needs for a new ‘Community Center,’ and help decide what to do about problems with the current Annex building.

After an hour of discussion at the Burien City Council study session Monday night (Jan. 27), the Council voted 5 to 1 to seek a state planning grant for $150,000.

The lone negative vote came from Deputy Mayor Krystal Marx, who wanted the money to fund either how to fix the current building or build a new one.

State grant requested
Councilmember Sofia Aragon proposed requesting a $150,000 planning grant from the Washington Legislature to allow the remodeling or replacement of the Annex building.

A larger discussion would address broad community needs, which may/may not include non-profits, as determined through a community engagement conversation.

Council on Monday amended the motion to direct City Manager Brian Wilson to work with the city’s state lobbyists to seek from the Washington Legislature $150,000 for a planning grant to address the Community Center needs. The Center is supposed to support “vital culture and community services.”

The current building is in such condition that the city manager wanted it closed and vacated pending its replacement or significant repair. First the city ordered it closed without warning, and without testing to specify potential health problems. He then was pressured into slower expulsion of tenants.

Aragon in the Monday meeting requested a motion for Council decision at the regular study session. Usually such motions are made at a regular City Council session.

Planning grant
Aragon said a planning grant would bring together “stakeholders” for a city-wide discussion “about the vision for such a building to house non-profit and civic organizations.”

“After we had the public hearing about the annex, a number of people were wanting to help take action on that building,” Aragon said. She said she noted the city’s lobbyists were wanting information to try to get additional money from the state for work on the annex.

Aragon said one of the things that seemed to work was a planning grant of $150,000 which would bring together stakeholders for a city-wide discussion on a vision for such a building to include non-profit and civic organizations, something the Council discussed last year.

No city staff?
Councilmember Nancy Tosta said it seemed sudden to have this proposal at a study session when relevant city staff is not available. “How does this align with other processes that we talked about putting in place for the community center?” she asked Aragon, adding the requested move “just seems sudden…to have this sort of dumped on us, particularly in a study session when we have no staff to talk about what is this and how does this align on other processes that we talked about putting in place for the community center. It is just a surprise to me.”

Deputy Mayor Marx said the urgency of the matter meant “there is no harm in our discussing it.”

About timing of the proposal, Aragon said, “I know this Council likes to see things at least twice, but it’s (the annex) the conversation over the years and I think the conversation is fresh in our minds.”

The Council voted 5 to 1 for Tosta’s move to reject the discussion proposed by Aragon. The seventh Councilmember, Pedro Olguin, was absent because had the flu, the mayor said.

Building future?
Aragon said $150,00 is a typical amount to ask for a planning grant, adding that “the aging condition of the Annex has been known by the city for “about 25 years now.” Now is the time to “really work together to find out what is the vision for this public building and how it supports the arts and the non-profits.”

“When I floated this idea to our state lobbyists, time is of the essence,” Aragon said. “This week (lawmakers) are accepting and entertaining requests.” The Legislature in now in regular session.

“So I think all of these thing together can really be leveraged to have a better plan for this public building and how it serves the public,” Aragon said.

Councilmember Kevin Schilling wanted to know “what the money will actually go toward.” Aragon said it could pay for staff or consulting work.

“I feel that we have sort of jumped into this, none of the background for what’s gone on.” said Tosta. “Not the way we typically do business. We don’t have staff here who are aware of the history and the issues. I’m not against asking for money but I want to do it in a way that we know what we are asking for.”

Aragon said the money will be used to find the vision for what the entity of the community center is.

Councilmember Cydney Moore said if the money is granted, it would have to be used for the land the annex is on. To determine if and what it is used for, whether a community center for not.

She also wanted to remove the words that specified that the building houses non-profit groups because additional future studies may or may not envision inclusion of non-profits but she received no second so the change was not included.

FAA vs. Burien
At City Manager Brian Wilson’s suggestion, the Council also voted to publish its recent victory in a suit against the Federal Aviation Administration over planes diverted from Sea-Tac Airport over the city. Such suits are not published, therefore public, until the city does so. Wilson said wider availability of the decision would help the city’s fight over noisy overflights.

Burien won the lawsuit over an FAA operational change that put dozens of turboprop regional aircraft on a narrow track over them at 3,000 feet and below. The route was created to get the slower propeller aircraft away from the airport as quickly as possible to squeeze in more jets. The judge in the case told the FAA to redesign the airspace with full consideration of the impact of future changes on the people below.