[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The B-Town Blog, nor its staff:]

Dear Mayor Matta and Burien City Council Members,

As a Board Member of Burien Actors Theatre (BAT), I am sharing some good news with you about our amazing BAT. Our theatre has been recognized as a “regional” theatre by Spotlight, a group that focuses on live theatre performances in the King County area. The current production of the “Rocky Horror Show” put us on the big map. We were even listed above “Frozen” at the Paramount Theatre. The City of Burien is so fortunate that BAT has been staging productions here in the Annex for 40 years. We are very proud to be based here in Burien. The local businesses are thrilled to have BAT here because of the revenue our theatre generates for them. In spite of limited staff, budget and resources, BAT has been recognized with glowing reviews for its many productions. Bravo! That’s all great news.

The sad news is that the City of Burien, which has leased BAT space in The Annex for all these years, has decided to evict us (and all the other vital non-profit services as well). WHY? The City had claimed that the space they have been leasing to all of us is “dangerous” and must be vacated. They cited a study that had no red flags, no dire warnings, but a “suggestion” that it might be an unhealthy space because of asbestos.

We tenants were originally ordered to vacate the Annex within 40 days, by the end of January. The distress this eviction notice caused was immeasurable. Following a massive public outcry, the City Council members rightfully ordered a study of the asbestos and hired Meng Analysis to carry out a full scientific analysis, which was performed by Terracon on 2/28/2020. The results showed “no asbestos detected” (download PDF here) The deadline for vacating the premises was, therefore, extended to July 31, 2020.

But we’re left to wonder what prompted this embarrassing situation for the City Council. Why did the City Manager and former City Attorney put the Council in this untenable and embarrassing situation? Why must we vacate? It makes NO SENSE absent some proven health risk to the occupants and the community.

The revenue BAT generates for the business community is greater than $150,000 per year. Restaurants and other stores swell with customers on BAT night. Upon closure, the rent paid by all the non-profits to the City of Burien will end, and the building will be vacant and provide a flashpoint for graffiti and vagrancy.

In evicting BAT, the City has stopped supporting one of the most productive and creative theatre groups in the greater King County region. As a current BAT Board Member, co-founder of the City of Burien and a Deputy Mayor, Mayor and City Council member for 16 years, I’m saying this is NOT what we envisioned for the City of Burien. We are so much better than this. The City has long supported the arts and human services.

Since the first eviction notice, we have searched endlessly for an alternative space in many other cities, and of course in Burien. We haven’t found a single space that is remotely affordable or feasible. We will go dark and Burien will loose a treasured asset. As well, the children in the pre-school will be thrown out. And the efforts of the hundreds of volunteers and churches who have supported the 3-meals-a-week to feed the working poor and homeless will end.

With this dire deadline looming, absent a substantive health risk at the Annex, we are hoping the City Council Members will extend the leases. Please agree to do so until you have a plan in place for funding an alternative building. (In reality, this will take a minimum of two years or more.)

I urge you, Burien City Council Members and staff, to go to work, together with the community. Review plans that have been considered over the years, improve upon those plans and come up with a path forward. You will have met your civic responsibilities and the non-profits will also have time to plan for their futures. You will be proud of this positive decision extending our time in this space.

We’re all in this together. Let’s keep it that way.

– Sally Nelson
Burien Actors Theatre Board Member
Former City of Burien Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Councilmember

EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you have something you’d like to share with our highly engaged local Readers? If so, please email your Letter to the Editor to [email protected] and, pending review and verification that you’re a real human being, we may publish it. Letter writers must use their full names and cite sources – as well as provide an address and phone number (NOT for publication but for verification purposes).