[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:]

What to do with The Annex building in Burien?

The building has housed The Burien Little Theatre, now known as Burien Actors Theatre, Transform Burien & the Pre-school for many years. It has served as home for each of these community based, creative, inclusive & much needed and respected non-profits.

Transform Burien serves hundreds of meals per week to the working poor, the homeless and hundreds of now unemployed families in Burien. It also provides medical and dental support, a food bank, clothing store and helps in many other ways. Before the Stay Home order was in place, the Pre-school welcomed hundreds of children in a creative, much needed educational environment & was was full every day. These 3 groups have leased space in The Annex for years. Para los Niños has found an alternative space and The Hi-Liners are hoping to do the same. We are grateful to the City of Burien for their many years of support & encouragement. The partnerships were critical to our success in many ways both large and small. Years of support from past city councils, staff members and especially the community have helped us sustain our services. We’re grateful for that.

Now comes the reckoning. We were told to vacate The Annex by July 31, 2020. We have all been urgently searching for a new space and have exhausted all leads and followed up on all suggestions. None have been workable or feasible. The spaces in The Annex are virtually impossible to replicate at this time. Costs and space needs have created barriers that have been insurmountable. We wish it were different but we can’t change reality.

Now the pandemic has made this even more impossible and has compounded the challenges for moving. Now as that deadline looms, we have no alternative but to ask that the Burien City Council agree to extend our leases for 3 years, at one renewable term each year. This would be OPTION #3 for consideration by the Burien City Council. The other two were Option #1 tear the building down and Option #2 board the building up. Those options were staff recommendations. Costs for each of the Staff recommendations had NO FIRM bids so costs are known. What we do know is neither option will be cheap. What we also know is there is NO PLAN to replace the existing structure. Tear it down or board it up with NO PLAN?

What a black eye for the city. What a black eye for our staff. No public input. No idea of hard costs. No consulting with any of the non-profits about the impacts. Zero understanding and seemingly no concerns about any of the remaining tenants. No concern about the hardship this will have on those who are hungry and without work. No concern about an affordable pre-school and the children who learn and find joy in a creative environment. No concern about the value of a theatre and the the economic benefits it generates for our small and fragile businesses.

The community will and should hold you accountable. What an abdication of civic responsibility in the midst of a nightmare for all of us.

Let’s summarize reasons for terminating the existing leases in The Annex. Over the course of the last several months, fears have been raised by City of Burien staff and relayed to members of The Burien City Council about the condition of the building that could/might make it uninhabitable. So investigations were made to verify and allay those concerns. Still when NO eminent dangers were discovered in spite of investigations about these concerns, the beat goes on…the fears of “What ifs” go on. Remember the story about Chicken Little and the oft repeated sky is falling? So what if there’s an earthquake and the walls collapsed or what if there’s a wind storm and the roof blows off or the boiler fails to function or the sewer system fails?

So now comes the pandemic compounding challenges of day to day life for all of us. The City of Burien will cut staff. Services will be ended. Parks will be closed. Businesses will go bankrupt. Our small city will struggle as never before. We do not need boarded up buildings or torn down buildings with NO PLANS for the future.

What we do need is a lifeline right now. We need something positive to hang onto during these desperate times.

We need a City Council that’s bold, flexible and willing to meet new challenges when they arise. We need a City Council that recognizes the overwhelming need for continuing to house the non-profit organizations that provide urgently needed services right now. We need a City Council that acknowledges the importance of supporting the arts, including the theatre during these dark times. BAT is not a frivolous organization that is a luxury. It is a much needed beacon for light in a time of darkness. It is an economic powerhouse that will help our business became vibrant and busy and successful again. The 3 non-profits who are asking you to extend our leases have earned your continued support. Give them the lifeline that need now.

SUPPORT OPTION # 3. We’re all in this together.

Thank-you.
Sally Nelson
Former Mayor, Deputy Mayor, City Councilmember and currently a member of the BAT Board

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).