By Jack Mayne

The Burien City Council on Monday night, June 21, 2021 voted 6-1 to approve the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) proposal as part of the city’s Affordable Housing Demonstration Program.

Councilmember Nancy Tosta was the lone “No” vote on this hot-button local issue that has been percolating (and boiling) for several months.

So many people used Monday’s meeting to publicly comment on the DESC plan that the city had to shorten the individual comment time to one minute, said City Clerk Megan Gregor.

This major project addressed by so many citizen comments was DESC’s proposed new affordable housing development, which will be built at 801 SW 150th Street in downtown Burien.

DESC is a non-profit that provides housing, shelter, health services, and crisis response to people who have experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness.

The building is designed to have six stories and will contain 95 studio units of housing with supportive services onsite including behavioral health care, crisis intervention, and employment services. The development also includes indoor and outdoor community spaces for tenants, who are disabled and have experienced chronic homelessness. Twenty-five units will be set aside for veterans.

Scott Lansing said he was speaking for the “20 or so number of people who were born and raised here — all voters.” He said that most of the people the Council was hearing from that support DESC “aren’t from Burien.”

Will Henricus said he and his wife are residents who have two small Burien businesses and “truly believes the DESC conditions for the support for housing does not fit the needs of Burien,” and does not fit the needs of the homeless. “Please vote no on the DESC” he said.

Burien City Council also voted to draft an agreement between Burien and the appropriate King County or regional authority to ensure that 30 percent of the units are prioritized for people who are living in Burien at the time the building is completed. Approval of the agreement will need to be completed before the end of the administrative design review phase of the project.

“We are ready to reach out to our regional partners to ensure that Burien community members experiencing homelessness have access to this facility,” said Brian J. Wilson, Burien City Manager.

Now that it has been accepted, Burien’s Community Development Department will review the design in more detail, including evaluating their parking plan. DESC will also need to submit applications for building permits, street improvement permits, coordinate with Burien Public Works Department, coordinate with the Burien Arts Commission on public art, and secure final funding for the project.

DESC will be required to hold another community meeting and sign a long-term affordability agreement as part of their acceptance into the program, the city said. A community advisory group will also be established to provide ongoing opportunities for locals to provide feedback and learn about the housing development.

New Police Officers
Councilmember Kevin Schilling started out the meeting by requesting a discussion on having City Manager Brian Wilson add two additional full time downtown police officers, one patrolman and one Lead officer and have options for the addition ready for discussion at the Council’s July 19 meeting.

Schilling said the proposal come after “weeks of downtown business outreach to discuss concerns they have regarding situations they have happening right now in their businesses.” He noted the current officer patrolling the area is “universally applauded” and wanted the patrol “extended full time.”

Deputy Mayor Krystal Marx said she didn’t know if such an idea “was entirely in order when we don’t have a police force that is fully staffed already.” She noted that the King County Sheriffs’ Office which provides Burien Police, is having problems filling vacancies and questioned whether the city manager can be asked to do anything to help Burien.

Councilmember Cydney Moore said if there is such a conversation, we would want to hear from City Manager Brian Wilson and Police Chief Ted Boe about potential budgeting for such an addition.

“I don’t think its fair to add this at this time with no information supporting this,” she said, and said it would be taken up later.