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

Dear Editor:

Like many other cities in the Puget Sound area, Burien suffers from a critical shortage of affordable housing. Initially, citizens applauded Burien City Council’s apparent steps to analyze the issue to provide public policy ideas on how to provide more affordable housing in the area. Everyone was optimistic. Unfortunately, with the unwanted insertion of the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) as the facility to provide housing, Burien is sure to receive no additional affordable housing but guarantee a significant increase in other problems associated with DESC’s transitory housing programs.

A few months ago, a small group of Burien residents filed suit against the Council to stop DESC’s plans. We respect the court’s decision to allow DESC to participate in the case but would like to clarify its effect: the court did not decide on the substance of the disagreement between the city residents and the Council. Instead, the court merely allowed DESC to join the lawsuit to advocate for its position within the case.

The supporters of this action do not, in any way, oppose transitory and supportive housing in principle. Of course, communities need resources for those struggling to rise from their complex and often tragic circumstances. However, what the Council promised and appeared to be committed to delivering is anything BUT affordable housing. In essence, Burien’s City Council pledged to the expanded affordable housing options, but instead, is providing space in the heart of the City’s downtown corridor with transitory housing. Simply put: the Council performed a bait and switch, and the consequences to the city will be generational in effect.

One may wonder how we know DESC’s intended project is not affordable housing? One need look no further than the negotiations between the city and DESC for the answer. Initially, before its knowledge about the potential affordable housing push by the Council, DESC attempted to build their facility in Burien. City planners (wisely) declined their permits. Later, after it learned of the affordable housing plans by the Council, DESC tried again to get permission to build its transitory housing facility. However, this time, it would sell the Council that it was “affordable housing” and deemphasize what it truly is—transitory housing. Unfortunately, the City Council fell for it and approved the plans.

Later, when residents began to learn of the bait and switch, representatives of the city tried to mitigate the damage. Rather than pull the DESC approvals, it instead forced DESC to dedicate “30 beds” of its facility to Burien’s residents in need of affordable housing. This would bind DESC to this commitment by making it sign an “interlocal agreement.” Predictably, even DESC and the council’s ability to get that simple task fell apart. DESC could not obtain the necessary approvals from the other governmental agencies and bodies to give their planned “interlocal agreement” any power. Thus, they are committed to signing such an agreement sometime in the future, before the facility opens. This is highly unlikely to occur, of course.

In short, we welcome DESC’s participation in this process and believe that it will answer some of the critical questions that Burien’s residents are entitled to have answered. The bottom line is that Burien needs affordable housing, not transitory or supportive housing. While those other forms of housing are needed, to be sure, that is not what the city council promised its constituents.

Importantly, there are questions that the Council has not asked, let alone received answers to regarding DESC’s facility, its safety record, its impact on local businesses, its strain on healthcare providers, and its burden on first responders. By the time the citizens of Burien begin to feel the effects of the DESC in their community, it will be too late to do anything about it.

Unfortunately, Burien’s leaders refuse to undo their mistakes. As such, we have no choice but to bring this before the courts.

Our Council must solve problems, not create new ones.

Sincerely,
John White
Burien

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