By Mellow DeTray

At Tuesday night’s (June 21, 2022) Burien City Council meeting, Councilmembers heard updates on the SR 509 Improvement Project, discussed how to disperse ARPA funds, the city’s eviction moratorium and rental assistance, and more.

WSDOT SR 509 Improvement Projects Update
The evening started off with a presentation to the Council regarding proposed amendments to SR 509. The updates include installing roundabouts to replace the traffic lights along S. 160th Street where it intersects with SR 509. The roundabouts are designed to improve efficiency of the flow of traffic. There will also be noise walls installed to reduce the impact of increased traffic for residents & businesses along both sides of the 509 in that zone. Changes to the ramps are coming as well, to accommodate expected traffic increases.

Roundabouts will also be installed at S. 188th Street. These roundabouts will be designed to accommodate the largest trucks that will be utilizing them. At S. 192nd Street there will be a new bridge built over the 509. This project will also – in collaboration with King county Parks – complete the construction of the Lake to Sound Trail. There will be a toll for users on the new portion of the highway.

After the presentation, Councilmembers expressed concerns including communities near the 509 being affected by increased traffic, deepening the division between the western and eastern sides of Burien, and making our local businesses less appealing to customers who may be hesitant to come here if traffic becomes heavy. The Council plans to discuss this thoroughly at a future time.

ARPA Funds
Councilmembers recently responded to a Management Partners survey on how they want to use the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, and on Wednesday night they were presented with the results of this survey. There were a total of 22 items that five or more Councilmembers agreed were priorities for funding, with some top concerns being youth/gang violence prevention, city staff capacity, septic to sewer conversion, neighborhood cleanliness & public safety, and grants & loans to small businesses.

After being presented with these findings, Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling started off the discussion by reminding the Council that he sees this as a great opportunity to use this money to fund a large public works project. Multiple Councilmembers added that they want to make sure the money is used in ways that address the expressed needs of the public and business owners. They emphasized the need to revitalize our businesses and make downtown safe, help those disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of the pandemic, and avoid the error of trying to spend the money on too many different things, and underfunding each of them.

Management Partners will return in July with further info and more discussion, and plans to have a final draft report in August. The federal deadline for all expenditures is 2026, and that money must be allocated by 2024.

Eviction Moratorium & Rental Assistance
The majority of the public comments to this meeting supported continuing with the City’s eviction moratorium and King County’s Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program (EPRAP). To date, 26,000 King County households have received $282 million in rental assistance, averaging $10.9 thousand dollars over 8.6 months of assistance. EPRAP will be following up with these families 6, 12, and 24 months after receiving aid to evaluate the long term impacts of the program. They have funds to support 3,500 more families that are currently awaiting aid, but are not currently accepting new applicants. Community members in need that contact the program now are being referred to other services that can assist them.

In October 2021, the statewide eviction moratorium ended. Burien was one of three cities to extend the moratorium past that date, and is now the only city in the state with an eviction moratorium still in place. The local moratorium is in effect as long as the Governor’s State of Emergency lasts. Unemployment peaked in 2020 at 15.3%, and is now down to 1.9%. The number one reason for eviction requests remains nonpayment of rent, but a rising reason is landlords planning to sell their properties.

Mellow DeTray is a Seattle native who has spent the last 16 years raising her family in Burien. She has volunteered at many local establishments over the years, including the Burien Library, Burien Actors Theatre, and Hot Feet Fitness. After working for ten years at Burien Community Center, she moved on to teaching fitness classes and to work the front desk of a Burien yoga studio. For many years Mellow kept a moderately popular cooking & lifestyle blog, and she had a brief stint in political journalism during a local election. Clear and informative writing has always been a side hobby of Mellow’s and she looks forward to bringing you unbiased coverage of City Council meetings.