Here’s our recap of Monday night’s (Jan. 30, 2023) Burien City Council meeting:
Lunar New Year Proclamation
Council began with a Proclamation in recognition of the Lunar New Year on Jan. 22. The date of the Lunar New Year changes each year, as it falls on the second new moon after the Winter Solstice. The Lunar New Year is celebrated in Asian communities throughout the world, and Burien is home to over 5,000 residents of Asian descent. This begins the Year of the Rabbit, and in Vietnam the Year of the Cat. There is a commemorative Lunar New Year display at the Burien Community Center.
Airport Exposure Impacts To Public Health
Council heard a presentation by Dr. Kris Johnson, a Research Scientist at Public Health –Seattle & King County. Their team did a comprehensive review of science literature on the health effects of living near an airport. They also looked at the real health in the community surrounding Sea-Tac Airport. According to their findings, people living within ten miles of the airport face health and resource disparities, and this is more likely to impact people of color.
Negative health effects stem from both noise pollution and air pollution. Noise pollution is shown to lead to things like hypertension, heart disease, and poor school performance, while air pollution causes respiratory, cardiovascular, and metabolic issues, as well as damage leading to things like dementia and reproductive health concerns. Early death is more likely in people living near the airport, as well as hospitalizations for things like diabetes and heart disease. Life expectancy is found to be 2-3 years lower, and premature or underweight birth to be higher.
The air pollution around airports, called Ultra Fine Particulates (UFPs) are a common byproduct of combustion and are present in wildfire and woodsmoke. They also come from ground vehicles like cars and trucks, but are more prevalent in airplane exhaust. These UFPs, because of their extremely small size, can enter the bloodstream and cross the placental barrier, potentially leading to issues for developing fetuses.
Around Sea-Tac, noise levels were found to surpass the FAA’s limit for safe levels, and particulate levels were above EPA limits. The recommendations include using HEPA air filters in schools and homes, as well as providing access to healthcare for populations living near the airport. It is possible that large areas of certain kinds of trees could help filter these particulates from the air as well, but more research is needed.
Ambaum & Boulevard Park Draft Plan Update
Alex Hunt, Planner with the city’s Department of Community Development, updated Council on the rezoning plans for two areas of North Burien, one along the Ambaum corridor and the Boulevard Park neighborhood. This project prioritizes at-risk communities, focusing on empowering those voices, and takes into account potential cost-burdens, as well as air quality and noise burdens of these neighborhoods. The planners have used many online sites and tools, as well as in-person community events in English & Spanish, to engage the public in informal conversations on this project.
The goals of the long term plan include transit oriented development, walkable and bikeable neighborhoods, and racial & social equity. They aim to increase things like community events and gathering spaces, support for local businesses, sidewalks, and public art. The rezoning will look at less sensitive uses for spaces adversely impacted by noise pollution. It will also increase residential density and multi-use or mixed-use spaces, and expand affordable housing. The plan also aims to improve stormwater and erosion issues, a particular problem for Boulevard Park.
This Draft Plan is a way to lay the groundwork for increased density as the city grows; no development deals are lined up. Zoning in these areas hasn’t changed since 1993.
Public Comments: Eagle Landing, Severe Weather Shelter, & a Local Police Department
Comments were mostly against any rezoning, as area residents worried about losing their single family homes or the neighborhood being destroyed. They also reminded Council that if you increase population density in an area, you have to increase the budget for things like Fire & Police Services.
Others looked forward to Council discussing the repair and eventual reopening of Eagle Landing Park’s stairs.
The Burien Severe Weather Shelter is asking for both donations and volunteers, especially during the return of freezing weather. All 50 available beds were full the night before.
One commenter expressed support for having a local police department as, he said, we currently spend more than half the budget on police services through King County. A local PD would have more accountability to the City, and it’s an idea that hasn’t been considered in over a decade.
Future Meeting Topic: Rental Provision Correction
Part of the Rental Housing Provisions passed by Council recently may be at odds with State law, and the agenda for this meeting included possibly removing the unconstitutional provision. However, according to Councilmember Cydney Moore, the agenda item contained an error, so this item got pulled from in order to give the community more accurate notice of the topic.
Watch video of the full meeting here.
Seems a bit of a stretch to say the Ambaum and Boulevard Park Community Plan prioritizes at-risk communities when new development will raise rents for local businesses and residents, thereby likely displacing them. If this plan was created with social equity in mind, the first and second objectives/priorities would have been Protect/keep existing affordable housing (#4) and Mitigate displacement (#6).
If the city is going to pull every single lever for affordable housing (not $3,000 2 bed, 2 bath units like at The Maverick, nor allocating only 17% of units per the 2021 Burien Housing Action Plan – only applicable in downtown Burien as of now), then all of this rezoning is just gentrification.
Page 3-132 in the EIS states it best: With or without displacement, rapid redevelopment can result in an influx of more affluent residents and businesses that cater to them, resulting in a sense of cultural displacement that impacts the sense of community and along with it the community’s resiliency.
I have lived in the Burien area sence 1953. The airport noise has always been here, I am used to it. I used to love the prop planes when they flew over, especially at night when you could see the flames coming out of the exhaust. In Denver, they put their airport out in the middle of the desert. It’s a half hour bus ride to and from the airport, but no noise in the city. Can’t please every body, but we could put our airport out in the boonnies or insulate every ones homes and schools and install filtering for the air purity. Weather we go to Everet or Tumwater, there will still be noise polution for the public.
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