Here’s our recap of the Burien City Council special meeting held on Monday, Mar. 25, 2024:

The latest Burien City Council meeting covered a diverse range of topics crucial to the city’s welfare and development. Beginning with a report from the Human Services Department, the meeting highlighted the pivotal role of human services in enhancing the lives of residents. The meeting also featured updates from the city manager, including exciting developments in arts sponsorship and expanded recreational opportunities. Furthermore, discussions on expanding historic business districts and creating a Brewery/Distillery District underscored the council’s commitment to fostering economic growth while preserving the city’s unique character.

Human Services Report

The meeting began with a comprehensive presentation by the Human Services Department. Burien hired its first full-time human services manager, Colleen Brandt-Schluter, six years ago. Having a full-time human services manager enabled the city to attract new partnerships and apply for grant funding for all kinds of programs that improve the lives of residents. The requisite reporting on the use of these grant funds requires more time than one position could handle, so two years ago Anyah Zupancic was hired as Human Services Coordinator.

Together, this two-person department is responsible for:

  • Assessing and anticipating community needs
  • Advocating and influencing policy locally and regionally
  • Identifying gaps and promoting program development
  • Facilitating partnerships and collaborations
  • Providing community engagement and education
  • Facilitating Burien’s Human Services funding cycle
  • Working with regional partners to leverage funds

They work towards improving community access to healthcare, childcare, safe transportation, food, education, affordable housing, natural environments and parks, and improving public safety. Annually, the city’s Human Services budget covers these two salaries, as well as recurrent costs for things like the Severe Weather Shelter and the South King Housing & Homelessness Partners, which creates and maintains affordable housing regionally. Human Services are funded every two years, and for the 2023-2024 cycle, Burien allocated $461,841 plus $46,975 in Community Development Block Grant funds to the department.

The Human Services Department has also funded many large, one time expenditures with ARPA money and grants, including the police co-response program, eviction prevention assistance, mental health programs, and gang & youth violence prevention. In total, these one-time expenses that Burien has allocated come to $2.9 million. According to Mayor Kevin Schilling, these expenses for improving quality of life for residents in need are more than those allocated by most cities of a comparable size.

City Manager Report

City Manager Adolfo Bailon let Council know that Alaska Airlines has renewed and increased its sponsorship of Arts-a-Glow this year. The popular annual festival of the arts will be held on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2024. 

In addition, Bailon mentioned that the Parks Department has increased their drop-in pickleball times to two days per week, due to popular demand. Now fans of the locally invented and wildly popular sport can practice at the Burien Community Center on Wednesdays from 12 – 2 p.m., in addition to Tuesdays from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Bailon also said that there is some survey work being done in a lot adjacent to Seahurst Park. He said the Parks Department is aware of this work and staff will answer any questions that people may have about it.

Public Comments

One commenter said, not to contradict the city manager, but the Parks Department had no idea that the survey work adjacent to Seahurst Park was happening until he let them know. The speaker said the land being surveyed for development is a substantial size, including four properties encompassing a 10-acre plot. He said it is clear that a serious development is being planned. The area includes a trail which is frequented by park-goers every day for walking and running, and several school programs utilize the area for environmental education. He added that anything built on the land being surveyed will be visible by park-goers, and the area includes many large and important trees that would be lost if development proceeds.

Another speaker asked that the council consider building sidewalks and bike lanes when creating historic cafe zoning or brewery districts. This would allow a safer way for locals to access these businesses, as well as a safer route to schools, parks, and the like.

Historic Business District Expansion

Council had three topics to discuss and potentially ask staff to create ordinances on. The first was expanding the city’s Historic Business Ordinance to include neighborhood cafes. This would allow the opening of small cafes in residential areas. Currently, according to Mayor Kevin Schilling, the only business operating under the Historic Business Ordinance is the Three Tree Point Store

All council members saw benefits in allowing neighborhood cafes, which they said would act as local gathering spots, improving neighborhood relationships and increasing public safety. There were concerns expressed about parking issues, however most agreed that people would generally walk to the businesses from their homes, and thus not create increased need for parking.  

Council was mixed on whether to allow alcohol at these cafes, but all agreed food and coffee, along with grocery items, would benefit local communities. Councilmember Jimmy Matta spoke in favor of allowing wine and beer to be served, saying that having local establishments within walking distance to people’s homes would minimize drunk driving.

Council agreed that city revenue from these establishments should be used to fund speed bumps and sidewalks, expensive but popular projects that increase walkability and pedestrian safety. They agreed to ask the city manager to bring back an ordinance to discuss this idea further and vote on it at a future meeting.

Brewery/Distillery District

Mayor Kevin Schilling explained that this idea came up because he was approached by brewers asking for the city to create a Brewery District. He said Burien already has a few breweries, and creating an official district would attract more. Councilmember Akey said she really liked this idea for Boulevard Park, which is in need of more business infrastructure. Councilmember Hugo Garcia expressed concern for the high water needs of this kind of industry, favoring allowing smaller operations rather than a large brewery or distillery.

Councilmember Sarah Moore asked for more information about the incentives of being an official Brewery District. Economic Development Manager Chris Craig explained that the state does not have a lot of money for these kinds of things, but there can be more grant opportunities to being an official “district”, such as Burien being a Creative District and qualifying for more arts grants. Craig said that Tumwater and Tacoma both created Brewery Districts, which include increasing walkability, bike lanes, and land use changes to allow multi-family housing in areas previously zoned for industrial use. In addition, an official Brewery District label would let developers know what kind of industry is being sought. There also can be tax incentives for these businesses.

Council agreed to discuss and vote on a Brewery/Distillery District ordinance at a future meeting.

Vacancy Tax For Unoccupied Properties

This topic was raised during a previous discussion on economic vitality and public safety. It was brought up that empty buildings become a magnet for crime and vandalism. Some municipalities impose a vacancy tax on buildings left unoccupied for a certain period of time. However, City Attorney Garmin Newsom II did let Council know that he doesn’t believe this separate tax is allowed anywhere in the state of Washington. He said that Seattle is currently discussing the idea, but that the language of state law clearly prohibits it.

However, Council agreed to discuss other ways of encouraging absentee landlords to utilize their properties in ways that benefit the community, rather than letting them sit vacant for years.


Watch full video of the council meeting here.

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...

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