By Mellow DeTray
At Monday night’s (Nov. 21, 2022) Burien City Council meeting, local lawmakers heard public comments about crime, passed new taxes, increased the city’s 2023-24 biennial budget, discussed the Comprehensive Plan and more.
Public Comments: Downtown Safety
Comments this evening addressed crime stemming from homelessness throughout the downtown core, particularly around the Library & City Hall. One commenter described problems such as a person passed out across a public sidewalk, another shouting into traffic at cars, and another urinating on someone’s car outside the Maverick Apartments. When this community member went to report the public urination/vandalism to the police, he was told that the Council does not support going after this tier of crime. Another commenter, a downtown business owner, asked Council to enforce city laws to protect residents. She experienced a person illegally enter her closed business through the back door and confronted him. After being confronted, this person left her business and then proceeded to enter other businesses in the same way. She had called the police, but they did not come.
Council voted 5-2 to increase taxes in 2023 & 2024 by the maximum allowable amount of 1% each year. For homeowners with a median value home of $540,000, this comes to an increase of $9.10 in 2023, and will give the City budget an additional $86,400 in annual revenue.
Councilmember Matta, while voting yes on this tax increase, stated that the City should use revenue to address the safety issues brought up in Public Comments, to help keep the streets safe for residents and businesses. Councilmember Mora, who voted no on this, wants specific public safety solutions to be mapped out before asking residents for more money.
An additional increase residents will see in the coming years is on their water and sewer bills. Staff recommended a 10.1% increase in the Surface Water Management surcharge, to adjust for inflation. This will bring the city an additional $400,000, and cost approximately $20 additional per family. This surcharge increase passed 6–1.
Budget Issues: Arts Grants & Climate Action
The 2023/2024 Biennial Budget includes an increase in grant money for the arts, from $20,000 to $40,000 annually. This is the first time this budget item has been increased in many years, and demonstrates that the City supports our community being a strong cultural arts district.
Councilmember Sarah Moore proposed that the budgeted Climate Action money be redirected from funding the installation of new EV charging stations to focusing on weatherization and heat pump conversion for residents. This $75,000 fund will be used for outreach & education, as well as seeking grants for the new focus of efficiently heating & cooling homes. This adjustment of focus passed 5–2.
Council also approved to schedule a joint meeting with the city’s Business and Economic Development Partnership (BEDP) each year, “so that the topic(s) of discussion may inform the BEDP work planning for the following year.”
Comprehensive Plan for 2044
The Council also heard a presentation on the long term Burien Comprehensive Plan, which will be finalized at the end of 2023, and serves as a roadmap for Burien’s future development. During the next decade, the City is expected to grow by 36%, from 52,000 residents to 71,000. Additionally, jobs will need to increase from 12,486 to over 17 thousand positions. The focus will be on creating more density of housing as well as more small business areas, so jobs and centers of business are more distributed throughout the city, rather than being only in the downtown core.
Deputy Mayor Schilling asked for multiple things to be considered as our city grows. One was to remove zoning restrictions to allow mixed-use development throughout Burien, so when a developer is putting in an apartment building they can put businesses on the ground floor. His other request was that the city allow offices to be anywhere throughout the city, rather than only downtown. This will allow people to work closer to their homes, as well as create more local jobs and bring in more businesses. His suggestions were met with general approval both from presenting staff and several Councilmembers.
Watch video of the full meeting here, or below:
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.