Here’s a recap of Monday night’s (Feb. 27, 2023) Burien City Council regular meeting:
Eagle Landing Stairs Update
For years, community members have been asking Council to rethink the decision to remove the stairs that lead down the bluff to Puget Sound at Burien’s Eagle Landing Park. These requests have ramped up in recent weeks, as the projected date of the stair removal approaches. Some have said that only a few pilings need to be replaced, and that it would cost ⅓ the price to make the stairs safe as it would to remove them altogether.
However, in a presentation to Council by Public Works Director Maiya Andrews on the history, current situation, and plan for the stairs, it was made clear that fixing them is not going to be an option due to erosion factors from both the waves along the bottom of the slope, as well as stormwater from the top.
The City of Burien had geotechnical reports done in 2002, stating that the stairs could not remain on such a slope. The land around the stairs has been actively eroding since 2011, with many of the supporting piles no longer embedded in the earth. An adjacent property experienced a massive landslide in 2017, and smaller landslides are happening regularly, including the uprooting of mature trees. These areas get covered in light vegetation over time, but remain unstable. The land sliding into the Sound is part of the natural ecosystem, and can’t be stopped.
The City’s insurance also is a factor, as it refuses to cover any use of the stairs, considering their condition and the innate hazards of the slope. The plan, according to a 2018 vote by Council, is to remove the entire staircase via a barge at the bottom of the stairs. The removal is awaiting a permit, and should take about two months once it has begun, most likely in the fall.
No vote was taken by council on this issue.
Homelessness in Burien
The majority of Public Comments at this meeting pleaded with Council to address issues associated with people camping around the Library and in doorways of local businesses. According to many, the situation has been unsafe for those living unhoused as well as those conducting business and engaging in the community around them. People have been assaulted by persons living on the street. One had to call the fire department many times regarding illegal and unsafe fires the unhoused are starting to try to keep warm. One homeless man is still recovering from his burns after his fire got out of control. According to another community member, a homeless man was openly smoking crack at the park near a mother and her small children.
It’s clear there is a consensus that people permanently camping downtown is not ideal for anyone. The City is being asked to make policies immediately that get to the root of the problem. One person suggested the City use a Police parking lot to create a designated homeless camp. Another suggested that it is time to turn to the County to help solve this problem. One asked if the new DESC building will provide immediate permanent housing for all these people once it is finished.
At the end of the meeting, Councilmember Sarah Moore asked Staff to research possible options and return to a future meeting with a menu of responses that could help the homeless situation.
Black Home Initiative Presentation
Council heard a presentation from HomeSight, an organization with the mission of increasing Black homeownership in the Puget Sound region. Increasing housing prices have disproportionately affected people of color, who were already less likely to buy a home. In 2021, 68% of white people in this region owned their own home, while that number was only 34% for people of color. The goal of HomeSight’s Black Home Initiative is to increase Black homeownership by 1500 people in the next 3-5 years, and then by another 1500 after 10 years.
Homeownership helps to build intergenerational wealth and is an important way to grow roots in the community. Increasing Black homeownership specifically ties in to Burien’s vision of embracing diversity, and making Black homeownership easier will also encourage homeownership among other populations.
The Black Home Initiative works on all angles of the issue, from developing dwellings which will increase the supply of available homes, to preparing buyers to successfully qualify for a mortgage and prevent foreclosure, to working with real estate agents so buyers know about these options.
At the end of their presentation, Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling gave enthusiastic praise for the project and said he was eager to work with the organization. Many councilmembers concurred, and Council voted unanimously in support of a future project. Mayor Sofia Aragon said that in some neighborhoods, infrastructure issues need to be addressed before density can be added.
Boulevard Park Flooding Funded
Staff presented to Council on the potential solutions for the neighborhood experiencing flooding in Boulevard Park. The flooding is caused by a natural stream channel that goes through dozens of properties, and has been blocked up by property owners narrowing and constricting the water flow, causing flooding upstream. The flooding affects 12 properties, including 8 outbuildings and 2 homes. Costs for the different solutions range from $300,000 to $12 million, and most likely will cost more after easements and property rights are granted for the fix.
Some property owners don’t have a flooding issue, and don’t want to have anything to do with restructuring the stream flow. The problem, its source and its effects, are all on private properties. If the City steps in to solve it, the City will be liable for any consequences. This is also not the only area that is affected by flooding. The flooding does affect the water quality and the ecosystem.
There is already $400,000 in ARPA funds allotted to help residents pay for the switch to sewer connections, which will protect the water quality. Other money for this conversion can come from grants that the sewer district is helping to obtain. There may be $5 million in possible funding from the State. Council voted to fund option B, restoring 12-inch pipes along the stream and eliminating expected residential flooding, with less frequent property floodings throughout. Four supported this, with Councilmembers Stephanie Mora, Jimmy Matta, and Aragon abstaining. Matta stated concerns regarding liability.
Watch video of the full meeting here.