By Jack Mayne

The Burien City Council rejected on a tie 3–3 tie vote a proposal by Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz to require landlords to not consider whether a prospective resident gets public grant or payments instead of private employment when seeking a rental property in the city.

The Council also appointed volunteers for the city’s new Human Services Commission and started the process for a human services manager.

It also was told of issues affecting the city at the Washington Legislature, as well as potential legislation in Congress.

Rental money source
Seattle rules say landlords cannot reject a person getting a housing voucher or receiving government financial assistance. It has been said that some landlords currently reject a potential resident for vouchers or such payments as Social Security.

Councilmember Berkowitz said some landlords in Burien have rejected renting to people with public housing vouchers or public sources of income, even to those getting Social Security.

The measure failed on a 3 to 3 tie vote, and under Council rules a tie vote is a rejection of the issue. Councilmember Bob Edgar was absent.

The Council earlier considered a similar ordinance adopted by the City of Tumwater as well as one in Seattle.

Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta said she thought the proposal went too far and said she would vote no on it, and proposed “a simpler” one not invoking so much of the Seattle measure. She said she only wanted an ordinance that prohibited income discrimination.

Councilmember Debi Wagner said she did not know if such an ordinance would discourage landlords and did not have enough information on the subject.

Councilmember Stephen Armstrong said the area was in “an explosive growth” cycle and didn’t know if this issue would help. He worried the change could damage the supply of rental housing.
Berkowitz said she could not understand the objection to the Seattle approach or being a property owner, she said “putting myself in the shoes of people who are being discriminated against.”

After Berkowitz’s motion failed, Tosta proposed drafting an ordinance that simply would outlaw consideration of public sources of income, and not, as Berkowitz said, approving an ordinance “as I would like to see.”

Human service appointments
Volunteers to serve on the new Burien’s Human Services Commission were received to fill seven positions. Four applicants had withdrawn their applications and one applicant had not scheduled an interview. Council appointees were Valerie Allan, Colleen Brandt-Schluter, Megan Gibbard Kline, Jennifer Marcum, Karen McMichael, Julianna Ormsby and Brendon Schlotz.

Councilmembers debated whether to provide more guidance to the new commission or just to let it get underway and respond or make changes later. Eventually Mayor Lucy Krakowiak included in a motion that city staff provide a “draft work plan” for the group before it meets the first time, a date not yet set, said City Manager Brian Wilson. Her motion passed 4–2.

Tosta said that, in the past, she has heard some members of Council-created committees complain they really do not understand what the city expects them to accomplish. Councilmembers Wagner and Armstrong noted the newly proposed members of the fledgling Human Services Commission are well qualified and will be able to steer their own course without a lot of oversight or control from the City Council.

Wilson said it would also be important to have the Council give some direction to what it expected from the new commission, which has a “vast array of experience.”

Schools, family leave
Burien’s state legislative lobbyist Jennifer Ziegler reported on the still ongoing and longest legislative session in history, mainly because of the State Supreme Court’s mandate that schools be properly financed by the state, an issue still ongoing, she said, a cost most estimates are between $3 billion and $3.5 billion.

At 195 days, the longest legislative session in State’s history, she said the session showed major disagreement on policy issues, including paid family leave, and the 1 percent property tax cap. Other concerns are the impact of Sound Transit motor vehicle excise tax rates.

The Legislature did pass imposing Washington state sales on taxes out of state, mainly Internet sales.

She said lawmakers did change the definition of a public record for citizens seeking to seek public documents. No longer will “all records” be considered a proper request, but the seeking must specify an “identifiable request.” The city can now charge 10 cents per gigabyte for public records.

The Legislature provided the city $500,000 to help pay for the replacement of the Peter Western bridge. It was closed in February due to severe erosion to its structural integrity from storm water runoff in the ravine below it. It was knocked down in May and is currently in a two-year process of being rebuilt.

Airplane noise concerns
Federal Lobbyist Mike Doubleday said the 2017 FAA Reauthorization Bill in Congress has sections addressing community noise concerns. The House bill section allows the FAA to consider the feasibility of “dispersal headings or other lateral track variations” for departing flights to address community noise concerns, if there is community support and safety is not compromised.

He said there also is a House bill proposed study on potential health impacts of overflight noise, which is listed as a study of health impacts of noise from aircraft flights on residents. Doubleday said Seattle is not among the five enumerated cities to be studied, “but this section contains language allowing the FAA to add additional areas for study.”

The companion Senate bills do not contain these proposals, he said, but Sen. Maria Cantwell co-sponsored the Senate FAA Reauthorization Act which added an amendment in committee to permit continuing federal reimbursement for noise mitigation improvements made in the Highline School District.

Doubleday said he is working with Rep. Pramila Jayapal to keep this report language in the final bill and if it survives, the “idea is to write a letter to the FAA requesting additional person in FAA offices to address community concerns, including in the Renton regional office.

Councilmember Wagner said he hoped any person would be allowed to “actually talk to us” in a way people can understand.

Blog Candidate Forums
During public comment, B-Town Blog Publisher and Editor Scott Schaefer said the blogs will be having two council Candidate Forums in Burien:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 26 at El Dorado West for positions 1 and 3
  • Tuesday, Oct. 3, at Merrill Gardens for positions 5 and 7

Both sessions will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

People can email questions to

The forums will be recorded and broadcast live on the B-Town Blog Facebook page, as well as later posted on The B-Town Blog.

In public comments, resident Patty Janssen told the Council she was opposed to the possibility of a safe injection drug site in Burien, something the Council has discussed but has not made a decision. The cities of SeaTac and Des Moines have rejected such sites.

New interim Chief
City manager Brian Wilson introduced Interim Police Chief Mark Konoske, as well as new Financial Analyst Josh White to the Council.

Konoske replaced retired longtime Chief Scott Kimerer, who retired in September.

He is a 20-year veteran of the department and is a major in the King County Sheriff’s department, the agency that provides under contract the officers of the Burien police. He will serve as chief until a permanent chief is appointed, said City Manager Brian Wilson.

White has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Washington, and has done work for the cities of Normandy Park and Redmond.

Senior Reporter Jack Mayne passed away in December, 2021. In his honor we have created the Jack Mayne Journalism Scholarship.

4 replies on “Landlords can still reject vouchers, subsidies; human service dept. started”

    1. QA – Do you think it’s right to reject a possible renter because they get Social Security? Just asking. I am wondering if that is legal?

      1. I didn’t comment on the political actions of those two regarding this specific topic, but on their long storied political leanings which have not been good for Burien.

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