By Nicholas Johnson

Any day this summer, the Port of Seattle is expected to release a draft environmental review of its Sustainable Airport Master Plan, kicking off a public review period during which residents and leaders of cities surrounding Sea-Tac Airport will have a chance to weigh in.

The city of Burien is already planning to pen a response, in coordination with neighboring cities, to that draft environmental review, which will rely in part on feedback from community members.

The port’s plan, including near-term and long-term projects, aims to prepare for future demand at the airport driven by projections that the Puget Sound region’s population will grow by another one million people by 2035.

The plan’s near-term projects are currently being reviewed for compliance under the National Environmental Policy Act. That process will be followed by a review for compliance under the State Environmental Policy Act in 2022.

The impending formal opportunity to weigh in the port’s plan is what inspired the fifth question in our six-part Burien City Council Candidate Q&A series leading up to the Aug. 3 primary election. Each day, we are hearing from the candidates – 11 of whom submitted responses – on one question.

Today’s question is:

For Burien, Sea-Tac Airport has long been both an economic boon and an often difficult neighbor. The Port of Seattle this summer is expected to release for public review a draft of its Sustainable Airport Master Plan as part of a National Environmental Policy Act review process. That plan lays out near-term and long-term projects intended to allow the airport to meet future passenger and cargo demands as well as environmental goals related to energy and water conservation, air quality and recycling. In light of the benefits and burdens of the growing airport next door, how do you believe the city should approach this upcoming opportunity to weigh in on the airport’s future?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each candidate’s name links to their website; click on it if you want to learn more about them.

Position No. 1:


Weighing in as the city of Burien, we must insist that the airport prioritize the residents of Burien and the other communities that live around the airport. And not only some voices in Burien, but the residents closest to the runways – the apartment dwellers in the flight path, and the families who can only afford to live there and therefore are unfairly targeted by environmental impacts. This is our job as a city, and it would be our job to lead this shift in priorities as the council.


The Sea-Tac Airport has overall proven to be a net-negative neighbor. Health and environmental concerns due to the jet fuel exhaust particles and engine noise have created an unsafe and unhealthy environment for many of our Burien residents.

Additionally, the Port of Seattle, the FAA and the airlines are not honorable actors. They have constantly broken their word and disregarded court orders. They believe they can outspend us with lawyers, and they are right. Together, they have deep pockets, which if properly positioned can be to our advantage.

One way to deal with dishonorable people is through exposure. We need to band together as airport cities to launch a media campaign. This campaign would comprise environmental, health, property-rights and aviation-safety experts. It would call to account the disingenuous actions of the port, the FAA and the airlines, which continue to jeopardize our residents.

Concurrently, we would begin a lobbying effort in Olympia seeking legislation to mitigate the health and safety dangers of our residents residing under the flight path.

This legislation would require the port to purchase all willing sellers’ land under current flight patterns at fair market value. Purchased land would be restored to its natural habitat and placed in trust for stewardship by an eco-conscious agency. An additional 10 percent charge would be paid into a fund for use in legal and regulatory action against the port. No more draining taxpayer dollars.

In part, Burien has not capitalized on opportunities our proximity affords. Burien should have premium hotels located in our downtown core. The views looking back on the airport with the mountains behind it are stunning. Hotel patrons would infuse restaurants, boutique shops, music venues and art galleries throughout our downtown core with their travel dollars generating needed city revenue through increased sales taxes.

Position No. 3:


Burien has the opportunity to play a pivotal, strategic role in this planning process. Our accountability list of requirements should include: (a) compensation/investment offsets to address the added impact on our community, (b) active leadership opportunities in the future operations, planning and oversight of the Port of Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport, (c) responsiveness to the outcry of our community on specific issues that arise in a constantly evolving and changing regional landscape.


While our proximity to the airport offers many economic benefits, our residents will not be able to enjoy those benefits if environmental and noise impacts from its operations continue to diminish the quality of life of the communities under the flight path.

I believe we need to take a firm approach and be prepared to engage in legal action if necessary. While I would love to consider the port a partner with the city, so far they have not acted like one, and one of the primary duties of the city council is to look out for the health and welfare of Burien residents.


As with any opportunity, the city should approach this with an open mind and work hard to create a win-win situation, all the while keeping Burien interests at the forefront of every negotiation and conversation.

Position No. 5:


This is my daily reality, in a lovely home situated below the flight path of the third runway. The impacts are too deep to address with only the port package of insulated walls and double windows, but we should certainly be receiving these for all existing housing, as mine already has.

Burien needs to make a commitment to be all in on this process. If we aren’t at the table, we will bear the brunt of the inevitable changes coming up. We need to work together with all the impacted cities, and get the attention of the port commission. We need to motivate a large part of the community to be vocal on this issue, in order to be effective and be heard (above the noise of airplanes).

We should be advocating for stronger port packages in existing homes, health support, and we should be investigating any new development like the plans to demolish part of North Seatac Park for a parking lot.

This issue is not specific to Burien, and right now is an important time for cities to coordinate and become part of a larger, regional voice that cannot be ignored.


The number one complaint I have heard about Sea-Tac Airport is noise. This issue affects some residents a lot more than others. I personally live directly under the flight path and for my neighbors that do, too, I’m sure that you can relate to the frustration of having a conversation outside.

The Sustainable Airport Master Plan contains some documentation on how they will try to address the noise issue, but I believe that we can always push the airport to do more.

Aside from noise, I believe that the second greatest concern is pollution. The aircraft flying overhead burn a lot of fuel, and the pollution from the exhaust can be seen in the form of black streaks on vehicles or anything that is left outside.

I would like to see the Port address and study the effect of this pollution for those directly under the flight path to ensure our residents can lead a healthy life in Burien, without any harmful effects.


I believe Burien deserves a seat at the table where these decisions take place, and I think we need to collaborate with other nearby cities such as Tukwila, Renton, Seatac and others who may be experiencing the same growing pains that we are.

Air travel is becoming an important part of our society. As we transition to a more connected world, we also need to be responsible for our planet for future generations.

If we are to build an infrastructure to support Sea-Tac Airport, and if we have to deal with loud airplanes flying overhead contributing to our local air pollution, we need to demand concessions from the airport. They should have to pay nearby cities taxes to help with their local infrastructure, and they should have to fund efforts to offset the air and noise pollution that people of Burien have to deal with.

Position No. 7:


Burien is lucky to have two commissions dedicated to addressing the benefits and issues that come with being an airport community, and they work hard to form regional solutions with the other neighboring cities.

I believe we need to present regional data on all of the ways (positive and negative) our communities have been impacted, and get our communities to engage in the review process with a unified voice.


The airport is not going away. You do not get what you deserve, you get what you can negotiate. Make a stakeholder’s wheel, identify those in control and fight hard for Burien.

We are missing so many opportunities. We need to work with them to develop hotels and get creative with respect to building structures, then we can deal with noise and air pollution. We can invent our way out of these issues.

There is nothing wrong with thinking big. We all need to raise our sights. See my video regarding this issue:


It is clear due to the population growth in the greater Puget Sound area that Sea-Tac Airport will continue to grow over the coming decades. I think Burien needs to continue to partner with other adjacent cities to the airport to ensure that the Port of Seattle is living up to its obligations as a responsible neighbor.

Burien, as a stakeholder, needs to make sure that the needs of our community, including pollution, noise and flight-path routes are taken into account. When those responsibilities are not met by the Port of Seattle, Burien in coordination with the other local cities needs to take action.

This relationship is complex and will continue for as long as Burien is a city. The need to monitor and hold the Port of Seattle accountable will never go away.

I also think the Burien City Council needs to focus on actually bringing into reality the long-talked-about hotel. The tax base and businesses of our city should be benefiting from the proximity of Burien to Sea-Tac Airport. The vision of a hotel in the downtown core needs to finally be realized.