Here’s our recap of the Burien City Council meeting held on Monday night, Feb. 5, 2024:
The Lunar New Year is celebrated on the second New Moon after the Winter Solstice, which this year falls on Feb. 12. The celebration will usher in the Year of the Dragon. Nearly 7000 residents of Burien are of Asian descent, making up over 14% of the total population. According to the proclamation, the Lunar New Year is widely observed as a time for family, reflection, tradition, and hope for the future.
Black History Month is celebrated every February in recognition of the many achievements of Black Americans. The theme of the 2024 Black History Month is African Americans & The Arts. The Highline Heritage Museum is honoring the month with slam poetry and a performance from a youth gospel choir. The city of Burien is committed to pursuing racial equity in city services and processes, and to preventing harm rooted in racism. Burien values the contributions in the community of Black business owners, educators, artists, and other essential roles.
Stride Bus Rapid Transit to Bellevue
Sound Transit’s Stride Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is coming soon to the Burien Transit Center. The new bus route will feature distinctive shelters and signage, and shorten the ride to Bellevue by nearly 20 minutes. Currently, Metro’s 560 bus takes 57 minutes to get between Burien and Bellevue, but the new BRT bus is expected to take between 38 and 42 minutes for the same distance.
Similar to King County’s Rapid Ride, BRT will employ dedicated lanes, specially-timed traffic lights, and will run every 10 minutes during peak times or every 15 minutes off-peak. The buses will be double decker and run on batteries, which will be charged at the Burien Transit Center. Riders can enter and exit from any door on the bus, tapping their card at entry and exit to pay. Express toll lanes are currently being added to the 405, and the bus will utilize these lanes. The route is expected to be operational in 2028.
Several commenters again asked Council to rescind funding the new Day Center at Highline United Methodist Church on 1st Ave. One speaker said it was a poorly written draft proposal, and neglected issues of public safety.
Other speakers showed support for a hike in the city’s minimum wage. Both business owners and advocates spoke in its favor. Some emphasized the importance of outreach to business owners, as well as small-business exemptions.
Former city council member Cydney Moore spoke regarding the closing of the Oasis Home Church homeless camp. There will be more info on that situation coming in a dedicated article.
One speaker said that instead of using ARPA funds for increasing public safety through measures like improved lighting downtown, we should fund more services for the homeless. Another person said that in providing so many services for the homeless, we’re making Burien an attractive place for homeless individuals to come from all over King County.
ARPA Funds: More Money for Storefront Repair & Safety Enhancements
Not all of the allotted Economic Recovery Grants have been utilized, and applications closed at the end of 2023. This led to the recommendation that some of the balance be reallocated to grants for Storefront Repair and Business Safety Enhancements. The remainder will go to improved lighting in commercial areas to deter crime. Information on applying to the Storefront Repair Grant Program is available here.
New Projects for Affordable Housing
South King Housing & Homelessness Partners (SKHHP) was created by an interlocal agreement between several cities and King County with the goal of pooling resources to increase and protect existing affordable housing throughout South King County. A portion of sales tax from member jurisdictions goes into the fund. In 2023, SKHHP chose to fund two projects, both of which happened to be in Burien. One of those, a Habitat for Humanity development, is currently underway. The second will begin next year.
This year, the four projects selected are a bit more dispersed throughout the region. Mercy Housing Northwest will receive $1 Million to build a 199-unit dwelling adjacent to the light rail station in Kent. The units will be available for families earning between 30-80% Area Median Income (AMI). 20% of the units are reserved for those with disabilities.
The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) will receive $2.8 Million to build a 55-unit development in Skyway for those earning 30-50% AMI, with 70% of the units reserved for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
TWG Pandion at Star Lake will also be near a light rail station. This 168-unit development will serve those earning 30-60% AMI, and those at risk of homelessness. They are being given $1.17 Million by SKHHP.
Victoria’s Place in Des Moines is an existing establishment that is in need of rehab and preservation in order to remain safe and livable. This project, which houses 20 families earning 35-50% AMI, is being awarded $777,306.
SR 509 Update Approved Unanimously
Phase one of the WSDOT project extending State Route 509 to I-5 is under construction. This phase includes the segment from 24th Ave S to I-5 in SeaTac.
The second stage is currently being designed, and will include the stretch of 509 from 24th Ave S to S 188th St. The second stage includes areas within Burien, and involves construction of two roundabouts along 160th on either side of the 509. This area will also have noise walls built, to protect residents and businesses from increased traffic noise.
It is expected that travel time will improve with this stretch of freeway connected to I-5. In addition, there will be an estimated 1-3% reduction in emissions due to reduced idling and congestion.
Multiple councilmembers expressed concerns regarding increased truck traffic at the 160th exit. It is not an area designed for heavy use by large trucks. In addition, there are no specialized truck stops or gas stations that can accommodate semi trucks. In response, it was explained that truck drivers know the location of truck stops, and will be fueling up at the 188th St exit, so the only truckers expected to exit at 160th will be the ones who have local deliveries.
For community engagement on these coming changes, WSDOT will have a presence again at Burien’s Strawberry Festival as well as B-Town Fiesta. They also have an email newsletter, and have been sending out mailers and conducting door-to-door outreach in impacted neighborhoods.
Council Meeting Ordinance Passed
Council agreed to adopt the new council rules discussed last week by a 5–1 vote, with Councilmember Sarah Moore opposed. These changes mainly spell out rules of conduct for the public during meetings, and Councilmember Moore expressed concerns with language in the ordinance that threatened punitive action against public misbehavior. In the past, the crowd has gotten rowdy and riled up, and the aim of the ordinance was to encourage everyone to remain peaceful and respectful.
One change of note for speakers during public comments is that now everyone who wishes to speak must sign up one hour before the start of the meeting.
Increased Minimum Wage Coming To Burien
Council voted 5–1 (with Councilmember Hugo Garcia absent and Deputy Mayor Stephanie Mora opposed) to ask staff to return to a future meeting with a proposal that would increase minimum wage to $2 above the state minimum. Washington State’s current hourly minimum wage is $16.28. The cities around Burien have minimum wages in the range of $17 to $19.
Things the Council agreed should be taken into account when creating this legislation are:
- Total compensation: assessment of wages should take into account tips, healthcare and other benefits, as well as bonuses.
- Small business exemption: fewer than 20 full-time-equivalent employees.
- Independently-owned franchises can count as small businesses.
- Phase-in for medium-sized businesses.
- Start date of January 2025 in order to allow time for outreach & business planning
Staff will return to a council meeting at the end of the month with more information after researching these asks, and possibly a draft plan for Council to vote on at that time.
Special Council Meeting Feb. 12
Councilmembers agreed to hold a dedicated meeting to discuss public safety concerns and the homelessness response. It was also agreed that this special meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Feb. 12, 2024.
Watch full video of the council meeting here.