During their first meeting in nearly a month, the Burien City Council on Monday night, April 29, 2024 discussed a range of topics, from environmental initiatives to public safety concerns.

The Green Burien Partnership highlighted their successful tree-planting efforts and focus on environmental equity. Councilmember Moore raised concerns about scheduling and communication within the council.

City Manager Bailon presented details on the Good Neighbor Policy of the DESC, and some large grants the city received.

Public comments focused heavily on the fate of a 10-acre forested lot near Seahurst Park, and the proposed tiny home village for the homeless.

The council then addressed the zoning code amendments to allow for the village’s construction.

Finally, the council approved increases in water & sewer utility taxes, the B&O tax, and permit fees.

Green Burien Partnership Annual Report

Council heard the 2023 Year In Review from the Green Burien Partnership. The group said they planted 800 trees in 2023, eight times the number planted in 2022. They also planted many native shrubs, and monitored and maintained these plantings. They removed the equivalent of 2.5 football fields of invasive weeds over the course of 35 volunteer restoration events. 

The Green Burien Partnership specifically works to “green up” low-income and ethnically diverse neighborhoods, increasing equity throughout Burien. They offer paid internships for youth each year. The Partnership received one-time funds from the city of $11,000, and got ongoing annual funding of $19,435, as well as nearly $200,000 in city staff hours. The rest of their funding comes from donations, grants, and volunteer time. 

In 2024 they are working on ecological restoration at several area parks. Volunteer opportunities with Green Burien Partnership can be found here

Update From Councilmember Sarah Moore

Councilmember Moore said that the council “missed two meetings this month and one of them was not voted on by this body”. She said she “would like scheduling changes to be made as Council body decisions in the future”. In addition, she said “an April 26th press conference was called without 24-hour prior public notice, and without the knowledge of at least this councilmember.” She added that it is incumbent on the council to act as a body, particularly during times of difficulty.

City Manager’s Report

City Manager Adolfo Bailon shared the things that will be included in the DESC’s Good Neighbor Policy, which all residents will be required to adhere to. The policy specifically states that littering, loitering, yelling, fighting, menacing behavior, violence, harassment, panhandling, buying or selling drugs, and firearms of any kind will not be allowed anywhere in the neighborhood.

City Manager Bailon mentioned that Mary’s Place will be getting a million dollar grant to fund 90 more beds. He also said that the city received a $125,000 grant to improve Hilltop Park in Boulevard Park. Improvements include the removal of 30,000 square feet of blackberries. The funding will last for four years, and aims to increase environmental justice in communities in need.

Public Comments

Time for comments was extended to 60 minutes, to accommodate the 38 people who signed up to speak. Many commenters encouraged the city to seek grants to save the 10 acres of forested land adjacent to Seahurst Park. It was mentioned that the owner is willing to sell the lot to the city to expand Seahurst Park, if grants can be obtained. They said that locals as well as people from all over the region enjoy the park. Several teachers of outdoor schools said they use the area which is at risk of development to teach Burien’s children. One person said every acre of natural space is vital for wildlife, and the beach park is nationally known and recognized for its ecological restoration. Another said the lack of sidewalks throughout the city means that the Seahurst trails are one of the only safe places for running and recreation. Speakers argued that the forest should be preserved as much as possible. Another speaker added that eagles are currently nesting on the ten acres in question.

One speaker mentioned that it was odd to celebrate a million dollar grant going to Mary’s Place, when the city has been sitting for so long on a million dollar offer from the county to build a tiny home village. Others agreed that Council should go with staff recommendations to update the zoning code, and allow the tiny home village to at last be built. Another said that so far this year, four homeless people have died. He said seven died last year in Burien. 

One speaker questioned whether the new pallet village would even allow the homeless currently camped outside the library entry, if it has the promised “high barrier.” They said we are enabling those with addiction problems. Another described how an entire generation of Burien’s children have grown up without being able to use the library. Others mentioned that the tiny home village should be built, but not near a school. They said the solution should not be at the expense of residents and children. A couple of speakers also described serious problems that other tiny home villages have been experiencing recently.

Also, two off-duty Burien Police officers criticized the City Manager and council – read our full story, with audio and transcripts, here.

Transitional Housing Zoning Code Amended

City Manager Bailon explained that the recommendations sent over from the Planning Commission did not allow for the construction of a tiny home village in the location chosen by the previous council. Therefore, staff drafted amendments which will allow the development to proceed. Council went through each item of code, and made a few changes which should still allow the transitional housing to be built, but with a reduced capacity. The transitional housing will be considered “high barrier” meaning no drug or alcohol use on site.

Councilmember Sarah Moore argued that the city does have to pick a space and have a location for this project. She said no lives were lost during the time the temporary Oasis Home Church Sunnydale Village camp was running, and that the homeless need a safe and reliable shelter. Moore moved to accept staff recommendations and place this on the next consent agenda.

A few amendments were made, and a few failed. Councilmember Jimmy Matta received support to limit the total number of residents to 30 people, down from 60. This passed 4–3, with Councilmembers Alex Andrade, Sarah Moore, and Hugo Garcia opposed.

Deputy Mayor Stephanie Mora did not get support in her attempt to amend the ordinance to require a distance of 1000 feet from schools and libraries. However, she was able to amend the size of any potential lot for transitional housing to a minimum of 1 acre, maximum of 2 acres. One item of note that may be a simple error is that the City Light lot measures 2.1 acres while the amendment is for 2 acres, which may affect the viability of it.

This passed 4–2, with Moore and Garcia opposed, and Matta abstaining.

Transitional housing must also be located within half a mile of a transit stop. The zoning code changes will be effective throughout the city, not just in the specific lot being planned for. Mayor Kevin Schilling reminded Council that the city is required to plan for 1400 transitional housing units in the near future.

New City Revenue Approved

Council approved an increase in water & sewer utility taxes, from 8% to 10%. This will take effect January 1st, 2025, and bring in an expected $400,000. There is a low-income utility tax relief program available through the city clerk’s office. The new utility tax rate passed 4–3, with Schilling, Garcia, and Mora opposed.

The B&O tax will also increase. This tax will make up the lion’s share of new revenue for the city, bringing in an expected $1.7 million. Businesses are exempt from this tax if they bring in less than $200,000 in statewide gross receipts, or $20,000 in citywide gross receipts. This increase was passed 5–2, with Mora and Garcia opposed.

Council voted unanimously to increase Burien’s permit fee rate. These rates are currently among the lowest of nearby cities, and don’t even cover the cost of processing applications. The new rates should bring in around $100,000 in new revenue.

Watch full video of the meeting here.

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...

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