Council Roundup: April 6, 2020

COVID-19, Comprehensive Plan, New Commission and Committee Members, Federal and State Leaders Asked to Freeze Mortgage and Rent Payments
Posted on 04/09/2020
COVID-19 and money.

Council discussed a number of issues related to COVID-19, including: issuing a proclamation denouncing stigma and bias related to the disease, financial impact to the City of Burien as well as Burien economy and residents, discussed the Comprehensive Plan Docket, and more.

Proclamation Denounces COVID-19-based Stigma and Bias against Asian and Pacific Islander Communities

The Burien City Council issued a proclamation denouncing stigma and bias related to COVID-19. The proclamation calls out the discrimination Asian community members have faced during the COVID-19 outbreak. Learn more about ways to interrupt stigma and report discrimination and harassment.

Financial Impact of Current Crisis on City of Burien Financial Health

The City Manager provided an update on the financial impact of the current economic slowdown. The City of Burien had already been engaged in long-range financial planning to address a structural imbalance caused by the loss of the sales tax annexation credit (link to previous roundup) and anticipated impact of I-976. The slowing down of Burien’s economy, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, means a significant loss of tax-based revenue. The City will not know for several months the true financial impact, which is why the City is considering taking early action to reduce expenses.

The City of Burien’s General Fund is currently in a healthy financial position. In 2019, the City’s revenues finished on target with budget and spent less than had been budgeted, which has helped bolster this strong financial position. There are revenues, however, that will be lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including decreased sales tax, business & occupation tax, gambling tax, investment interest, building and planning fees, and park rental and class fees. More accurate estimates of the exact financial impact will not be possible until there is more clarity on when the pandemic is over and how quickly the economy can recover.

Initial analysis is predicting an annual loss in General Fund revenues of 15-20 percent, assuming a partial recovery from the pandemic. In dollars, this equates to $4.5 to $6.5 million. Some of this can be potentially absorbed by drawing down some reserves that were set aside for economic downturns and unexpected expenditures. But the City will still need to take more action to prepare. For example, some staff have already been furloughed, but other options may include delaying capital projects and programs, and possibly furloughing more City staff. 

Human Services Responds to Community Needs

Council heard an update on the needs of residents and how the City and social service agencies are responding.

Residents are worried about finding medical care, paying rent or mortgages, food, transportation, childcare, and about the effect of school closures on children. Agencies that would assist residents with some of these needs are facing their own sustainability crisis, similar to what small businesses are facing.

The City is working with other cities and King County to coordinate a response to these needs. Staff are fielding calls, referring residents to support services, connecting with local property managers to inform them of Burien and statewide rental housing laws, and sharing resources via the City website. Staff are also working with local faith leaders to provide food support and increased shelter capacity for people experiencing homelessness. Some of the relief efforts that have been put in place include grant programs like the Seattle Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund and other funding programs for workers by industry sector.

Burien Police Department Responds to COVID-19

Burien Police Department personnel are practicing social distancing and protective measures to ensure their officers and civilian staff are adequately protected. They have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for now. They are also participating in the King County Emergency Operations Center and conducting staffing exercises to prepare for future situations.

Per the Governor’s direction, they are educating people about the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, and not focusing on enforcement. Chief Boe provided some myth-busting information, such as: there are no checkpoints, travel passes are not required to be outside of your home, and the National Guard is supporting health care delivery logistics and not supporting enforcement of the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order.

Other operational changes that have occurred include updates to how jails are operating to provide for adequate disease prevention. There has not been a decline in calls for service, but the nature of those calls has changed. There has been a rise in domestic violence calls, which is why the Burien Police Department is sharing awareness of the issue and resources for victims of domestic violence.

Helping People Experiencing Homelessness during COVID-19 Outbreak

Staff are coordinating with Healthcare for the Homeless on a regional response to helping people experiencing homelessness. Personal protection equipment is in short supply for outreach workers, as are shelter options and restroom and handwashing facilities for people living outside.

The Burien Navigation Team and other outreach workers are connecting people to resources. The City has installed 10 portable restrooms and six handwashing stations throughout the city. These facilities are being cleaned six days per week.

There are also efforts to increase capacity and “de-intensify” existing shelters to allow for greater social distancing. Highline United Methodist Church is standing up a 24/7 enhanced shelter for up to 30 healthy, vulnerable women. Hospitality House and Mary’s Place is taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and are in active conversations with community members who may have to leave home and need shelter.

Resources for Households and Businesses

Staff have been gathering and sharing resources for businesses, households, nonprofits, and workers.

Supporting Struggling Businesses

Staff gave an update on efforts to support businesses struggling with the effect of COVID-19 on the economy and their workforce. Economic development staff have been sharing resources broadly as well as working with individual businesses to help them connect to resources. Staff have been focusing on tracking the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (or CARES Act) stimulus bill that was enacted just over a week ago. Staff have been disseminating information about financial assistance to Burien businesses directly and through economic development partners.

Congratulations to New Planning Commission and Burien Airport Committee Members

Congratulations to Nekya Johnson on your appointment to the Burien Airport Committee and Joe Hauser, Ryan Davis, and Amanda Kay to the Planning Commission.

Comprehensive Plan Update

Council heard the proposed 2020 Comprehensive Plan Docket. They added one item: adding the North Highline area as a potential annexation area to the Comprehensive Plan Docket. Council discussed and voted to approve the docket at the April 20, 2020 council meeting.

What is the Comprehensive Plan Docket Process?

Community members can initiate amendments to the City's Comprehensive Plan under the docketing process. Docketing is an annual public participation procedure required by the state Growth Management Act (GMA) that allows residents the opportunity to request amendments to a jurisdiction's comprehensive plan and development regulations.

Under State law, the Comprehensive Plan can be amended no more than once per year (with certain exceptions). Issues on the approved docket are reviewed and evaluated by staff for potential action by Council later in the year. No action was taken to amend the Comprehensive Plan as part of the April 6 City Council meeting.

The amendment process has four steps:

  1. The first step is to solicit requests for amendments.
  2. The second step is for the Planning Commission to conduct a required public meeting to hear public testimony. The public meeting was held on March 11, 2020 and there was no public testimony received at the meeting.
  3. The third step requires a recommendation from the Planning Commission. On March 11, 2020 the Planning Commission recommended the City Council approve the 2020 Comprehensive Plan Docket.
  4. The final step in the process is for the City Council to approve the docket by resolution. This is scheduled to occur on April 20, 2020.

Greensward Farms Subdivision Request

Council discussed a subdivision request for the Greensward Farms development. Council discussed the current tree regulations and how they were applied to the preliminary subdivision preproposal.

Request of State and Federal Elected Officials for Immediate Moratorium on Rent and Mortgage

Council approved a resolution to ask the state and federal governments to issue an immediate moratorium on rent and mortgage payments. This is not a freeze on rent or mortgage payments in Burien. Instead, it is a way for the Burien City Council to send a strong message to state and federal elected leaders that this would help the Burien community during these challenging times.