Council Roundup: May 18, 2020

Burien Annex, Fireworks, Restaurant Delivery Fees, COVID-19
Posted on 05/20/2020
Fireworks prohibited symbol.

Council voted to demolish the Burien Annex, discussed preparations for the Fourth of July holiday, discussed capping restaurant delivery fees charged by third-party platforms, and discussed local and federal funding to help the Burien community mitigate impacts from COVID-19.

Man holding bag and coffee.

Impact of Third-party Platform Delivery Charges on Local Restaurants

Council discussed the feasibility and impact of capping fees charged by third-party delivery companies in Burien.

As public health and social distancing orders have restricted dine-in options for restaurants, a larger percentage of restaurant orders now come through third-party delivery platforms. These platforms charge marketing and delivery commissions to restaurants for their services. Commission and fees differ across the platforms based on the services provided, but can be upwards of 30 percent of the price of a restaurant order.

Restaurant orders made through these third-party platforms used to make up a small percentage of overall restaurant sales. With the government mandated public health orders, and encouragement of carryout and delivery options, these orders now represent a majority of sales for many restaurants. Due to the slim margins in which the restaurant industry already operates, these third-party platform commissions can result in the restaurant operating at less than half its normal profitability, and potentially at a loss on some orders. Many of the restaurants in Burien involve the entire household in their operation, and the COVID-19 pandemic is causing them great financial stress.

Economic development staff conducted outreach to Burien restaurants and food businesses regarding the impact of these fees on their businesses. Staff heard that some restaurants are raising their delivery menu prices to cover their expenses, others are incentivizing ordering directly from the restaurant. All supported a cap on fees, but many recognized the benefit the platforms provide by helping the restaurants broaden their customer base or introduce new menu items. Some businesses called the platforms predatory, and that it is difficult to avoid using them.

Council directed staff to bring back policy proposals as well a resolution calling on King County and the State of Washington to implement a comparable measure. Council will discuss and take action at a future council meeting.

Piggy bank and flag.

Funding will Help Mitigate Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Burien Community

The City of Burien will be receiving $1.56 million through the CARES Stimulus Act, federal legislation aimed at mitigating the impacts of COVID-19. Cities who receive money can use the funds to cover the cost of necessary expenditures due to public health emergency. The finance team has detailed costs incurred by the City of Burien, and is looking at how to allocate the rest of the funds. Staff will return to Council with recommendations for allocation of the remainder of funds.

The human services manager delivered an update on how the City is responding to needs of Burien’s most vulnerable community members. The emotional toll this is taking on families is elevating the need for more family and behavioral health support. Internet access is also an emerging need. Rent and utility payment assistance, food support, and unemployment benefits continue to be a need.

There are several funds that can be or have already been applied to address these community needs. This includes the Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund, United Way's HomeBase rental assistance program, King County’s COVID -19 Community Response Fund, as well as private fundraising. Some local organizations have received funding, and are providing rental assistance, food assistance, and other types of support to Burien families, including families without documentation.

The City of Burien is managing three major areas of funding:

  • Burien City Council allocated $200,000 from the General Fund to address the needs of Burien’s most vulnerable community members.
  • The federal CARES Act delivers funding to cities to use to recoup funding for COVID-19 response expenses, but can also be used to address community needs. The City will request reimbursement for the $200,000 allocation set aside early in this crisis.
  • The CARES Act also allocated additional funding through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-CV) program, managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to address public health, coronavirus, and housing and economic disruption needs.

The Human Services Commission held four meetings to develop a list of priorities and a process for allocating this funding. Council approved the priorities and approach recommended by the Human Services Commission.

The Human Services Commission will identify organizations in need of funding to “re-fuel” that are that are already working in Burien or have historically provided emergency services such as rent, utilities, and food assistance and family support. These organizations will be invited to apply for grants of $50,000 or less. The goal is to deliver funding by this summer.

Council will host a public hearing on the CBDG-CV funding on June 15.

Annex buildings.

Council Votes to Demolish the Community Center Annex Building

After extensive debate and consideration, the City Council voted to demolish the Burien Community Center Annex (“the Annex”). This follows six months of public process and discussion. The demolition process will occur after July 31, 2020, which is when the leases end for the remaining tenants. The decision was based on significant concerns about the buildings’ safety for the tenants, public, and staff. Many of the systems in the building are at the end of their operational life.

The Council also authorized $350,000 be transferred from other capital projects and the capital reserve to the demolition of the Annex. This means that a project aimed at addressing a non-critical landslide area in Seahurst Park and a master plan process for Hilltop Park will be delayed. The City’s Annex Tenant Support Team will continue working with Annex tenants on relocation efforts.

The City of Burien recognizes the years of service that the tenants have provided to the Burien community.  Because some of the tenants are still working on relocation efforts, the City will maintain the Annex Tenant Support Team to assist the tenants with relocation. It is important to the City and Council that tenants find a location that suits their needs, ideally in Burien. The City is evaluating other ways that it may be of assistance to the tenants.

Planning efforts are underway to determine the process for demolishing the building. The City will be in communication with residents and stakeholders about the process. A larger community engagement effort is also being planned to determine community center services in the future.

Learn more about the Annex and the decision to close the buildings.

Troy Smithmeyer Selected as the New Captain for Burien Police Department

Council congratulated Captain Troy Smithmeyer for his promotion to captain and assistant chief of the Burien Police Department. Learn more about Captain Smithmeyer.

Community Reminded that Fireworks are Banned, Carry Bigger Penalties

Council discussed preparations for the Fourth of July holiday, and the new fireworks penalties that will go into effect June 26, 2020. The new penalties include:

  • Possession of fireworks will result in a civil infraction and $500 fine.
  • Illegal discharge will result in a civil infraction and $500 fine for first offense, $1,000 for second offense, and $5,000 for third offense.
  • Establish liability for violations by any “responsible person.” Sometimes called “social host liability,” this means anybody in control of the property where a violation occurs can be served with a civil infraction and fine.

Both police and fire department chiefs urged people to comply with the fireworks ban, referencing the tragic death of a White Center resident last year who died as a result of a house fire caused by illegal fireworks. Both police and fire will be increasing staffing for that day. The fire department will coordinate with fire departments in the region in preparation for Independence Day.

South King Housing and Homelessness Partners Details Need for Affordable Housing

Angela San Felippo, SKHHP Executive Manager, delivered an update on progress made by the newly formed South King Housing and Homelessness Partners (SKHHP) to address housing affordability and homelessness in South King County. She articulated that the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the critical need for more affordable housing. She urged policymakers to keep working to create good policies and programs to address affordable housing in South King County.

The South King County region will be receiving approximately $1 million per year to apply to affordable or supportive housing. This is through an allocation of sales tax that was determined by HB 1406, voted on by the State Legislature during their last session. Council voted to pool Burien’s allocation with other South King County cities through SKHHP in order to deliver more impact.

Council Votes to Support for Kroger Employees at Burien Fred Meyer

Council voted to draft a letter in support of local Kroger/Fred Meyer employees who are protesting for better working conditions under COVID-19. Council also voted to send a letter of thanks to Governor Jay Inslee to thank him for opening up the auto industry.