Council Roundup: May 17, 2021

DESC Housing, Property Tax, State Law on Drug Possession, Citizen of the Year, Business License Code, Transportation Improvement Program
Posted on 05/21/2021

Burien City Council postponed a decision on whether to accept a supportive housing project into the Affordable Housing Demonstration Program. They also discussed transportation projects, 2021 property taxes, a new state drug possession law and investments in diversion programs, city equity efforts, and new business license code. They also selected this year’s recipients of the Burien Citizen of the Year Award.

Impact of Pandemic on Property Taxes in King County

King County Assessor John Wilson presented information about 2021 property taxes and economic trends and how they were affected by the past year’s economic slowdown.

While businesses faced enormous hardship, home values remained stable overall in King County, except for in some cases, including in south and southeast King County, where prices went up more dramatically, driven by high demand and scarce inventory. First-time homebuyers and other groups that have been historically shut out of the homebuying market due to discrimination are struggling to buy homes in this market. Commercial real estate value was more volatile, affected most acutely by the dynamics of the recession/economic slowdown.

Last year, King County raised the income limit for their their property tax exemption program to $58,423. Despite a 300 percent increase in participation in the program, there are still approximately 50,000 eligible community members countywide who are not taking advantage of the program. Households who qualify for the full exemption can expect to save $4,334.14 per year in property tax.

Wilson also shared that assessors across the state are talking about programs and legislation to address systemic issues, including barriers to home ownership, helping people age in place, mitigating or preventing gentrification, and helping renters avoid eviction.

New Washington State Drug Possession Law Changes Penalties, Funds Investments in Recovery Services

Chief Ted Boe presented information about SB 5476, a new state law that changes possession of a controlled substance from felony to gross misdemeanor, after the Washington State Supreme Court struck down prior drug possession law (State v. Blake). The criminal provision expires after two years and the provides funding for a study of the law’s impact in the affected community.  Statewide programs are receiving a boost in funding, with $88 million going to diversion programs, such as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), behavioral health training for police, and a committee to study the impact of drugs and recovery services in our community.

One of the requirements of the new law is that an individual charged with drug possession, for their first two offenses, must be offered recovery or other diversion services instead of initiating a criminal prosecution. Burien’s LEAD program qualifies as an eligible service that can be offered.

City Equity Efforts Begin to Address Legacy of Structural Racism

Staff presented on two internal projects designed to expand the city’s equity, diversity, and inclusion goals. Alex Hunt, a planner in the Community Development department, described a project to draft an equity goal and policies for Burien’s Comprehensive Plan. The community will be invited to weigh in on updates to the Comprehensive Plan later this year.

Gabbi Gonzales, a recreation coordinator in the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services (PaRCS) department, presented efforts being made by PaRCS staff to examine potential bias in their department policies and procedures. The creation of a drop-in play field program is the first outcome of that work. Planned projects include examining facility rental policies and procedures through an equity lens, implementing more equitable hiring practices, and compiling a glossary of common racial equity terms.

Transportation Improvement Program Details Infrastructure Improvements Scheduled for Next Six Years

Council held a public hearing on updates to the 2022–2027 Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Council placed the updated TIP on the consent agenda for their June 7, 2021 meeting. Council discussed the merits of back-in parking on SW 152nd St in downtown Burien.

The TIP acts as a planning tool for the development of transportation facilities in Burien. It is used to coordinate transportation projects with our utility districts and other agencies. Public hearings are held to provide an opportunity for community members to advocate for their priorities in transportation infrastructure planning. In most cases, projects must be included in the TIP to be eligible for state and federal grant programs.

Roxana Pardo Garcia (Alimentado al Pueblo) and Don and Charlotte Berg (Transform Burien) Named 2021 Citizens of the Year

Council selected Roxana Pardo Garcia, founder of Alimentado al Pueblo, and Don and Charlotte Berg, long-time volunteers for Transform Burien, as this year’s recipients of the Burien Citizen of the Year award. Thirteen people were nominated.

These three individuals will be honored at the June 7, 2021 council meeting with a proclamation. They will also be asked to be grand marshal of the next Burien Independence Day Parade, when the next one occurs, and be featured in an upcoming issue of Burien Magazine.

Decision to Include DESC Supportive Housing Project in Affordable Housing Demonstration Program Tabled Until June

Council postponed a decision on whether to include the DESC Supportive Housing Project in Burien in the Burien Affordable Housing Demonstration Program. Council directed staff to host a public hearing on the project on June 14, 2021. Information about this public hearing, as well as other opportunities to learn about permanent supportive housing, will be announced in coming weeks.

Businesses that Cause Neighbor Complaints Could Lose Business License

Council placed on the consent agenda for the June 7, 2021 meeting updates to the business license code that would allow for the City of Burien to revoke a business license based on the complaints of neighbors and if a code violation is uncovered.

New City Staff Positions Created to Meet Increased Demand for Services

The City Manager announced the return of several staff positions that had either been eliminated, or reduced in hours, as well as the addition of new, limited-term positions. The increase in staffing levels in Public Works, Parks, Recreation and Public Services, and Community Development departments is possible because revenue is returning to pre-pandemic levels.