To sleep or to party? Burien city council discusses changing city noise ordinance, other topics
By Gwen Davis
The Burien City Council held a jam-packed meeting on Monday, where members discussed several items.
Potential changes to the city's noise ordinance
Near the beginning of the meeting, the council discussed possible changes to the city’s noise ordinance that would allow more public events to extend into the evening. Burien’s noise ordinance currently prevents public events from being held in Burien after 10:00 p.m. on all nights of the week. City staff had gathered community feedback in 2018 from both residents and local businesses, which it presented to the council.
However, after listening to the staff's presentation, council members disagreed on how to move forward.
Councilmember Lucy Krakowiak expressed reservation on changing the noise ordinance.
"I live downtown and get to experience the changes that are made personally," Krakowiak said. "I also live in a low-income neighborhood with families who work two or three jobs. I'm concerned that we haven't done enough to determine the impacts... My guess is there are 1,000 to 2,000 people living downtown, and the 71 people [who responded to the city's survey] is a very small sample of who this will affect. There are negative impacts to this, and we have to think about how we're doing this.”
Councilmember Nancy Tosta shared similar views.
"I totally appreciate why we are doing this, to have the opportunity to have more activities, but I'm a little bit more concerned about the sample size and who has responded to this," she said.
Staff replied that while it couldn't predict exactly how many permits would be requested, historically, there haven't been more than two or three events a year. Staff also said the city would ensure the events would support the downtown businesses, and that they would incentivize people to patronize them.
But Krakowiak was not satisfied.
"From how this is being presented, this is about supporting a business interest and business is important for our community, but community members are the core and heart of our community, and we need to make sure there's benefit,” she said. “It doesn't seem there's much benefit when they need to work two or three jobs and work weekends, and they can't get to sleep at night."
But Councilmember Krystal Marx disagreed.
"If [events] were done every night, and they weren't a regular occurrence, but were limited to special event permits that were managed by the city... I would be in support of [changing the ordinance,]" she said. "I do think more community involvement [in the study] would be ideal, but I don't think that should hold up this process of moving forward with the suggested motion. I would like to make that motion right now."
Deputy Mayor Austin Bell seconded the motion to move forward.
"I think there is something to be said about making sure everyone in this area can have a quiet night's sleep, but we're also trying to create a vibrant downtown center where individuals from other cities can come to our events, and this allows us to do just that," he said. "I hear the frustration with some council members that this was just supposed to be a discussion... but I think this is a good way to give more guidance to staff."
Marx then added: "In the future, I'd love to see us revising this noise ordinance in other areas in Burien, as well. It will help increase community event participation... I'm happy this is here."
Shoreline Master Program receives minor updates
The council talked about updates to the Shoreline Master Program (SMP) -- an initiative created under state law which dictates guidelines and goals for managing shoreline spaces in Burien, including the Puget Sound, Lake Burien, any land within 200 feet of those waterbodies and associated wetland. The SMP protects the environmental resources of state shorelines, promotes public access and gives priority to uses that require a shoreline location.
"What was presented were some administrative updates getting the program up to state law," said Emily Inlow-Hood, communications officer with the City of Burien. "There was an update done four or five years ago, and there was a lot of feedback from the community and substantial changes happened."
Washington State law requires periodic review every eight years of local SMPs, according to the city. The council will vote on the proposed updates on April 1, in order to meet the state’s June 31 deadline.
Use of alleys for new construction
The council also discussed current standards for using alleys as primary access for new construction. Currently, construction codes allow for case-by-case evaluation of whether alleys can be considered an access point for new construction, according to the city. Staff discussed including certain criteria for this, such as: if the alley is wide enough for fire trucks to enter, if traffic can pass through the alley safely and if pedestrians have a safe place to walk or get out of the way of an emergency vehicle.
"This was an update from the staff educating the council on what our current codes are for new development," Inlow-Hood said. "Alleys are engineered differently than roads, and you have to take that into account with a variance process."
The council also discussed:
-A resolution, which was passed, to support a state legislature budget proposal to increase state funds for The State of Washington’s Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) program by an additional $69 million.
-The Safe Firearm Storage Giveaway event the Highline Schools Foundation is hosting on Saturday, March 23.
-An opening for a Burien community member to serve on the Sea-Tac Stakeholder Advisory Round Table (StART).
-Improvements to the selection process for citizen advisory boards and commissions.
-The council's letter declaring Burien’s support for former Gov. Chris Gregoire’s "Challenge Seattle" initiative call-to-action for low- and middle-income housing in the Puget Sound region.