SeattleAnnexationMap

by Jack Mayne

Probably the last possible avenue to any thought of Burien annexing White Center and North Boulevard Park was shut down by a one-vote margin at the Burien City Council meeting Monday night.

The Council voted 4 – 3 Monday (Dec. 15) to remove from Burien’s Comprehensive Plan the Potential Annex Area (PAA) that would have permitted the city under state law to pursue the annexation despite residents of the North Highline Unincorporated Area soundly rejecting the proposed 2012 annexing to Burien.

No Council member suggested any desire to annex the area, even those wanting to keep the designation.

Earlier last Monday, the Seattle City Council voted to approve a so-called “placeholder” resolution that could result in a vote by residents of the North Highline Unincorporated Area as to whether or not to be annexed to Seattle (read our previous coverage here).

Seattle has a state designation of a Potential Annex Area even though, normally, only one can exist for the same area, and Burien had theirs first. Political pressure and lobbying got the state to allow two such PAAs to exist for the North Highline area.

Now, the Burien vote means only Seattle has the power to consider making White Center and environs a part of an incorporated city.

Disservice and irresponsible
Late and after much discussion on other matters, near 10:30 p.m., the Council took up a motion to remove the Potential Annex Area from the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

Robison said removing the PAA would be “irresponsible” and a “disservice to the citizens of Burien” because Burien does not know enough about what the annexation of the area would mean and the city would lose its ability to be involved in potential changes or impacts.

Robison said Burien would lose the backup it has now from the King County Sheriff’s Department that now patrols the North Highline area if Seattle annexes the area.

He added the Seattle annexation would mean the remaining White Center fire fighting equipment and facilities in North Highline would go to Seattle, equipment he said Burien depends upon to service North Burien.

Help from Seattle is unlikely, he said, because it has never made a mutual assistance agreement with any other city so it would be unlikely they would with Burien.

Burien would have no way to convince Seattle to share services “if we are just out of the picture completely,” Robison said.

Double the population
Also, he said Seattle has suggested White Center would become an “urban village” in their planning, or become more like Westwood Village or Ballard where single family homes are replaced by apartments and the area population would possibly increase from the current 17,000 residents to “settle probably around 50,000.”

“My hope is that with the PAA in place, we get a chance to influence the discussions … and there is not going to be an annexation by Seattle without discussions with King County and the State of Washington about what kind of assistance Seattle can get to pay for the cost annexing that area,” Robison told fellow Councilmembers. “I want us to have the opportunity to say ‘you need to include is in that discussion, you need to take into account the impact on us we need to, maybe, have an agreement with Seattle to back us up on police coverage and back us up on fire coverage, maybe extra money from the state or Seattle.’

“If we are not part of that discussion, then we re going to get screwed,” Robison said. “If this Council drops the PAA, you are all going to have that on your head.”

Not about annexation
Councilmember Nancy Tosta said the issue was not about annexation, but about choices for Burien.

“The PAA language in our Comp Plan is really unique,” she said. “I think we should think long and hard about whether we give this away because we will not get it back. It doesn’t force us to do anything, it just gives us an opportunity have more information, to have more dialogue, to be in the conversation.”

Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz said there is no definitive information on the affects of a removal of the PAA so she would keep it.

“It is a shame to have this discussion now, because we have a responsibility to the citizens we represent … we need to have information,” she said.

Two wanting the PAA gone were Debi Wagner and Steve Armstrong.

Wagner has made it clear she wanted an end to annexation talk, noting a seat at the table “is not going to guarantee you any voice” on decisions.

Councilmember Steve Armstrong said even without the PAA Burien cannot be excluded from these discussions and didn’t know how much “leverage we have …” with it.

Citizen comments
A larger than usual contingent of the public had turned out at the meeting and told the Council to keep the PAA.

Former Burien Councilmember Rose Clark said, if it is removed, “you are foregoing the ability to represent the people, at least of Shorewood and north Burien when Seattle … negotiates with the Southwest Suburban Sewer District on future increases to sewer costs. You will also be saying to the people in north Burien and Shorewood that their emergency and fire services levels and costs will be subject to Seattle, but that that does not worry you.

“If you vote to take the PAA out, you will be abandoning your input on increased zoning that could increase density, especially low income and cause a ripple of school enrollment impacts that will be felt throughout the Highline School District. You won’t have a seat at the table to talk about that. Please keep the PAA in the Comp plan.”

Joey Martinez, a two-time former Council candidate and member of the city Planning Commission, said he wonders what would happen to police, fire and school systems if Seattle annexes North Highline. Burien would not be able to negotiate these and other matters if the PAA were removed because “we will not have a seat at the table.”

Rachael Levine, a Burien resident who supported the rejected annexation, wondered why drop the PAA when all of the efforts have been already paid for.

It is “a kind of safety for us to have a voice at the table” if Seattle annexes the area, Levine said.

Don Bennett said of the residents of North Highline, “they don’t want to annex to anybody.” Since Seattle has said any annexation would require a supporting vote of area residents, Bennett said he figured residents would reject that move, too. Keeping the PAA, he said, “keeps us in the ballgame.”

Roger Delorm said the majority of the people in the annexation area voted against it, two to one. Those people have spoken. Why is it still on the PAA when the majority of the people said no?”

Disingenuous
Berkowitz said the real problem is some Councilmembers are “being disingenuous and not representing the citizens and I am tired of playing nice and not saying that,” apparently referring to comments by Councilmembers Wager and Armstrong suggesting the PAA be dropped.

It “was not a rational decision.”

Voting to remove it were Mayor Lucy Krakowiak, Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar, Councilmembers Armstrong and Wagner.

Voting to keep it in the plan were Berkowitz, Robison and Nancy Tosta.

The same members voted to approve the adoption of Comprehensive Plan update, Ordinance 614.

A revised school construction bond – valued about $9 million less than the one proposed in November – to repair or replace deteriorating schools and ease overcrowding will go before voters on the Feb. 10, 2015 ballot.

After seeking community input following the November election, the school board voted Wednesday night (Dec. 17) to place the new bond measure on the February ballot.

The November bond measure fell just short of the 60 percent approval required for passage. The February bond retains the major projects in the November measure, with modifications based on community input.

“The need to replace aging buildings and to ease overcrowding grows more urgent as our enrollment continues to increase,” said School Board President Michael Spear. “At 59.3 percent approval, a strong majority supported the bond measure in November. After seeking community input we believe this is the right decision to make for all of our students.”

More than 4,100 Highline residents participated in a Telephone Town Hall meeting regarding the bond, hosted by Superintendent Susan Enfield and School Board Member Bernie Dorsey.

In addition, over 1,000 people took an online survey. Results from the survey showed strong support of the bond measure. Read more about survey results.

Input gathered from the community helped the school board make the decision to place the bond measure on the ballot. If approved, the bond would:

  • Rebuild Highline High School
  • Build three new schools on properties already owned by the district
  • An elementary school at the Zenith site (16th Place S. & S. 240th St., Des Moines)
  • A new middle school at the Manhattan site (440 S. 186th St., Burien)
  • A new middle school at the Glacier site (2450 S. 142nd Street, SeaTac)
  • Make critical renovations at Tyee and Evergreen campuses
  • Provide technology improvements throughout the district
  • Make capital improvements to support arts education throughout the district
  • Address additional critical needs throughout the district

The total amount of the February bond proposal is $376.0 million, about $9 million less than the package proposed in November. Savings come from eliminating interim sites for the new middle schools and beginning construction on the elementary school a year earlier.

The tax rate was reduced to $1.09 per $1000 in assessed home value.

“It is our responsibility to provide safe, modern schools for all students and space for all our community’s children in the future,” said Spear. “We understand this is a big investment we’re asking from our community. The strong support in the November election shows faith in Highline’s track record of responsible fiscal stewardship, which we pledge to uphold with passage of our next bond.

All 14 schools built as a result of the 2002 and 2006 bonds were completed on budget and (with the exception of a three-day delay on one project) on time.

The district obtained $140 million in matching funds, cutting local taxpayer costs and funding construction of three schools beyond those funded by bonds.

The bonds were refinanced multiple times, saving taxpayers nearly $10 million on bond repayment.

The bond measure will run alongside renewal of an Educational Programs & Operations Levy on the February ballot.

The bond, which funds capital needs, is completely separate from the levy, which funds direct services to students and operation of schools. The two funds cannot be mixed or interchanged.

To learn more about the bond and levy online.

by Jack Mayne

The Seattle City Council quickly and unanimously approved on Monday (Dec. 15) a so-called “placeholder” resolution that could result in a vote by residents of the North Highline Unincorporated Area as to whether or not to be annexed to Seattle.

Council President Tim Burgess said it was a placeholder resolution because action was needed before the end of 2014 to safeguard the city’s access to a potential $5 million per year sales tax credit. That credit will expire on Dec. 31. The Seattle action means the city will retain access for the credit since it took action prior to the law’s expiration.

“The resolution is really a placeholder that allows it city, if we move forward to take advantage of the tax credit offered by the State of Washington for annexation,” Burgess told the Seattle City Council regular meeting Monday afternoon, adding the city will go to the Legislature when it convenes in January, seeking additional money if it does annex the North Highline area.

Waited for Burien option
“We did not pursue annexation of the North Highline annexation area, which includes White Center and North Boulevard Park in the past for several reasons, first we wanted to defer to the City of Burien and allow them to exercise their option, which they did, and the (White Center) voters did not approve that annexation,” Burgess said.

“Also, the revenue from this area is insufficient to fund the city’s additional costs of providing services in that area. Significant issues related to inter-governmental responsibilities are yet to be resolved and it has been unclear that there is majority support in the area for annexation by Seattle.

The Seattle Council president said the gap between the cost of providing city services and the revenues to be obtained from that area were such that the state adopted a sales tax incentive which could give Seattle $5 million a year for 10 years if Seattle annexes North Highline.

This resolution states that, while the city has a continued interest in annexation, additional conditions must be met before the city advances with final action.

In Seattle’s ‘best interests’?
Councilmember Sally Bagshaw questioned why the resolution contained language that said Seattle had “determined that it would be in the best interests and general welfare of the City of Seattle to annex” the area.

“It was my understanding that we were still open to that question and wanted to make sure that not only we, but the citizens of Burien, felt that that was true.”

Burgess said some of the language was to satisfy “a requirement in state law about stating intent.” If the resolution is read carefully, the Seattle Council president said, “there are multiple off-ramps on this road, if you will, going forward and this is not, in any way a final action by the city.”

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, whose newly created City Council district abuts much of the proposed annexation area, said he “strongly supports keeping this option open.

“Of course, it is up to the people of White Center to make that decision,” Rasmussen told councilmembers. “I think it could, in the long run, be a win-win.”

He said he knows White Center quite well and is aware of the challenges by having the boundary on Roxbury with the two jurisdictions across the street from each other – “having good sidewalks, for example.”

“We will need help from Olympia to meet some of those challenges” of insufficient revenue.

People forced from Seattle?
Councilmember Kshama Sawant said she wanted to frame the issues differently – on the people.

“North Highline, just like any other neighborhood, consists of human beings and those should be the most important motivation, not monetary units,” Sawant said. “I appreciate the speakers who gave a human face to White Center and the needs of the real human beings should be our primary concern.

“I agree with President Burgess that it is definitely a question of whether there is majority support – the people who live in the area themselves should support this in a majority.”

But, there is a racial and ethnic diversity in the area, Sawant said, and “unfortunately this is an economically segregated area with people who are struggling for survival …”

Sawant said “many of the people of the unincorporated King County might be Seattleites who have been forced out of this city in their search for affordable housing as this city becomes more and more unaffordable,” so she said she supported the resolution.

A Burien Police officer was involved in a 2-car accident at the intersection of 106th SW and SW 22nd in White Center Sunday afternoon, Dec. 14.

Police say that the Deputy was driving with lights and sirens on to an in-progress call when he slowed to clear the intersection. He then proceeded through but was hit by another driver.

Both the deputy and other driver suffered minor injuries that were treated at he scene by Highline fire. Neither went to the hospital.

“The other driver said they heard he sirens but did not see the car until too late as that intersection is near the crest of a hill,” Jason Houck of the King County Sheriff’s Office told The White Center Blog.

The Highline School District on Friday announced that the transition of 6th grade to middle school will be delayed at least one year.

“Originally slated for fall 2015, the 6th grade move will occur no earlier than September 2016,” the district said in a release.

The district says that the change was made “in part as a response to parent concerns about sixth graders having to make two moves during middle school — once to an interim site, and again to a new school facility.

“The district plans to build two new middle schools to accommodate growing enrollment. The capital bond on last November’s ballot would have funded construction of two middle schools slated to open in September 2017. Students attending those schools would have been housed in interim sites for two years.”

The new timeline allows district leaders to seek a solution that would eliminate the need for interim middle school sites.

“One benefit of this change is that it allows more time to plan the sixth-grade transition,” said Superintendent Susan Enfield.

Community meetings where families can participate in the planning process will resume in January and continue through the spring.

Construction of new middle schools will require passage of a capital bond. The November bond received 59.3 percent of the vote, just short of the 60 percent “supermajority” needed for passage. The school board is gathering community input now as it decides when to place another bond on the ballot.

A message from our Real Estate Sponsor Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest:

BHHSDiaperDrive14

Thank You! Your amazing generosity was truly an inspiration.

On Sunday, Dec. 12 at the Normandy Park Tree Lighting ceremony Tay Krull and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Real Estate held their First Annual Diaper Drive to benefit Treehouse.

Treehouse is a local organization that benefits foster children in our community.

The Diaper Drive collected 3,277 diapers for Treehouse with more calls of donations still coming in.

“Thank you for your amazing support and we look forward to making this event bigger and better next year!”

Click here to view all of Berkshire Hathaway’s Open Houses.

by Jack Mayne

The Seattle City Council wants to ask the people of White Center and north Boulevard Park to vote on whether they want to be a part of Seattle.

Annexation of the North Highline Unincorporated Area may be an anathema to many in the area, whose residents overwhelmingly rejected the annexation in 2012, an election that many believe cost the jobs of some members of the former Burien City Council and its then city manager.

But, on Monday (Dec. 15) the Seattle City Council will reconsider the annexation proposal put on the shelf during the recession. Council President Tim Burgess and Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw and Sally Clark moved it to the regular Monday afternoon Seattle Council session.

Sources say the move is a real one despite the past battles over the cost of absorbing the area in the past few years.

Won’t happen soon
Still, observers in Seattle suggest any formal election to approve the annexation may by a year or more away just because of the politics involved winning the support of the residents of the unincorporated area. In the past, there have been harsh words about the desire to stay unincorporated and discussions of the higher taxes and more formal practices of Seattle.

The resolution noted objections in the past to incorporation.

“The voters in North Highline Annexation Area overwhelmingly voted against annexation to the City of Burien at the November 2012 general election and the City of Burien has indicated it no longer desires to pursue an annexation of the North Highline Area.”

A legal impediment
A state law that provides a 0.1 percent sales tax credit to help pay for the annexation of an unincorporated area expires on Jan. 1, 2015.

That was said would bring $5 million a year to Burien, a figure many rejected as being uncertain and questionable.

The Seattle Council needed to start the process now while the law is in effect, thus keeping the tax credit alive. After Jan. 1, the tax credit is gone, so an action now means the annexation was started while the tax credit was legal.

Still, few believe the amount would cover the cost of taking the area into the city.

The Seattle resolution noted the one big problem that keeps cropping up when White Center annexation is discussed.

“The cost to provide Seattle-level governmental services to the North Highline Annexation Area exceeds revenues generated within the area,” a prime motivation against Seattle during the peak of the recent recession.

Seattle finances are back on track, the city now has hired a strong new police chief, elected a new mayor, even elected a Socialist to the City Council, but whose membership will all face reelection next year after voters approved changing seven of the nine members to representing geographic districts.

Rasmussen once objected
The Councilmember for what will become Seattle Council District 1 in 2016, the area adjoining the proposed North Highline annexation area, is longtime Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. That area would likely remain in his district because of geography, but they could change after future redistricting.

Rasmussen wrote a letter against annexation in 2011 to the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s president, Barbara Dobkin, that he does not “live far from the area proposed to be annexed and I am quite familiar with the neighborhood.”

But he opposed Seattle annexation then.

“While I find White Center to be a wonderful, vibrant neighborhood, I do not favor moving forward to take the next step to possibly annex the area to Seattle,” Rasmussen wrote then. “The reason is because we have huge unmet needs for roads, bridge and other maintenance costs and repairs in Seattle neighborhoods. I cannot justify taking on additional costs for the City which according to the Annexation Report presented to the Council earlier this year, estimated that the operating expenditures could be as high as $16.8 million, and net one-time expenditures could range from $4.7 million – $91.3 million.”

A call to Rasmussen’s office was not immediately returned.

The current resolution states that now “the best interests and general welfare of the City of Seattle would be served by the annexation of contiguous territory lying in an area south of the existing corporate boundaries of the City of Seattle, commonly referred to as White Center and North Boulevard Park.”

Costs still matter to Seattle and the resolution mentions the sales tax credit but also will need more money and will go to the 2015 session of the Washington Legislature to seek an increase the amount of financial assistance it provides to cover the financial gap …”

White Center vote
Residents of the remaining unincorporated area will be asked to vote “for the annexation of the North Highline Annexation Area.”

If the voters approve and the area annexed, citizens of the area would all “be assessed and taxed at the same rate as Seattle residents.”

Seattle would pay for the election, if annexed.

Take our Poll
We’re curious what our Readers think of becoming part of Seattle – please take our Poll below:

How would you vote if Seattle wanted to annex White Center?

View Results

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Press “Play” button to hear live weather info.

by Chris Scragg
Puget Sound Weather Geek

UPDATED 7:00 PM: Hi everyone! This will be brief, I just got home and the winds are already starting to howl to over 50mph!

A strong cyclone will generate high winds through midnight tonight. Gusts over 55 mph are likely, especially in exposed places along Puget Sound like Three Tree and Alki Point.

The recent heavy rainfall during the last few days has saturated the soil, allowing for easier toppling of trees. Tonight’s storm could bring widespread power outages throughout the region (especially in Burien/South Puget Sound).

At this point, if you haven’t already prepared your flashlights and outage supplies, you need to right now.  (Lights are flickering currently!)

Below is a live chat room if you want to chat or report conditions where you are! Enjoy the storm and stay safe!!
Puget Sound WX Geek Chatroom!

For the latest local weather, be sure to follow the Puget Sound Weather Geek:

Thanks for visiting! If you have any comments, suggestions, or feedback please email me at info@pswxgeek.com


Press “Play” button to hear live weather info.

by Chris Scragg
Puget Sound Weather Geek

Not sure which is more impressive, tomorrow’s possible wind storm or today’s record high temperatures in the upper 60s…in December! Thursday’s wind storm would certainly be more impactful, so lets get into that.

Computer generated weather models have been wrestling with the details of a windstorm set to arrive Thursday afternoon. The American produced models were forecasting a stronger scenario than the Canadian and better funded (and typically more accurate) European models. However now, they seem to have switched places.

The forecast for this system will come down to two different possible paths. The first possible scenario which is being suggested by the University of Washington computer model, is a path along the coast and into central Vancouver Island. This would be generate very strong winds for the Oregon and Washington coasts as well as the north Puget Sound, but for central and south Puget Sound it would only result in a blustery afternoon.

The second possible scenario is much more potent. The Canadian and European models have started pointing the low pressure to a path that carves right through western Washington. If this serious situation occurs then we can expect damaging high winds gusting to 60+mph to funnel through the Puget Sound potentially causing widespread power outages.

As a result of the potential for damaging winds, the National Weather Service has issued a High Wind Watch for a large portion of western Washington. The official watch warns of 30-40mph winds with gusts to 65mph. This may be upgraded to a High Wind Warning.

Another thing to watch out for if you live along the waterfront in the Puget Sound: (Three Tree Point, Alki Point waterfront residents) there will be some “tidal overflow” Thursday morning. The NWS has issued a Coastal Flood Watch for all low lying areas near the water in Puget Sound

I will make the final updates for the night after going through them. Stay tuned to the forecasts and be careful out there!

For the latest local weather, be sure to follow the Puget Sound Weather Geek:

Thanks for visiting! If you have any comments, suggestions, or feedback please email me at info@pswxgeek.com

If you saw a lot of police activity in the area this morning, here’s why – the King County Sheriff’s Office is reporting that a suspect was captured after robbing a bank in White Center Monday morning, Dec. 8.

Police say the suspect was captured near SW 106th Street and 14 Ave SW.

One of our Readers emailed us and said:

“Looks to be a manhunt or search of some sort.

There are a ton of officers patrolling in my neighborhood – 12th Ave SW and SW 107th next door to Mt. View Elementary.”

BHHSSantaFlyer

REMINDER: Real Estate Sponsor Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest will be participating in Winterfest in Burien this Saturday, Dec. 6, with FREE Santa Photos from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.!

“It’s Winterfest in Burien!” reads an announcement. “You and your family are invited to stop by and have your picture taken with Santa compliments of Berkshire Hathaway Northwest Real Estate.”

Winterfest is an annual event sponsored by Discover Burien that runs from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on SW 152nd Street in Burien.

Celebrate the Holiday Season by shopping locally at this annual community event that includes free horse and carriage rides, hay rides, hot treats and in-store specials.

WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

WHERE: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest, located at 930 SW 152nd Street in Olde Burien.