The Issues

May 20th, 2013


Dear Council Members,

There are hundreds, maybe even a thousand, foreclosed houses sitting empty in Burien. Each and everyone of them destabilizes our neighborhoods, and deny the City revenues to provide services that are required by law. A few of the affects are:

  • There are no utility, phone, or cable taxes being collected.
  • Businesses are losing customers and B&O tax revenues decline.
  • Sales tax collections are slumping as businesses leave Burien.

The average house in Burien sells for just over $200K. That would require an income of about $85K to buy that house plus a stellar credit report. Most of that $85K would be spent initially in Burien. For every twelve houses sold, over one million dollars in new purchasing power would be brought into our City.

  • Businesses activity would start to revive.
  • Hiring of employees would occur.
  • Sales and B&O tax revenue would increase.
  • Utility & communication type taxes would increase.

The Banks must be given an incentive to unload their foreclosed properties. The incentives I am talking about are for the banks to improve their balance sheet by selling off their foreclosed house portfolios into an improving housing market. Then millions of dollars in new money would come pouring into Burien.

Unfortunately, Burien house values continue to remain weak. When home buyers see slumlord dwellings and abandoned bank repos that our City Manager chooses to ignore, they spend their money elsewhere or pay rock bottom prices. This further exacerbates the downward home price trend.

I believe it is time to define the City Manager's job description using existing Washington State Law. The majority of the City Council continue to give high marks for performance that is contrary to the City Manager's job description as defined in RCW 35A.13.080 (4). Specifically, the City Manager is tasked with faithfully executing the BMC under Washington State Law. Yet, he doesn't lift a finger, except under duress, when confronted by slumlords and abandoned bank repos even though the law clearly requires action to be taken.

I believe it is in the Community's best interest that the City Manager be proactive. I am not just referring to Code Enforcement. I am talking about as a way of approaching the governance of the City as a whole. A proactive City Manager would be looking for ways to get the Banks out of the repo business so that our City can move forward. Instead of doing what is required, the City Manager has ignored the neighborhoods, which is causing the City to drift downward. This Council approved approach is costing us an additional $200 million dollars a year in lost property values.

I want the City Council to address this issue directly and unequivocally. I propose that the Council put some skin on the line by publicly directing the City Manager to start enforcing the BMC immediately using a 40 hour abatement program against these houses outlined in my May 6th Public Comment. Remember, this is a revenue positive solution. This announcement will send a powerful signal to new home buyers and residents alike, that Burien will not allow these type of houses to go unchallenged any longer.

Everyone will know it, and the effect will be palpable.

  • Neighborhoods will become cleaner and more desirable.
  • More people will want to move into Burien.
  • Houses will sell faster.
  • House prices will improve.
  • Burien businesses will expand.
  • Jobs will be created.

An additional benefit will be that the structural deficit that Burien faces will start to be dealt with, without raising new taxes.

Dick West



RCW 35A.13.080

City manager — Powers and duties.

The powers and duties of the city manager shall be:
  1. To have general supervision over the administrative affairs of the code city;
  2. To appoint and remove at any time all department heads, officers, and employees of the code city, except members of the council, and subject to the provisions of any applicable law, rule, or regulation relating to civil service: PROVIDED, That the council may provide for the appointment by the mayor, subject to confirmation by the council, of a city planning commission, and other advisory citizens' committees, commissions, and boards advisory to the city council: PROVIDED FURTHER, That if the municipal judge of the code city is appointed, such appointment shall be made by the city manager subject to confirmation by the council, for a four year term. The council may cause an audit to be made of any department or office of the code city government and may select the persons to make it, without the advice or consent of the city manager;
  3. To attend all meetings of the council at which his or her attendance may be required by that body;
  4. To see that all laws and ordinances are faithfully executed, subject to the authority which the council may grant the mayor to maintain law and order in times of emergency;
  5. To recommend for adoption by the council such measures as he or she may deem necessary or expedient;
  6. To prepare and submit to the council such reports as may be required by that body or as he or she may deem it advisable to submit;
  7. To keep the council fully advised of the financial condition of the code city and its future needs;
  8. To prepare and submit to the council a proposed budget for the fiscal year, as required by chapter 35A.33 RCW, and to be responsible for its administration upon adoption;
  9. To perform such other duties as the council may determine by ordinance or resolution.
    [2009 c 549 § 3025; 1987 c 3 § 17; 1967 ex.s. c 119 § 35A.13.080.]


Severability -- 1987 c 3: See note following RCW 3.70.010.