The Issues

May 6th, 2013
It only takes 40 hours to abate these problem houses. Why isn't it being done?


Text of speech:

I appreciate the City Manager and City Attorney sharing the staff's position on the properties I have been talking about lately.

I believe the issue is reactive enforcement vs proactive enforcement.

The City Attorney was correct in stating that most cities use a reactive approach.

The real question is, “Why be like the rest of the cities when we can create something better?”

I don't believe that cleaning up Burien's $200 million dollar problem has to be expensive at all. In fact Burien already has all the tools it needs:

  • A well defined Municipal Code that is easy to understand.
  • A workforce that covers most streets at least once a month.

I propose that when City employees spot a problem house that they use a simple camera phone to send a picture to the Compliance Officer. From that point on it is largely an administrative issue.

All of the costs associated with abatement are fully recoverable, including staff time. This makes it revenue positive.

In becoming proactive, Burien and the neighborhoods will no longer be victimized by these trashy homes and the problems that come with them.

I don't believe we can wait to the next budget cycle to become proactive. The King County Assessor says we are now 5th from the bottom on assessed value change. If we continue to do nothing, in four years we will be at the bottom.

These houses are like graffiti. If they aren't promptly dealt with then they tend to multiply. I don't want to see that happen.

I want the Council to work with the City Manager and City Attorney to find ways of implementing the BMC so that the City can flourish and our neighborhoods are desirable.

I propose a 40 man hour abatement program that I have attached to the City Clerks copy. If the City disputes these numbers, they should bring their own numbers to the Council for discussion.

I propose that Burien adopt a proactive approach to Code Enforcement like this one:
I am allocating 4 hours for each step.

1. City worker sees a problem and sends camera phone picture to the Compliance Officer. 4 hours
2. Compliance Officer examines photo and BMC 4 hours
3. Compliance Officer visits site and takes additional photos 4 hours
4. Admin prepares letter and file for property 4 hours
5. City reviews response from property owner 4 hours
6. City responds with abatement demand 4 hours
7. If no action City contacts appropriate companies for abatement such junk removal companies,
    landscape contractors, etc.
4 hours
8. City reviews bids from abatement companies 4 hours
9. City issues purchase order for abatement 4 hours
10. City oversees abatement. 4 hours
  40 hours

  1. Over the course of a month I believe most if not all streets in Burien are driven by Burien employees while on the job. It is likely that the employee reporting the problem will be called back to take followup pictures. Thus the 4 hours.
  2. Having the camera phone picture sent to the Compliance Officer's computer will facilitate a rapid response as well as enabling it to be put in a folder for transferring to other individuals such as the City Attorney or Admin.
  3. I believe this line item can be significantly reduced in hours by visiting more than one property at a time.
  4. Template type letters can reduce this hourly amount if they are prepared by the City Attorney.
  5. City Attorney reviews response from property owner against applicable statues.
  6. City Attorney directs Admin to write abatement demand letter.
  7. If property is not cleaned up, than the City contacts appropriate abatement companies from the City's approved vendor list who have the necessary bonds, insurances, and expertise. I don't believe City employees should be involved in the actual clean up of private property.
  8. Purchasing Department reviews bids and selects company to abate property.
  9. Purchasing Department issues purchase order for clean up.
  10. An individual from the City oversees abatement.

If the City has issues with any of my assumptions, I only ask that they bring their numbers to the Council for discussion.

Burien Municipal Code provides full recovery for all of the above expenses including time spent by the City employees and contractors performing the abatement.


Below is a chart that shows Burien's performance over the last several years from the King County Assessor's Office website.

  2008>2009 2009>2010 2010>2011 2011>2012
20th Medina Snoqualmie   Kent
19th Sammamish Issaquah Enumclaw Woodenville
18th Beaux Arts Des Moines Federal Way Maple Valley
17th Black Diamond Sea-Tac Tukwila Kenmore
16th Tukwila Auburn Milton Bothell
15th Des Moines Kenmore Pacific Enumclaw
14th Covington Milton Maple Valley Carnation
13th Maple Valley Covington North Bend Duvall
12th BURIEN Pacific Covington Renton
11th Woodenville BURIEN Lake Forest Pk Auburn
10th Seattle Clyde Hill Sea-Tac Des Moines
9th Enumclaw   Kent Sea-Tac
8th Milton Bothell Carnation Tukwila
7th Kent Federal Way Black Diamond Federal Way
6th Federal Way Beaux Arts BURIEN Lake Forest Pk
5th Snoqualmie Tukwila Yarrow Point BURIEN
4th Shoreline Normandy Park Medina Pacific
3rd Pacific Kent Hunts Point Algona
2nd Algona New Castle Beaux Arts Covington
Bottom Renton Skykomish Clyde Hill Kirkland

These numbers are taken from the King County Assessor's Office website. In the 2008 > 2009 time period, Burien was in the bottom 30 percentile of the 39 cities in King County based on assessed value change. This also was the current City Manager's first full year on the job. In the 2011 > 2012 period Burien was close to the bottom 10 percentile. The figures for 2012>2013 are not yet compiled by the Assessor's Office.

I have also included the numbers for Kent, WA. Our City Manager was the City Manager of Kent prior to coming to Burien. You will note that a different management style has a significant effect on property value performance in Kent. Areas are highlighted in orange for easier viewing.

If the same City Council policies continue with the same City Manager, it is a mathematical certainty that the trend downward will continue. The consequences will be dire if this trend is not reversed immediately through Council directives.