Home Letter To The Editor One More Bait and Switch: How the Downtown Emergency Services Center Came...

One More Bait and Switch: How the Downtown Emergency Services Center Came to Burien

According to Jimmy Matta (then Burien Mayor in 2020), King County Executive Dow Constantine approached him and the other Burien Council members to bring a Downtown Emergency Services Center- DESC into Burien as an Affordable Housing Demonstration project-AHDP. The purpose was to relocate the homeless from Seattle and King County to Burien. 

How DESC Positioned the Sell to Burien Residents

In February 2021at an online meeting hosted by DESC Executive Director Daniel Malone, including DESC Director of Housing Programs Noah Fay and Director of Facilities and Asset Management Sondra Nielsen, Malone stated why DESC was building in Burien-

“One of the reasons we want to create supportive housing in Burien is because we are aware of the need there already,” DESC Executive Director Malone said. “It is important to DESC that this project will serve people already experiencing homelessness in Burien.” 

The Reality of Who Will Benefit

Sadly, DESC Burien will never be occupied by a majority of the Burien homeless. The King County Regional Homelessness Authority will decide who will live in the 95-room, all-single-men facility. As then Council member Krystal Marx put it in 2021, the Burien DESC was “To be a release-valve for Seattle’s and King County’s homelessness problem.” In the later stages of DESC adoption, the Burien City Council lobbied for 30% of the housing to be set aside for the Burien homeless. However, there is no definition of what constitutes a Burien homeless resident. King County never submitted a binding legal letter giving a long-term guarantee to this provision.  

In the beginning, Constantine promised county funding, urging Burien Council members to give DESC its AHDP status under the Burien Comp Plan to house Seattle and King County homeless. By pushing DESC into Burien, the County could offload Seattle’s homeless, mentally ill, substance-involved, and most severely disabled King County residents and their expenses to Burien. Burien residents and businesses would bear those costs, public safety dangers, and impacts. King County finally committed $5.24 million to develop this DESC project. The rest would come from DESC even though it was represented as strapped for money, saying the only way it could develop a new project in Burien was to get the special AHDP exemptions that other developers were not allowed. These exemptions come with significant expenses to Burien taxpayers in revenue losses to the city for the next 50 years!

Who Is Funding, Building, and What is the Cost?

From the start, questions were asked about whether the King County sources allegedly used to finance this housing could legally allow such an agreement. At the time, the DESC housing development was to cost $18 million. On Jan.29, 2023, Burien residents, via a business media announcement, learned that Dominion (a Minnesota-based corporation) is now the developer of the Burien DESC project. The project will cost $38.5 million. An increase in the cost of $20.5 million for DESC with no explanation to the public about why the developer has been changed or why the costs have soared by over 100%. Should this even still be an AHDP-qualified project? At $38.5 million, each of the 95 studio apartments costs $405,000. 

Bait and Switch?

Nothing has been open, transparent, or honest about this DESC project since it was first presented to Burien residents and voted on by its council. And it appears not to be the same project that was brought for admittance to the AHDP status. If a project is not for the betterment of Burien, specifically its residents and businesses, then the County should refrain from making an aggressive effort to force it into an incorporated city. Why the “bait and switch” to Burien residents and businesses on:

Who will live there? 

How much it will cost? 

And who will develop the facility? 

Burien residents and businesses have said they don’t want this DESC project in this area due to the added emergency services needs and expenses, crime level, increased illegal drug use, and public safety dangers it brings to Burien residents, families, children, and businesses.

If you have questions; Please contact planning@burienwa.gov – Burien City Council, 

Council@burienwa.gov – Burien City council,   adolfob@burienwa.gov– Burien City Manager, 

info@desc.org The CEO of DESC is Dan Malone, 3rd Ave, Seattle, Washington, 98104, (206) 464-1570 



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