By Martin Barrett
Burien turns 30 on March 3rd. Much has changed since 1993. There have been some improvements. Burien has become more diverse, with residents from around the world. Burien has more restaurants abounding in various ethnic foods. Old Town has been revitalized, led by lifetime resident Danny House’s Tin Room Bar; this renaissance in Old Town has now moved down to 4th avenue on 152nd Street. Our hospital has grown and expanded its services.
Kitty Milne welcoming folks to Burien
Some things have stayed the same. 153rd is still undeveloped. Burien is still under the thumb of the County and Seattle dictates. Ambaum Boulevard is torn up due to County demands. DESC is coming, due to county manipulation of our Burien Council and Planning Commission. The Port of Seattle still disregards us. We need to figure out how to develop a hospitality industry as a benefit of being next to a major airport. We have spent the funds creating a park at City Hall that many residents are too afraid to use due to open drug selling and use. The Burien Library is under siege by a tent village on the outside and loitering men and their carts on the inside. We may now have less transparency in our local government.
“We incorporated because King County sent us the projects they did not want in Seattle or Bellevue. Low-income housing and the third runway were major issues that motivated the residents to work together. Additionally, we wanted Burien to retain the small-town feel,” said Kitty Milne, the second Mayor of Burien.
Kitty was on the six-month temporary council in 1993 that put together the agreement with King County and other government agencies, which made Burien a city. Milne then served on the council from 1993 to 2000. “Starting a city is hard. I worked in the school district. In the beginning, council responsibilities consumed an additional 40 hours of my time weekly. We had so many issues to address”, said Milne.
At the time of incorporation, a critical issue was Seahurst Park, a county asset; the county wanted to put high-density apartments all around the park and up the hill. According to Milne, Burien took on the park, and one of the first things the new council did was to repeal the zoning crowding Seahurst Park.
The program for the Celebration of Incorporation
“We wanted Burien to be a small town with small restaurants and shops. The county had plans to put in 2 12-story office buildings downtown. They wanted to make Burien into a business hub next to the airport to keep folks from coming into Seattle”, said Milne.
Milne was pensive when asked how successful we have been in achieving the goals. “We are still under the thumb of the county and Seattle. They do what they want here: DESC, Ambaum, the 3rd runway, but now we have the added expense of a city government on top of the county,” Milne said sadly.
It was hard to hear how far the City Council and staff have moved from the original vision of a city that made decisions based on what was best for the residents of Burien, (not King County or some other outside interest group.) But even in the sadness of hearing this, I could also hear her love for Burien. The vision has not died in Kitty Milne. May it not die in us, either. Burien is worth fighting for!