Community meeting

VIDEO: Sunrise Financial Services hosts community meeting on DESC facilities on Thursday

Story, photos and video by Scott Schaefer

On Thursday evening, June 3, 2021, Vanessa Potts and Janice Hammond of Burien’s Sunrise Financial Services hosted a community meeting about the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) supportive housing project in Burien.

As we have previously reported, DESC wants to build 6-story, 85-unit supportive housing at 801 SW 150th Street. This has been a real hot issue for the city lately, and is pending approval by Burien’s Affordable Housing Demonstration Projectand may be voted on at a board meeting on Monday, June 14, 2021.

In a noble attempt to get more public input on this proposal and strategize how to effectively develop a better outcome, the two hosts have done their best to argue and arbitrate a sometimes uncontrollable public forum on this homegrown issue. controversial. Well deserved congratulations to them and their staff for doing this.

And it was clear that they had both invested a lot of time and energy in this effort.

Seen at the meeting: Mayor Jimmy Matta, Council Member Kevin Schilling, City Manager Brian Wilson, as well as former Council Member Debi Wagner and 2021 candidates Patty Janssen and John White. Local businessman Danny House was also present, along with several other familiar and less familiar locals. As far as we can tell, no one from DESC was present.

Outside the sidewalk meeting was a group of protesters – including 2021 Council candidate Charles Schaefer (no relation to Scott Schaefer) showing support for DESC. Inside was a crowd of around 30-40 mostly unmasked, mostly worried residents, most of whom were very eager to share their thoughts.

While there were no forks or flames visible, controlling this meeting was no easy task from the start, as one attendee started things off by interrupting the hosts’ opening comments. While Potts and Hammond referenced a large sign they posted on the wall asking attendees to be patient, be kind, and not interrupt, there was at least one person who didn’t. apparently didn’t get the memo and often started talking loudly as the hosts tried to talk. More than once they were warned and told that they would be kicked out of the meeting, but that never happened.

“Before we continue, I’ll let you know what my plan is for the rest of the evening, and if you disagree with me, now is probably a good time for you to leave,” Potts said. to the crowd halfway through the meeting.

Despite the interruptions, Potts and Hammond persevered, discussing several issues they felt needed to be raised at the upcoming Burien City Council public hearing on June 14 on the subject (a list of their questions is below).

VIDEO: Sunrise Financial Services Hosts Community Meeting on DESC Facilities Thursday 2Some of the issues discussed included:

    • Will DESC go ahead and build the facility even if it is not approved for the City of Burien Affordable Housing Demonstration Pilot?
    • Is there a way to prioritize the homeless in Burien?
    • What standards are tenants held to? What is the eviction procedure?
    • What precautions are taken to reduce burglaries, vandalism, public drug use and trafficking?

A staff member helped the hosts time the audience commentary with a bell ringer. More than once the bell was ignored by commentators, despite the staff member’s valiant efforts to ring it again and again. Sometimes it felt like the end of a boxing round with the bell ringing repeatedly (one Facebook commenter said, “Glad I’m not Pavlov’s dog!”).

No one ever said it was easy to organize an open community meeting on a complex local issue like housing for the homeless. But again, we applaud the community spirit displayed by Sunrise Financial in facilitating this important gathering.

Here are some resident comments we heard at the meeting (NOTE: due to poor audio, some of them are paraphrased):

Danny House: “The problems come down to this – they (DESC) started being dishonest. They don’t place any Burien people there, nor 25 veterans of Burien. And the director of housing said that. We don’t know the answers, and asking these questions means we’re neither against nor for it. The fear is that they come in and crush us…”

Mayor Jimmy Matta: “I had a conversation with the county executive (Dow Constantine) and had a lot of questions for him. I want to hear from you, but I don’t like being yelled at. I want to ask these questions and if they don’t answer them, we have a problem… I want to see locals housed here.

Chuck Rangel: “I’m still waiting for the aspect of affordability and the definition of affordability? What happens if they (the residents) have no more income? »

John White: “What matters to the hearing is just one question: are they or are they not eligible for the city’s affordable housing program? That’s what you have to focus on. »

VIDEO: Sunrise Financial Services Hosts Community Meeting on DESC Facilities Thursday 3

The meeting lasted approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, and below is an almost raw video of the meeting (including all interruptions), with an edit from when our cellular signal died and we had to restart our Facebook live stream (you might enjoy reading all Facebook post comments here). We did our best to de-noise and smooth the audio as well, but were constrained by the unexpected disruptive chatter from the audience and the limitations of the microphone:

(courtesy Sunrise Financial Services)

    • Where do DESC tenants get their money? How is their rent paid? Is it taken directly from their government funding? Or do they write a check to DESC every month?
    • What notifications have been sent to local businesses regarding this proposal?
    • Do you have a list of companies that have been notified, informed of the project and also documented in recognition?
    • Are there local businesses supporting this project?
    • What happened in Renton?
    • Why DESC chooses Burien now?
    • Are there regulations on risk reduction policy?
    • Other DESC facilities have adjacent clinics, what’s the plan here?
    • Will there be an agreement with local hospitals and clinics?
    • What is the strategy to encourage rehabilitation? What immediate medical and counseling resources are available?
    • What employment resources are available?
    • What percentage of tenants join the company on a routine basis?
    • What community can we watch with proven statistics?
    • What community has been documented and proven that a proposal of this nature can actually get the homeless off their own streets?
    • What is the average age of their tenants? How long do they live in DESC custody?
    • How many staff will be available and versed in what type of resources?
    • Are there volunteers cleaning up discarded needles since DESC started distributing them?
    • What standards are tenants held to? What is the eviction procedure?
    • Can we see a copy of the rental agreement?
    • Is there a three-hit system you’ve come out with?
    • What precautions are taken to reduce burglaries, vandalism, public drug use and trafficking?
    • Is there a policy in place if a local resident or corporate member has a tenant dispute or accident?
    • Are background checks necessary before approving a tenant? What histories are allowed? Is it common knowledge?
    • Are evicted tenants invited to go with their loved ones? Returning to a refuge close to their original address? Is it possible to create something of this nature?
    • Is there a way to prioritize the homeless in Burien?
    • DESC released the following statement on the B-town blog: “Future tenants will likely already reside in Burien, but without safe and secure housing.
    • Our understanding is that this is not possible due to King County’s Coordinated Entry Program – does DESC know something that we don’t?
    • Will there be outreach to the local homeless population to enroll them in the Coordinated Entry Program?
    • What other targeted efforts will be made to educate Burien’s homeless population?
    • What will be done proactively? How is this really going to get homeless people off the rue de Burien? What is the logistics? How will this work?

If you have any other questions or concerns that you would like City Council and DESC to address, please email them to [email protected].