The Burien City Council passed a suite of renters’ protections Oct. 7 that aim to make renting a more secure experience as the suburban community begins to absorb some of the growth — and problems associated with it — radiating from Seattle.
The measures include just-cause eviction, which constrains landlords from evicting a household on a for any reason; installment payments for the security deposit, move-in fees and last month’s rent; a requirement that the property owner notify the city if they intend to sell a building that has units available at or below 80 percent of area median income; a rental-housing inspection program; and a “housing ombudsman” position to investigate housing disputes and educate on renters’ rights and conflict resolution.
The package of bills looks similar to measures passed in Seattle.
The city of Burien has been making moves to preempt some of the problems that rapacious growth has caused in Seattle. The city embraced the Community Court model as well as the expansion of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (lead), a program that brings case managers, police and prosecutors together to help low-level, repeat offenders access services and — ideally — avoid the criminal justice system.
A comedy of errors
A photo began circulating around the Seattle Twittersphere on the evening of Oct. 8. It showed what appeared to be an RV being towed to Councilmember Lisa Herbold’s house by a rented pickup truck.
The photo hit a nerve. Just days before, on Oct. 4, former City Council candidate Ari Hoffman had threatened to tow people’s vehicle residences from the streets around the Bikur Cholim Cemetery to the homes of nearby council members.
But Hoffman was observing Yom Kippur that night, making it unlikely that he was the perpetrator. Theories abounded. Accusations flew.
None were correct.
Unbeknownst to them, a young couple expecting a child towed their RV into the middle of a maelstrom in Seattle politics. They parked it on a residential street, never knowing that they happened to have left it in front of the home of a liberal city council member.
The reaction was swift. Shock jock Dori Monson told his listeners that a council member finally felt their pain.
“This is the nightmare with which residents have been living,” he said, referring to the RV, sitting on a residential street with no visible trash or other nefarious behavior surrounding it.
When one of his supposed fans tagged the vehicle with “Dori 4 Gov” in black spray paint, Monson celebrated again: “We do not condone the destruction of private property… but this is pretty funny! #RVGate #DerelictRV,” he posted on his show’s Facebook page.
This is the same radio personality who suggested that a young climate protester be taken from her parents for tagging City Hall with paint she believed to be removable chalk spray, but was more permanent.
According to the Seattle Times, the owners of the RV came back to their soon-to-be home, ready to clean it out and make it habitable, only to be greeted by news crews and angry neighbors. One threw a bottle at the pregnant woman and then threatened her with a knife when she returned the favor.
Activist Matt Watson, who shared the original image of the tow Tuesday night, began a fundraiser to help the family fix the damage to the RV and set them up for the immediate future. In two days, he raised more than $5,000.
According to The Seattle Times, Herbold offered to move her car to the street and let the couple use her driveway to avoid run-ins with law enforcement.
Seattle City Light released a report detailing the cause of an April collapse of 26 power poles, which injured two people.
The poles came down during a storm that spawned high winds and rain. Two of the poles at the center of the crash had extensive rot. When they went down, 24 others went with them.
According to the report, all of the poles had been inspected in 2016. Several had been classified as “P2,” meaning inspectors found it was necessary to replace other poles before they received attention. Three years later, it became clear that the “P2” category was too broad, according to the report.
City Light, which has been plagued with issues over the past several years, has committed to accelerating pole replacement and shifting funds from other capital improvement projects to support the work. What that means for the projects that will lose funding is unclear.
A three-alarm fire midday Oct. 7 on Ballard’s Market Street destroyed four businesses and damaged another. It took hours to control the blaze, and images of dense, black smoke filled Seattle social media.
No civilians were injured, although one firefighter was transported to Harborview Medical Center with minimal injuries, according to news reports.
The Ballard community swung into action to support the damaged businesses. Residents amassed $50,000 in two days through a GoFundMe set up by the Ballard Alliance, blowing through the initial $25,000 goal. Oct. 11, the goal was lifted to $75,000. By Oct. 14, just under $73,000 had come in.
Supercuts, the La Isla restaurant, Kitchen N Things and Octo Designs and Jewelers were considered “total losses,” and Pho Big Bowl sustained severe damage.
The Seattle Fire Department dispatched 150 firefighters to control the blaze. According to the department, the official cause will be declared “undetermined,” although it was likely electrical in nature.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
Read the full October 16 - 22 issue.
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