Neighbors of Seahurst Park

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Please see our News page for information about the Settlement that NoSP and Westmark have reached that will protect Seahurst Park during future construction of Emerald Pointe.

Neighbors of Seahurst Park is still collecting donations to pay final bills for things like attorney costs, court fees for filing appeals, and technical consultants to contest the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Westmark Project. All contributions are sincerely appreciated.

All the work of running the group is done by unpaid volunteers. All funds raised go directly to the defense of the park

Current options for donating money are by mail, or by paying in person. Please see if you qualify for matching payments from your employer, donations to NoSP are tax deductible.

Neighbors of Seahurst Park are registered with the State of Washington as a Non-Profit Corporation. The IRS has approved out tax exempt status as a 501(c)3 entity. All donations made to NoSP after July 16, 2008 are tax deductible.


1. Who are the Neighbors of Seahurst Park?
2. Does this involve Park property or private property?
3. Why do you want to stop the Emerald Pointe Development?
4. Why doesn't Westmark have to follow current Sensitive/Critical Area regulations?
5. How long has this been going on?
6. How long has this particular Project been in the works?
7. Why do citizens need to do all this?
8. What is at risk from this Project?
9. How much of the Project Property is in a landslide hazard area?
10. How much of the Project Property is in a seismic hazard area?
11. How close to the Project are the Wetlands in the Park?
12. How big are the Wetlands?
13. What type of Wetlands are involved?
14. What sort of wildlife habitat is involved?
15. Has a Geotechnical study been done on the property?
16. What is the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)?
17. Why is the Emerald Pointe FEIS a problem?
18. What can be done about the FEIS?
19. How much will this cost?
20. Who is going to pay for it?
21. What can I do to help?
22. Where can I learn more about Seahurst Park?
23. Is anything currently happening on the site?
24. If I see construction work, how can I be sure it's legitimate?
25. What do I do if I suspect something isn't authorized?

We're still working on finishing the FAQ, so things will change a little bit in the next few days. Suggestions and comments are welcome. Last edit: 7/24/2008 11:08 AM

1. Who are the Neighbors of Seahurst Park?

Neighbors of Seahurst Park (NoSP) is a group of people who live near and/or enjoy Seahurst Park. You do not have to be an actual neighbor of Seahurst Park to enjoy it, people come from all over the State and beyond to use the Park. A large condominium development is being proposed on property at the North East corner of Seahurst Park. As proposed the Project will cause damage to wetlands and surrounding areas in the Park, and eventually to Puget Sound. Some members of the group have been involved in this effort for over 10 years and many people have contributed a great deal of time and money in personal efforts to protect Seahurst Park. Now that the Project has received the Final Environmental Impact Statement the group is becoming more organized in order to present a better defense for the Park. Please join in and help.

2. Does this involve Park property or private property?

Both. The Emerald Pointe Development would be built on private property owned by Westmark Development and directly adjoining the Northeast corner of Seahurst Park, which is owned by the City of Burien. But because of the steep slope and it's location, and the adjacent wetland in the Park, the effects of construction as currently proposed will have a devastating impact on parts of Seahurst Park, the creek that is sourced from the Wetlands, and the area of Puget Sound that receives water from the creek. Those areas belong to all of us. This Google Map shows the approximate boundary [in red] of the Project property and the adjoining area of the Park.

3. Why do you want to stop the Emerald Pointe Development?

NoSP does not want to stop the development, they just want it done responsibly. The developer has a right to try to make a profit off of his investment in the property. But he does not have a right to damage or destroy valuable and irreplaceable public property. Like any normal investment, a profit is not guaranteed, he must make good decisions and abide by applicable regulations.

4. Why doesn't Westmark have to follow current Sensitive/Critical Area regulations?

Because of the way that the laws in Washington State are written, when someone files the original application to develop property, they are vested under many of the current building regulations in place at that time. Hazards that pose a threat to public safety and welfare are generally considered to not be vested, and there may be other exceptions. Washington's current vesting law was written in the 1950's and is badly out of date. 46 other States have stricter regulations, basically requiring that some sort of actual work be done in order to obtain and retain vested rights. The amount of work required varies from State to State, but Washington's regulations are among the very loosest. A discussion of the status and effect of the current Washington laws is available in this 1998 report from the Land Use Study Commission.

5. How long has this been going on?

Vesting has been a contentious issue in the State of Washington for many years. Developers naturally want to know what regulations they'll need to follow as they progress through the various stages of their Project. It would not be fair if they had a Project half built, then the Government changed some rules that required them to knock it down and start over. On the other hand, it is also not fair that they be allowed to sit on a piece of property for decades without doing any significant work, then start the project using regulations that are now many years out of date. It's important that a reasonable compromise be reached on this. Lynda Mapes of the Seattle Times wrote a good article about vesting and the Emerald Pointe Development.

6. How long has this particular Project been in the works?

Westmark filed their first permit application in February 1990 when King County implemented new Land Use Regulations and informed everyone that newer, stricter regulations would go into effect in September 1990. Because of that filing, Westmark is vested under the February 1990 regulations rather than the slightly stricter September 1990 regulations. Critical Area Ordinances have been modified several times since then, but Westmark retains their vesting under the earliest version. Originally King County had jurisdiction, but began the process of transferring the area after the City of Burien incorporated in 1993. For various reasons [caused by both the developer and Government] nothing significant happened on the Project for many years. Eventually Westmark sued the City of Burien in Snohomish County Superior Court and won a judgment for $10.7 million dollars. Burien lost their appeal to the State Court of Appeals, and on July 9, 2008 the Washington State Supreme Court declined to hear an additional appeal.

7. Why do citizens need to do all this?

The rules and regulations that Government is supposed to follow are usually written to deal with specific situations. Over time circumstances change and the rules often need to be rewritten, or at least interpreted in a way that deals with new circumstances or knowledge. Sometimes government is proactive about that, sometimes it takes input from citizens. And sometimes it takes a lot of input from citizens. The good news is that with the backing of enough concerned citizens, changes can be achieved. Please help support NoSP in this effort.

8. What is at risk from this Project?

Since the Developer is vested under 1990 Sensitive Area Ordinances, they are not required to provide adequate protection to the wetlands on and adjacent to the Project. There is also some debate about what geotechnical and seismic regulations the Developer needs to follow. Because of that, there is a serious likelihood of land slides and erosion runoff. Clearing of the site would also affect the light levels into the wetlands and introduce invasive species into the adjoining park area. When the wetlands are damaged that will affect the creek that flows out of the wetlands through the North Basin in Seahurst Park and into Puget Sound. There is also a salmon hatchery on the same creek, and that could be at risk too.

9. How much of the Project Property is in a landslide hazard area?

According to the City of Burien's Critical Areas Map (which is being updated as of June 2009), the majority of the site is in a Landslide and Steepslopes (>40%) area. The developer plans to clear the Project Site and allow some of it to sit empty for several years as the construction is done in phases. Once the site is cleared the peak danger period is between 3 and 9 years after clearing, as the original roots die and rot away and until the regrowth roots become widespread and strong enough to provide new stability. Of course in this case, it would be at about the period of greatest landslide danger that the Developer would move onto the lower slops for the construction in that area, further increasing the risk. Greenbelt Consulting has an article titled SHORELINE MANAGEMENT AND STABILIZATION USING VEGETATION that includes a chart [Figure 2] showing the root strength deterioration over time. As well as numerous other good resources.

10. How much of the Project Property is in a seismic hazard area?

The Project site is not listed as a Seismic Hazard on the Burien Critical Area Map. However, because of the steep slopes [generally greater than 40%] and the different layers of material below the surface, there is a risk of sliding in a severe quake. See Figure 4 on page 13 of Appendix B - Part 1 (3,298 KB PDF file) in the Seahurst Park Master Plan. The various layers can actually be seen in different parts of the Park. There's a clay layer at approximately the level of the wetlands below the Project [the reason that the subsurface water comes to the surface] and a layer of gravel in spots. There are other layers of different materials.

11. How close to the Project are the Wetlands in the Park?

A small portion of the Wetlands are actually on the North West corner of the Project Site. The majority of the wetlands are below the Project Site, but begin along the property boundary. The pages related to the Wetlands that used to be on Seahurstpark.org have been moved to our site and are available here. They have not been updated for a while, but all the information is still valid.

12. How big are the Wetlands?

The portion of wetlands on the Project Site is approximately 0.14 acres. That is the portion of wetlands furthest uphill, and the only portion of the wetlands that have been properly identified. The wetlands extend from there all the way down to Puget Sound at the foot of the North Creek Basin. The City of Burien has refused to delineate the wetlands in spite of receiving petitions with the signatures of several hundred people asking that they do so. So until we are able to hire our own hydrologists all we can do is estimate the size, but they appear to cover an area of approximately 30 acres.

13. What type of Wetlands are involved?

The small portion of wetlands on the Project Site were identified by the Developers consultants as Forested Palustrine Wetlands. Without an expert opinion we can't say for sure, but the rest of the basin appears to include Slope Wetlands, Riverine Wetlands and prior to the County building a road and seawall along the shore in 1972, there were almost certainly Estuarine wetlands at the lower end of the basin.

14. What sort of wildlife habitat is involved?

The project site is primarily approximately 100 year old second growth, mixed deciduous-coniferous forest. The understory includes Salmonberry, red elderberry, Indian plum, Oregon ash, red huckleberry, evergreen huckleberry, Oregon grape and Salal. The Wildlife portion of the Environmental Impact Statement primarily cites other studies and the types of animals potentially occurring in an area like the Project site. There were several wildlife studies done, one in 1991, one in 1992 and two in 2006. The first two were reviews of other studies done in the area, none on the specific site. The 2006 surveys consisted of short [less than one day each] site visits looking at several elements in addition to wildlife. Species potentially found on the Project Site include the western pond turtle, great blue heron, bald eagle, pileated woodpecker, and peregrine falcon. Other than the western pond turtle, all of those species have actually been seen on the property or in adjacent sections of Seahurst Park. Species not mentioned in the EIS but known to exist in the area include foxes, raccoons, owls, golden pheasant, coyotes and deer.

15. Has a Geotechnical study been done on the property?

No proper geotechnical study has been done. The EIS says that based on several site visits in 2006 and 2008, geotechnical experts determined that the [upper slopes] of the Project site appear to be stable and do not exhibit prior instability, indicating that the property was stable (i.e. no landslides) following the 2001 magnitude 6.8 Nisqually earthquake. The upper slopes were not identified by King County in 1990 as being within a landslide susceptible area. Areas with slopes of greater than 40% are identified on the City of Burien's Critical Areas Map as a landslide hazard area based on these slopes. However, current City regulations for critical areas do not apply.

There is a big difference between determining that a site just didn't slip in a single recent earthquake and that it's actually stable. Landslide Hazard areas and Seismic Hazard areas are different classifications. While part of the property wasn't listed as a landslide hazard on the 1990 King County maps, part of it was. And updated surveys since then have resulted in all of the Property being listed on current landslide hazard maps. Additionally, Health and Safety regulations are not vested, and landslide hazards are definitely a safety hazard. What determinations were reached in the EIS also don't account for the added risks once the land is cleared for construction, including the fact that some of the land will be cleared then left to sit for at least several years before it is properly stabilized. Even without landslides, the potential for erosion into the Park and it's wetlands is immense. For an extreme example of what can happen when steep slopes are cleared see this Seattle Times article. Also see the Greenbelt Consulting article linked to in Question 9

16. What is the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)?

An Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] is required when there is a determination that there could be significant environmental impacts resulting from a project. King County first decided that this Project needed an EIS in the early 1990s. When Burien took over the administration of the project, that decision changed, then changed back after citizen actions. There are 3 stages to an EIS: 1) The Scope, which lays out the items of concern that need to be addressed, 2) the Draft Environmental Impact Statement [DEIS] which is the preliminary version explaining in detail the potential affects and the steps that will be taken to mitigate those impacts if necessary, public comments are requested, and concerns are addressed in the 3) Final Environmental Impact Statement [FEIS]. The FEIS is then the blueprint laying out what measures the Developer has to take to prevent potential environmental damage from the Project. The FEIS guides the permit process for the entire Development.

17. Why is the Emerald Pointe FEIS a problem?

There are a number of problems with the FEIS. The original SCOPE for the FEIS was issued in 1996 [?] and a number of areas that the SCOPE identified were not addressed, and no explanation is given for why they weren't included. Of those items that were addressed, many did not receive a full analysis, including the fact that no geotechnical analysis was done. Some major items like landslide hazards were simply brushed off by saying that they would be addressed during the permitting process. However the landslide hazard on the site may be serious enough to stop or significantly modify the development, so that is something that needs to be resolved before the permitting process advances. The FEIS also did not adequately address what ordinances are vested, and which will need to follow current ordinances. For instance, the FEIS repeated states that they are using 1990 landslide and seismic hazard maps, however those are Health and Safety issues, which are not considered to be vested.

18. What can be done about the FEIS?

Unfortunately it's up to the citizens to make sure that the Development is done safely. This will almost certainly require court action. The FEIS was released on June 10, 2008. On June 20 NoSP filed an appeal with the City of Burien regarding the EIS. There is some question about whether this appeal was necessary, but due to some ambiguity and conflicts in the Burien Municipal Code it couldn't be determined for sure. So to avoid missing a potential and irrevocable deadline we filed the appeal. We are waiting for a decision on that appeal, and if it's determined to be valid we'll go before a Hearing Examiner. Whether or not the first appeal is valid, we also plan to file appeals in court for each permit that does not properly address our concerns about the Project. If the City does not require adequate mitigation from the developer, we will go to court to try and force them to do it correctly.

19. How much will this cost?

The final cost will depend on how much legal action is required, how many expert witnesses we need, and how many times we need to go to court. The experts and the attorney are not cheap. At a minimum it will cost many thousands of dollars.

20. Who is going to pay for it?

The friends and neighbors of Seahurst Park will be paying the costs. But that includes more than the people in the official group NoSP. It will take support from many people. We have already raised significant amounts of money, much of it from our own pockets. But we need the support of many more people to make this a success. Please consider at least a one time donation, and ideally a recurring donation of whatever amount you can afford. If you can't afford to donate money, we can also use donations of time. See our Donation page for details and suggestions. None of the citizens who are working on this project have received any payments for their efforts. The only ones who will be paid for their time are the technical experts and the attorneys.

21. What can I do to help?

We can always use donations of money to help pay legal expenses and to pay for technical experts. We can also use donations of time, from something as simple as helping to spread the word, to technical advice from those who have the knowledge and training. Please see our Donation page.

22. Where can I learn more about Seahurst Park?

Seahurstpark.org has information about the Park. Their Links page also includes links to other sites related to the Park, including the Burien Parks Department who are responsible for taking care of the Park.

23. Is anything currently happening on the site?

As of early August 2008 there is no construction or clearing going on on the Westmark property. At this time there are no permits granted that would allow construction to start. However, there are pending projects on two adjacent sites. The old school buildings on SW 136th will be demolished soon. And an old house and garage on property due north of that will also be demolished soon and construction started on a residential apartment complex. There's also the possibility that Westmark will be demolishing the abandoned house along 12th Ave SW just north of SW 134th. The first two are unrelated to Westmark, the last one is just a cleanup job, and is not the start of major work.

24. If I see construction work, how can I be sure it's legitimate?

The first thing to do is make certain that what you're seeing isn't one of the three projects mentioned in item 23. The School building demolition will be strictly demolition at this point, and there is no timetable yet that we're aware of. The Apartment project will start pretty soon [ late summer 2008?] and move directly into the construction phase. There is no timetable and no permit [yet] for the demolition of the abandoned house on 12th Ave SW. If you want to track the permits you can go to Mybuildingpermit.com and check the status. Choose Burien from the drop down list for Jurisdiction. Then enter the following Parcel numbers one at a time in the Parcel Number box and press enter. Or you may click on the Permit Numbers below to go directly to the current status for that permit. This Quarter Section Map {PDF format] from King County lists the Parcel numbers in very small print.

If clicking on the links to the individual permits doesn't work, open another window/tab to the Mybuildingpermit.com page and choose Burien as the City. After that the links may work. If not you'll need to enter [or copy and paste] each parcel number into the form and go from there.

Westmark: Highline Mental Health: Burien Heights Limited Partnership
(Demolition began on August 26, 2008. Grading and construction will follow.)

25. What do I do if I suspect something isn't authorized?

If possible check for updated permit status using the above links. If you think unauthorized demolition or construction activity is occurring and it's within business hours call the Burien Building Division at (206) 248-5521 or (206) 248-5520. You may also call Jim Bibbe, City Code Inspector at (206) 248-5507. Or the front desk at City Hall at (206) 241-4647. Explain what you see and what your concern is, they should be able to tell you over the phone if there's a current permit for what you see. If necessary someone from the City will come and check. If it's outside of business hours dial 9-1-1 and tell them you have a non-emergency. Explain that you think that unauthorized clearing/demolition/whatever is going on. They can send an officer to check. Burien codes require that any permitted activity has a City issued permit on site while the work is being done. If they don't have a permit on site, they can be shut down until the permit is verified.


To find out what you can do, please see our How to Help page.
Neighbors of Seahurst Park
13229 12th Ave. SW #212
Burien, WA 98146


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