This has nothing to do with transit, but I think it’s an interesting story that does not get as much press as it deserves. The Seattle Weekly reports that Burien and Seattle have come to an agreement on the North Highline annexation. I’ve been following this for a little while, and if you’re not aware you can read the back story and what might happen in the future below the fold.

About 230,000 people in King County live in so-called “unincorporated” areas, that is, areas that do not have a municipal or “city” government. The county is responsible for providing municipal services like land-use and zoning, sewage, police and fire in these areas, and that makes King County the second largest municipal service provider in the state, after Seattle. The county can barely afford to provide these services, and in the case of police services, right now the county cannot pay for the services. In order to get away from the cost of providing these services, the county is encouraging the unincorporated areas to either get annexed by neighboring cities or incorporate into new cities. You can see a map of the ten largest urban unincorporated areas in the county here.

The county charged Burien, Sea-Tac and Seattle to investigate annexing part of the North Highline district in 2003. At first Burien was interesting in annexing just a portion of the area, and when Seattle said it wanted to annex the entire area, Burien followed suit. According to the Seattle weekly, this week Seattle has agreed to try to annex just the portion north of SW 116th St* (see a map of the area here), and Burien would try to annex the areas south of 116th, plus the Rainier Golf and County Club. That means about three-quarters of the area would go to Seattle. Adding that area would increase Seattle’s population by about 24,000 people, and increase the city’s limits by about four square miles.

There are still two large hurdles for the annexation to move forward. The State has a sales-tax credit for cities that annex unincorporated areas to help cover the costs of bringing the new neighborhoods into the fold. Both Burien and Seattle would need that credit to be able to afford the annexation, however, the State’s lax prohibits cities with more than 400,000 people from getting the credit (Seattle is the only city in the state with more than 204,000 people). So before Seattle could annex the area, the state legistlature would need to first change that law to include Seattle.

Even when that’s taken care of, the residents in North Highline would need to approve the annexation. With the county slashing services, and the cities able to provide far better than the county services before cuts, it’s looking more and more likely that area residents would favor being annexed. It should be interesting to see how this plays out over time.

*The weekly article misstates this as 116th Ave SW.

15 Replies to “Not Transit Related: North Highline Annexation”

  1. Thanks for posting this, I try to follow the issue but missed the news this time. As I know that this has been a major factor for North Highline, do you know what they will do with the South Park Bridge?

    Hopefully the residents of these areas will move the process along now that the County has cut their level of law enforcement, however I definitely understand those who have voted “no” in the past with the following mindset: “Why more taxes and more laws? I like to set off fireworks in the middle of southern Bellevue and raise more poultry than is legal in the surrounding city!” If these residents really love their enclave, they really should just form their own city or micro-city like Ruston.

    Finally, I have an idea for the county that would likely push the larger areas into the fold: upzone all of the R-4 parcels to allow skyscrapers, and the NIMBYs will take care of the rest. If they don’t, at least you can tax the resulting improvements. :-)

      1. Given the extremely poor condition of the bridge and how much of a danger it would be in an earthquake I hope somebody finds the funds to replace it. Stimulus package maybe?

      2. The South Park Bridge isn’t part of this annexation agreement. The tiny unincorporated area at the south end of the bridge, commonly called the “sliver by the river” can only be annexed by Seattle, not Burien because it is not contiguous to the rest of the unincorporated area of North Highline. The sliver by the river is bordered by the the cities of Tukwila and Seattle, mostly Seattle. It is my understanding King Co., Seattle, and our St. govt. are working to figure out a plan to pay for replacing the bridge.

      3. We had fun devising plans to find funds to replace the bridge in our logistics class. It included tolling, LIDs and property redevelopment, and King County selling Boeing Field, to name a few.

        The bridge is a critical link for industry and shipping used to bypass the congested 1st Ave Bridge also for the South Park business district. Maybe the Port of Seattle should take the funds from the Sea-Tac rental car facility and use it to fund replacing the bridge.

      4. Maybe some sort of Federal matching funds will cause the locals to get off their butts and fund the bridge replacement.

        Federal funds or not, it would seem having WSDOT, King County, Port of Seattle, Seattle, and Tukwila kick at least a little money in would be fair considering what a vital transportation link this is. Maybe if it was closed for safety reasons we’d stop fighting over who was going to pay for it and find a way to replace the bridge.

        I’m pretty sure this is structurally one of the worst bridges in the state. Bad enough that it should probably be red-tagged.

      5. According to King County, the bridge will have to be removed in 2010 if funding is not secured. The bridge scores only 4 out of 100 which is the lowest in the state. The removal itself will cost about $20 million. Replacement with a bascule bridge (the preferred alternative) costs at least $100 million.

        The bridge replacement project hasn’t reached final design yet. The current schedule is for bid advertisement and construction to begin in 2010.

  2. I grew up in White Center and I always thought it was Seattle. We had a Seattle Address and since I went to catholic school (in Seattle) I never knew we weren’t part of Seattle.

  3. Andrew, this isn’t exactly accurate–“At first Burien was interesting in annexing just a portion of the area, and when Seattle said it wanted to annex the entire area, Burien followed suit.”

    The City of Burien declared all of North Highline a Potential Annexation Area before the City of Seattle took that same action.

    Where did you get the information that the population of the part of North Highline that Seattle wants to annex is 24,000?

    The population of North Highline is approx. 32,000 per King County and the part that Burien is going to annex is approximately 14,000. I figure you can do the math.

    There are other problems in your post, but I don’t have time to correct them all.

  4. Just for the record, we broke this story on White Center Now (and republished it on West Seattle Blog, and tweeted it) THE NIGHT THE AGREEMENT WAS ANNOUNCED – two full weeks ago (during the Burien council session Monday 12/8/08) – no reason for regional media to have ignored it this long.

  5. RE: This quote by Tim Ceis,

    Partly in Seattle now Ceis said White Center “should be part of Seattle” because the portion of the neighborhood north of Southwest Roxbury Street already is in the city.

    The only reason people were led to believe that WC is in Seattle City boundaries is because Mayor Nickels’ entourage and the Seattle City taxpayers without their knowledge, has promoted it as White Center, giving 10’s of thousands of dollars to non-profits and SW Seattle groups to promote it as White Center making residents believe it is all one!
    Come visit our WC and see the maps on the Kiosk’s on 16th Ave. S.W. and 98th St. that you paid for creating make believe boundaries, just one of the many many little things added to WC for icing the fake cake.
    It never ceased to amaze me the extent they have gone too. It continues on.
    Feel free to look into SC Department of Neighborhood grants records, SC Department of Human Services grant records…you would be quite surprised, follow the money.
    SC tax payer’s money runs in circles filtering through all the NP’s for promoting annexation of North Highline to Seattle.
    SC residents should not have to pay for the SC Mayor’s greed and reckless spending sprees when he can’t even take care of their needs.

    Like the signs say,
    “No Annexation to Seattle”

    1. One other item–the unincorporated area of North Highline is far larger than just White Center. If both sides of Roxbury look the same, so do both sides of 128th St.

    2. Whatever, for every one of you “no to everything” crazies, there’s two of us. We don’t all want to be stuck in fucking statis down here.

      Keep your nut cases to yourself.

      1. I’m not sure where your from, but up here where I live we like open government where we can elect all of our officials. It’s not crazy to want an efficient open running government like the City of Burien has.
        Take a good look around Seattle and listen to what the residents say about their services. Their needs are not met. One perfect example is the homeless that come in masses off the buses from downtown Seattle that hang out in the core of WC. Go ahead and ask them why they come up here?
        Choice is awesome and you clearly confuse that with crazy. Sounds like your all ready seasoned to Seattle City Government where there are no choices.

  6. “It’s not crazy to want an efficient open running government like the City of Burien has.”

    Huh? What? Do you work for the City of Burien? They’re bankrupting the businesses along First Avenue South with their stupid utility undergrounding, and are burdening the rest of downtown with their grandiose “redevelopment”.

    Given a choice between the two, I’d choose Seattle in a heartbeat.

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