Burien Enters New Chapter with Port of Seattle

Alaska Airlines aircraft departs from Sea-Tac Airport with Mt. Rainier in background. Photo credit: Don Wilson, Port of Seattle.

Sea-Tac Airport is Burien’s largest and noisiest neighbor. For many Burien residents, the airport is synonymous with a good job. From building airplanes to working in the airline industry, or serving customers in the airport’s retail businesses, Sea-Tac Airport drives a complex economy that supports the flow of people and goods through our region.

✈️ Advocate for Burien and weigh in on issues relating to Sea-Tac Airport operations! Multiple volunteer advisory board positions are now open on both the Burien Airport Committee and SEA Stakeholder Advisory Round Table (StART). Learn more and apply by June 15.

However, it is undeniable that there are negative impacts from living next door to the airport. Noise and air pollution are of grave concern and have been a top interest for Burien leaders since our city’s incorporation in 1993.  

Grassroots groups of community members have formed coalitions to advocate for better legislation governing airport and airline operating procedures in order to protect the health and quality of life for our residents. Quiet Skies Coalition, among other active community members and groups, have been instrumental in organizing community support for action.

In recent years, the City of Burien, led by the Burien City Council, has implemented more permanent and institutional approaches to advocating for better protection for the Burien community. In 2016, the Burien City Council voted to create a Burien Airport Committee that was comprised of three councilmembers and six community members. The city manager serves as an ex-officio (non-voting) member. The stated purpose of the committee is to provide guidance to the Burien City Council on topics related to the airport, including both positive and negative impacts.

The Port of Seattle has also organized stakeholder groups to provide an opportunity for community members and elected officials to weigh in on airport operations. These include the SEA Stakeholder Advisory Round Table (StART) and Highline Forum. Burien staff and elected leaders participate in both groups, along with representatives from the six other cities impacted by airport operations.

Through the hard work and advocacy of community members, city staff, and elected leaders, important legislation designed to protect our community has been adopted. Some recent accomplishments include:

  • State and federal funding for studies on impact of ultrafine air particles on community health, third airport location, indoor air quality in schools, and other studies to determine community health impacts on airport communities.
  • A number of letters to state and federal officials detailing concerns about the airport’s impacts, including noise level standards.
  • State-funded report that combined feedback from community members and data to detail increased negative impacts of airport operations.
  • Successful lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration stating that airplanes were taking a new path over Burien that caused significant increase in noise pollution, and that a proper environmental review was not conducted. 

Despite these significant accomplishments, there is much more work to be done. The Burien Airport Committee and StART are beginning a new chapter in community-Port relations. The Port of Seattle has established grant programs to support economic and environmental projects in Burien. The Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP) will be issued this summer in draft form, and the community will have 60-90 days to weigh in. The City of Burien will join with neighboring cities to craft a response to the SAMP, but we are relying on interested community members to weigh in on the process. Environmental review of “near-term” projects is currently underway.

Get involved!

There is still time for community members to get involved! There are several volunteer advisory board positions open on both the Burien Airport Committee and StART. Learn more about how to apply to be a member of the Burien Airport Committee or StART. Applications will be accepted through June 15, 2021.

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Emily Inlow-Hood
Communications Officer at | More posts
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