The City of Burien on Thursday (Aug. 21) issued a statement about an ongoing homeless problem in Annex Park, which is located at SW 146th and 4th Ave SW.
This location also hosts the Skate Park, with the area of concern being the grassy field located to the west and abutted by a hedge and fence. In addition, Burien Actor’s Theatre, Transform Burien and other organizations use the building to the north. A portable toilet is also located nearby.
Burien Evangelical Church – located on the other side of the fence at 500 SW 146th – apparently allows the homeless to sleep in their parking lot overnight, and during the day these same citizens spend time in the public park.
Over the last two to three months, The B-Town Blog has received numerous emails, phone calls, Facebook and text messages from Readers concerned about what’s been going on at this park. Publisher/Editor Scott Schaefer has personally visited the park many times, taken photos, observed and spoken with people present, but has never witnessed any illegal activities.
Burien Police are also well aware of this ongoing situation, and continue to monitor the scene.
“Burien is aware of community concerns regarding groups of apparently homeless adults and youth in local parks, and the City is taking actions to better ensure safe use for all,” reads a note on the city’s website . “Anyone who sees or suspects illegal behavior should call 911.”
As most every American should know, the First Amendment protects every citizen’s rights to “peaceably assemble” in public places like parks. Just because someone is homeless doesn’t – and shouldn’t – prevent them from enjoying the same rights as everyone else.
On a related note, the city’s recently-passed Ordinance 606 (read more here ) will go into effect on Tuesday, Aug. 26. This new law will allow police to issue trespass violations, “which will serve as an additional tool to address problematic behavior on public lands and facilities,” according to the city. Here’s an excerpt that lists definitions of “disruptive” behavior:
Here’s the city’s statement, as written by City Manager Kamuron Gurol:
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Annex Park – Homeless
The City of Burien is aware of neighborhood and community concerns regarding the Annex Park and other parks in the City where groups of apparently homeless adults and youth have been congregating. We are taking actions to ensure safe use of our public parks and facilities.
All visitors who are enjoying Burien’s park and recreational facilities are welcome, and all should feel welcome. The City recognizes the concerns we’re hearing, for example from families with children. All public uses of City parklands and facilities need to be consistent with City laws and rules. No one can camp or stay overnight, nor use illicit drugs, urinate or defecate on park grounds, damage facilities, or threaten others. Anyone who sees or suspects illegal behavior should call 911.
The City’s actions must also be consistent with constitutional rights and protections (speech, assembly), and we can’t ask someone to leave if no laws or rules are being broken. The situation at the Annex Park appears to have started with the church next door allowing overnight stays on their property. Overnighters at the church appear to have been climbing the fence and using the park during the day. City staff has spoken to church staff, and that conversation needs to continue.
This past Monday night, the City Council adopted a new trespass ordinance, effective next Tuesday, which will serve as an additional tool to address problematic behavior on public lands and facilities. Staff is already working on administrative rules to implement the ordinance. Our City Council wants our Police and City staff to implement our regulations fairly and incrementally, and, if needed, this tool can be employed to address behavior that is unsafe, dangerous, illegal, or against City rules.
We also know that the trespass ordinance is not the solution to homelessness, and the City Council has asked staff to schedule a study session in the coming weeks to learn more. We appreciate your patience as we work with the church and the people who are using the park. Again, please call 911 if you see or suspect illegal behavior.
– Kamuron Gurol