City of Burien responds to ACLU letter on repealing ‘body odor’ Ordinance #606

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Burien City Manager Kamuron Gurol released the following statement in response to a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union regarding the recently adopted Trespass Ordinance #606 (read our previous coverage here):

The City of Burien believes everyone should be able to access public facilities. As stewards of these spaces, we have an obligation to protect the public’s safety and health, and to ensure that one person’s use doesn’t prevent another from using a public space.

Burien recently adopted a Trespass Ordinance that provides police officers and local government staff with a tool for dealing with persons whose behavior is unreasonably disruptive to other users of publicly owned property. During its deliberations, the City Council discussed the importance of protecting all residents’ rights to access public spaces.

A recent letter from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) raised some issues regarding our Trespass Ordinance. We are currently reviewing the letter and plan to meet with them to discuss ways we can achieve our legitimate interest in maintaining safe and accessible public parks, facilities and offices.

We believe Burien’s policies are consistent with constitutional rights and protections. The Ordinance explicitly recognizes that members of the public have legitimate interests and rights regarding the use and enjoyment of City and other publicly owned property. The guaranteed right of appeal is an essential feature of the Ordinance.

We recognize that many problematic behaviors in our public spaces have roots in issues such as addiction and mental health problems. Over the past five years, the City has, through a 1% set aside, provided nearly $1 million from its General Fund to help fund human services and referral options. Our police training also includes techniques to de-escalate situations involving people experiencing a mental health crisis.

The City is committed to striking the right balance that provides for safe and accessible public spaces that are enjoyed by all while protecting civil liberties.

The city also posted an informational page on its website with this info:

Information on Trespass Ordinance
In order to be responsive to heightened interest in the recently adopted Trespass Ordinance we are posting the full ordinance and a media guide on our web site. The Trespass Ordinance was adopted to curb behavior that is dangerous, unsafe, illegal and unreasonably disruptive to help ensure our public buildings and parks are safe, welcoming and can be used by the public comfortably. Similar policies have been in effect at other public agencies for decades, including every King County Library branch and every Metro bus.

Below are documents that contain information on the ordinance, what it does and does not do, and how it works. Included are media statements, a summary of the ordinance, and the adopted ordinance itself. Adopting and applying public policy involves making informed decisions and the City conducted a fair process with discussion and deliberation along the way. It is important that residents, business owners and visitors have good information about Burien, and the City will continue to honor that goal.

The ordinance, which was passed by the City Council with a 6-1 vote on Aug. 18, has resulted in much media attention, both national and international; here are just a few links from a simple Burien + “body odor” search (according to Google, this returns ~13,900 results; according to, it returns 17,700 results):

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26 Responses to “City of Burien responds to ACLU letter on repealing ‘body odor’ Ordinance #606”
  1. Randy Johnson says:

    Burien is RAPIDLY becoming a place I no longer feel welcome, nor care to live.
    My city government DOES NOT represent me, my family, our values or ideals.

    In fact, over all, I’d have to say they are all pretty much douche bags.

  2. Burien Dad says:

    Burien City Leaders, hey have you smelled yourselfs lately, because you all stink.
    King 5 news is reporting you all are gonna Eat Crow and reverse the ban, you have the entire state laughing at you now.
    Vote No On The Highline School Bond…..No!

    • Black Chaz says:

      Burien dad,
      Tell your kids don’t do what they think is right because you might get laughed at. Good for the council to stand for something. Unlike the usual stand for something depending on it’s popularity. You are the perfect example of a sheep, just follow the a** in front of you. Oh, no King 5 said your going to eat crow…..oooooh, I better bow down to the so well respected news channel. BAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH.

      • John says:

        Well said this issue is a lot deeper than the shallow way Burien Dad views it.
        As one of the public who likes to use the library I like to think I have rights too.

        • Randy Johnson says:

          We ALL have rights.
          This includes the homeless, the middle class and those who are just plain stinky, or don’t fall in line with what the rest of us think is normal, or acceptable.
          While I do NOTT have the right to endanger others, I DO have the right to offend anyone, with thought, appearance or words.
          Smokers STINK. Does this mean we can have them trespassed if our delicate sensibilities are offended ? Many of us douse ourselves in colognes, body sprays, etc. If I do not approve of your scent, do I get to call 911 ?

  3. Ken C says:

    I still hope that if this body ordinance survives that it also be applied to people who wear too much perfume or cologne. There are people who I think bathe in that stuff before they go out and their stink travels much further and persists longer than a stinky homeless persons smell does.

  4. Question Authority says:

    Boo Hoo, feel free to spend time around any and all of the problematic reasons the City enacted the ordinance and your opinions will certainly change. Don’t like living in Burien, move out to your perfect utopia and let me know when and if you ever find it.

  5. Rob says:

    The City council is suppose to Represent the entire city, and that includes those who cannot or do not have homes in the city. Our city council did not do that. Shame on them.

    • John says:

      I think the issue here is that the City Council is looking out for the public good .
      It appears that you advocate that the rights of the transient homeless to pollute a public area should trump the rights of the non-homeless. As a permanent resident of Burien I disagree.

    • Chris Reed says:

      I simply don’t understand why people are so upset about what is seemingly a very minor change to the city code. Here’s the section of the code:

      (4) Behavior that is “unreasonably disruptive to other users” is behavior that is not
      constitutionally protected and that unreasonably interferes with others’ use and enjoyment of publicly owned property. Behavior that is unreasonably disruptive to others, includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:

      (a) Use of unreasonably hostile or aggressive language or gestures, or

      (b) Unreasonably loud vocal expression or unreasonably boisterous physical behavior,
      (c) Using electronic or other communication devices in a manner that is unreasonably
      disruptive to others, or

      (d) Wearing insufficient clothing for the location’s use (e.g. no top, no bottom, no
      shoes), or

      – 3 –
      R:/CC/AAA Ordinances/Ord606 Trespass Warnings

      (e) Bodily hygiene or scent that is unreasonably offensive to others, or

      (f) Unreasonably interfering with the free passage of staff or patrons in or on public
      property, or

      (g) Behavior that is unreasonably inconsistent with the normal use for which the
      publicly owned property was designed and intended to be used(e.g. bathing, shaving,
      or washing clothes in a public bathroom or skateboarding in a public parking area or

      Why is bad to enact a rule that gives the government the authority to prohibit or trespass those who have offensive bodily odor? What this really applies to, is the person who is intoxicated and who has also defecated or urinated themselves to the point where it is indeed disruptive to the public. Believe me–I’ve seen this first hand. I don’t really care who you are, or what your circumstances are (homeless, mentally ill, whatever), you should be prohibited from the public place if you’re odor is unsanitary and/or reasonably offensive someone or somebody.

      This isn’t an indictment against the homeless or any other particular group. It was enacted because a problem existed, and this revision gives the authorities the means to trespass people who fall within the parameters of the code.

      Like I’ve said before, people are making this into something more than it actually is. Move along folks, there’s more important things to worry about. Sheesh….

  6. John Farrar says:

    When Civil Municipalities such as cities, counties, states, etc create statutory instruments like acts, statutes, codes, ordinances they can can project how much revenue can be created based on statistics that are kept. These statistics are not unlike what insurance companies maintain on their industries. Based on those statistics and the anticipated fee associated with a proposed statute, municipalities can project the number of citations combined with the fee for a revenue total. They sell the rights to collect in the open market. So Pemco, Citibank, Wells Fargo, or a retirement fund investor, etc may buy these collection rights at a discount on the face value nut it’s a windfall for the municipality generating the regulations.
    All that is required is good to poor propaganda to sell the idea to the general public. People have been carefully groomed to be emotionally dependent on authority figures and are generally incapable of questioning at a fundamental level.

  7. Chris Reed says:

    To City Manager Gurol: Don’t meet with the ACLU. Why waste your time on this any further? The revision to the city code is reasonable, and this city’s response is more than adequate.

    What is UNreasonable is all of the fervor regarding what is seemingly a minor change to the city code.

    • What About... says:

      Just like M 80s…making it illegal to wreck someone else’s space by smell or sound and fire isn’t going to be enforced anyway.

  8. Jace says:

    Shocking how much of our money is going to waste. Could definitely be better spent. Hope they don’t start asking us for more money.

  9. Joey Martinez says:

    A community is judged by how the most vulnerable amongst us is treated. THAT is why Burien is the laughing stock right now. Sweeping the problem under the rug does nothing to help those most vulnerable and in need.

    Thank you Council Member Berkowitz for voting NO against this ordinance.

    Joey Martinez

    • Chris Reed says:

      Ok Joey, how should we treat those who do not seemingly care about their condition, hygiene or generally about their own well-being? Caring for our vulnerable population is important (especially mitigating homelessness), but what–in your opinion–is the best way to handle the type of problem we’re talking about?

      BTW, what problem is being swept under the rug?

      I look forward to your reply.

      • Joey Martinez says:

        This ordinance, as written, would apply to that “sweet old gramma” who douses in perfume as much as it does to “Stinky Pete the hobo” YET the city has stated that this isn’t the intent. That, to me, is institutionalizing discrimination. This country has a history of writing broad laws but targeting them at specific groups. Once those laws have been in place for a while it takes a long time for an area to recover. I would hope we would have learned that by now. Even this area is still recovering from the Red-Lining of previous generations.

        Have you actually spoken to any of these individuals? Brushing them all as you put it, “who do not seemingly care about their condition, hygiene or generally about their own well-being” infers that you haven’t. I would say that a good portion are those who cannot care for themselves. Others I would place in a group of those who would want to but can’t afford to for any number of reasons. Very few, and I mean count on one hand, don’t care.

        I’d be proud to live in a community that offered public, controlled, industrial washers, and places for these individuals to wash. We can’t be the only ones, however. Every community should work to offer these services to our most vulnerable.

        I’d also be proud if we had a teen program for these kids who curse and spit (as an example) to go to. They get kicked out of the City Parks and Rec teen programs at 5pm or 6pm (last I’ve heard) a few blocks away.

        Then, without this ordinance in place, if we still have people breaking the rules and laws we can go after the real bad actors and clean up the real problem people. In this way you also do not institutionalize discrimination.

        And how to pay – make the teen portion and public washer and shower portions part of a community center that’s been in the plans for a long time. That or work some type of partnership with an organization like the Y or similar.

        If you’re asking why us, I will reply Why NOT us?

        Joey Martinez

        • Question Authority says:

          Leave the water play park next City Hall running all year, I’ll donate some soap.

        • Name (required) says:

          I would be for public bathing facilities, but unfortunately, they would be “misused.”

          • Joey Martinez says:

            Agreed, but if we can spare officers to sniff people……

            • Question Authority says:

              Are you kidding me, is your perception of reality so distorted that you think this ordinance is, or will be treated or enforced that bombasticly. It was enacted to address the absolute worst case scenerio/individual that has crossed the line while frequenting a City ownd property. You know we all noticed you disappeared from this blog for a while, can you please make it forever.

              • Joey Martinez says:

                There it is QA… But its not my perception that counts. I’m not saying they will, I think Burien PD is wonderful, but WHAT IF we had some “rogue Cop” situation. It’s their perception that counts.

                I have seen, heard, witnessed first hand and been a victim of that rogue cop. And it sucks. With this ordinance we open the door wide.

                You say intent of the law , and I say fine. But lock it down so there as little wiggle room and room for perception as possible. Enforce it evenly and equally, as all laws should be. Not written so they are only intended to apply to certain segments of the population.

                As a country we have done that too often and it must stop.

                Joey Martinez

  10. Janice Taylor (My Real Name) says:

    I bartended my way through college, and we had this one customer, Austin, who was a crazy ex-professor or shell-shocked veteran, depending on which town legend you believed. Austin did not have good hygiene, and I usually was the person who got to tell him it was bath time. Our criteria? If he came in and people moved away while wrinkling their noses, it was bath time. If I could smell him from five feet, it was bath time. I am not surprised at the “stink” this ordinance is making–the odor nuisance is rather subjective. However, while a community should work to accommodate individuals, if one person is impacting many others, the one should be making the change, be it bad language, hostile actions or body odor.

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