BurienCC040416-500 By Jack Mayne The Burien City Council voted 5 to 2 to pass an ordinance banning junk vehicles stored or abandoned on private property in the city, with Councilmembers Lauren Berkowitz and Austin Bell suggesting such a law would be targeting poor people. But the Council voted at their Tuesday night (April 4) meeting to reject extension of the CARES animal control contract from expiration of Aug. 31 to the end of January 2017 because members wanted additional information about the cost and ability of King County to potentially take over animal control in the city. Removing junk cars State law gives cities the authority to adopt ordinances establishing procedures for the removal of junk vehicles or vehicle parts from private property. But to do that, the city needed to adopt an ordinance outlining what qualifies as a junk vehicle. The new ordinance incorporates state law that provides the costs of the removal of the junk vehicle may be charged to the “last registered owner of the vehicle” or to the owner of the property where it is located. The Burien ordinance says the city “will likely have to front some of the cost of removal, including fees for towing away the vehicle, and it may not be possible to recoup these costs in some cases” and provides $25,000 to do that. There were opponents and supporters of the ordinance amongst public commenters. [caption id="attachment_98249" align="alignleft" width="225"]JoshFerris040416 Josh Farris, from “Planet Earth.”[/caption] Josh Farris, who says he is from “Planet Earth,” and well known in Burien from previous homeless demonstrations as well as being a defeated candidate for Seattle City Council last year, told the Council the proposed ordinance would force police to harass people. “It is an ordinance that targets poor people, and yet you don’t do anything (about what) actually causes poverty,” he said, adding the proposal “is repugnant and unconstitutional.” Homeless person Gabriella Duncan said the law would direct police toward “people who live in their vehicles,” adding that she has seen marked improvement in the mental stability of people who have a car to live in versus living out in the open. She said she was opposed to anything that would target people living in their cars. Earl Conley of Boulevard Park said a neighbor “for years and years has done nothing but collect vehicles and just let them sit there and rot.” Once some of his vehicles were forced away by the King County Sheriff, but the owner just bought more vehicles to put on his property, but never does anything with them, Conley said. He said he understands and supports people living in their vehicles “but I live across the street from a guy that used none of these vehicles … I want to see this bill pass.” Homeless not targeted Pamela Staeheli said the ordinance is not targeting people who live in their cars, and “I have a few who live in my neighborhood – they move, they keep their area clean.” She said she has nearby vehicles on blocks, windows shattered and with blackberry bushes growing over them – “they are not using them. They are an eyesore and attraction for theft and vandalism and graffiti …” “I know for a fact that (the Council is) not trying to steer people out of their cars if that is the only place they have to live,” Staeheli said. “I know that is not your objective. It is not our objective either.” Resident Charles Schaefer said that someone living in a house who can collect several cars “is at least doing at least decently.” He said “you can’t tow the car if someone is living in it … this ordinance would not authorize that.” Former Council candidate Darla Green said junk cars “threaten the character of our neighborhoods” leaving threats of pest and rodents and also chemical spills “that feeds into our waterways” from such junk vehicles. [caption id="attachment_98250" align="alignright" width="225"]HeatherDoesntLikeKids Heather “doesn’t like children.”[/caption] A woman who said her name was Heather, thought abandoned cars in her neighborhood were a hazard for children “and I don’t like children,” drawing laughter from the audience and Councilmembers. “Haul cars away, please haul the cars away,” said Heather. ‘Unconstitutionally vague’ As the Council opened their discussions, Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz said that she was not sure there was a real problem, that the “value of a property is only the amount considering the property surrounding it.” The ordinance is not just about abandoned cars but about any car that is “apparently an inoperative vehicle which is not actually inoperable – maybe one broken window, maybe still runs fine, maybe not up on blocks, has four tires and has all the things, just one broken window.” Berkowitz said the statute does not say who gets to make the decision that the car is inoperable. “It is unconstitutionally vague and that is why this law is unconstitutional,” Berkowitz said. “It is poorly written.” City Attorney Soojin Kim said there was “very low legal risk here for a Constitutional challenge.” Berkowitz said later that to require enclosing the vehicles or covering them would be acceptable, her issue is “taking people’s property from them.” [caption id="attachment_98251" align="alignleft" width="225"]LaurenBerkowitz040416 Coucilmember Lauren Berkowitz.[/caption] “This ordinance has so many holes in it that it is not the solution that community members were speaking in favor of and are looking for,” Berkowitz said. It is inappropriate to target people who can’t afford to fix their cars or property, she said, and not attacking the root cause of poverty, she said. Councilmember Austin Bell said the city should respect the rights of property owners and for that reason he would vote against the measure. Later, he added there were already many laws that would address hazards to water and other problems mentioned by citizens. Junk cars should go Five councilmembers spoke in favor of the ordinance. Councilmember Nancy Tosta said the potential cost to the city to remove the junk vehicles could be mitigated by donating it to groups that take such vehicles for other uses and could help pay to clear them away. Councilmember Debi Wagner said changes could be made later if it is determined the ordinance is not “working in a fair and equitable manner.” “It is disingenuous to say it is not a problem,” said Councilmember Steve Armstrong regarding Berkowitz’s earlier comment. “It is a problem.” He mentioned fluids leaking into the water table, and children playing around such vehicles. Tosta wondered if keeping the vehicle covered with a tarp would prevent it from being forcibly hauled away and City Attorney Soojin Kim said state law said it could but doubted the city would challenge a car covered by a tarp. The fact the city had only one code enforcement employee would likely prevent pushing enforcement of the ordinance if the vehicle were totally covered and not visible to neighbors, said Kim. No CARES extension The Council voted 4 to 3 to not extend the Burien CARES Animal Control contract past August so that the city has time to figure out whether King County Animal Control has the desire or the potential to take over from CARES. Mayor Lucy Krakowiak and Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar along with Councilmembers Berkowitz and Wagner voted not to extend it past Aug. 31. The need to get more information dominated the conversation, but Berkowitz wondered why to extend it “a year and a half.” [caption id="attachment_98253" align="alignright" width="225"]KamuronGurol040416 City Manager Kameron Gurol.[/caption] But City Manager Kamuron Gurol said that was not correct, that the requested extension was for “roughly six months.” He said more information and discussion is slated for the Council at their April 25 study session. Mayor Lucy Krakowiak said she wanted more information as to whether King County can step in in September if necessary. Councilmember Tosta said she favored the short extension because she wanted information beyond the cost of the service and is interested in how the King County has improved its service since it handled Burien before. Wagner said “we don’t have enough information” to make the decision on a contract now and what the county would charge if they took over on Sept. 1, following the conclusion of the CARES contract. Armstrong said he supported the extension and said that the initial problems of CARES seem to have been overcome. “I like the fact they are home-grown, they are a local business,” he said. Resident John Upthegrove told the Council he supports continuation and renewal of the CARES contract because one of the reasons the city incorporated “was to get away from King County.” He suggested the Councilmembers should remember when King County did provide animal control for the city and “remember how lot it took to get King County” to come to take care of a stray dog complaint, and added that Councilmembers should go to the CARES facility and see how they are doing things now. Pamela Staeheli, who handles many feral cat problems in the area, said she has never been a supporter for CARES but that the King County animal control has drastically reduced its kill rate to less than 10 percent for cats – “completely unheard of from anywhere in the United States.”]]>