Here’s our recap of the Burien City Council Special Meeting held on Monday night, Nov. 27, 2023:
The Burien City Council set up this Special Meeting last week in order to make a decision on the creation of a tiny home village for the city’s homeless population.
The meeting was held on the day of the deadline for accepting the King County funds of $1 million to address homelessness. The meeting’s only agenda item was the code of conduct, services, and location for a potential pallet village.
Around 30 people spoke at the meeting. There were essentially three messages within the statements shared:
- Yes, we need to do what we can and build a tiny home village for the homeless. This was the majority opinion of those who spoke, with many sharing frustration that it has taken so long to do anything for the homeless. One said it is not enough, and more must be done by the city. Multiple people quoted the aphorism “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good”, meaning, no location is perfect in this difficult situation, but we should still be doing something.
- Yes, but don’t build it in Boulevard Park. There is a strong movement by residents of Boulevard Park to build the camp anywhere in the city besides their neighborhood, which they say is already underserved by basics like police and grocery stores.
- No, do not take the money or build anything for the homeless. These speakers emphasized that the homeless have in large part come from Seattle and the policies of King County, and were not our problem or our responsibility to fix. One said that if we build this, many more homeless will come from Seattle, destroying more Burien neighborhoods.
One person spoke about the Oasis Home Church homeless camp, which they said only had four tents at it. They said this is because the location requires campers to be drug and alcohol free. Another speaker implored everyone to remember that while yes, they are all addicts at the Ambaum camp, they are still human and we have no right to treat them like they don’t matter. One speaker implored that if a camp is built, the city’s camping ban must be enforced, otherwise the homeless will have no incentive to get off the streets.
One person said that homelessness is a national problem, not a Seattle (or Burien) problem. Another said that putting a homeless camp next to a high school is irresponsible and dangerous. One described Camp Second Chance along Myers Way. They said the edge of the camp is always littered with trash and broken vehicles, and the area has trees missing and frequent fires. Another wondered what will happen when the money to fund the camp runs out.
Homeless Camp at Seattle City Light Property: Proposal Passes
Councilmember Cydney Moore proposed a motion that she considered a concession, because it does include a ban on drug and alcohol use in the camp located on Seattle City Light property at S. 136th Street & 4th Ave S. (map below), and it has a limit of one year. Moore was able to get support from the majority of councilmembers, though there were several amendments which made small changes to the original motion. In addition to the above stipulations, the original motion includes a ban on firearms and sex offenders within the camp, and states that 90% of occupancy be Burien’s homeless.
Discussion included the question of what happens when the money runs out? The motion was amended to state that the camp will operate for “up to one year,” which retains the ability for the city to discontinue its operation if funds are depleted. Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling felt it was also important to do outreach immediately to the neighborhood around the camp, as many of the residents there may not even know this conversation has been happening.
Finally, the proposed sanctioned camp on the Seattle City Light property near Kennedy Catholic High School passed by a 4–3 vote. Councilmembers Cydney Moore, Hugo Garcia, Jimmy Matta, and Sarah Moore voted in favor of it, and Councilmember Mora, Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling, and Mayor Sofia Aragon voted against it.
Here is text of the passed, amended motion:
“Motion to establish temporary emergency housing at the Seattle City Light property, and to direct the City Manager to inform the King County Regional Homelessness Authority of the services to be required, which include, at a minimum, security, and a City of Burien community liaison. In addition, pallet shelter occupants and visitors must abide by a code of conduct to include, at a minimum, no illegal drug use, alcohol use, or possession of firearms on site or in the surrounding neighborhood, no registered sex offenders permitted, and no one under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol will be permitted in the village at any time. The pallet shelter facility may operate for up to one year. This city manager will negotiate for a goal of designating 90% of occupancy to be people who are homeless in Burien, as defined by outreach and contact process being used by the City of Burien.”
Watch the full special meeting here.