by Jack Mayne Because it has become an “embarrassment” and a “laughing stock,” the Burien City Council will soon reconsider the so-called “trespass” ordinance passed by the Council on Aug. 18 (read our extensive previous coverage here). Towards the end of the Oct. 6 Council session, Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz asked to have put on an early agenda the repeal of Ordinance 606, the so-called “trespass” or “body odor” law that allows police to order people to not be in certain public areas for various amounts of time because of exhibiting certain behaviors. Also on Monday (Oct. 6), the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State had written to all members recommending repeal.

“We believe … (the law) is both counterproductive as a matter of policy and unconstitutional, and we urge you to repeal it.”
At that night’s Council meeting, Berkowitz said she had recently attended a local conference on the criminalization of homelessness. “I found it very informative, I was disappointed that nobody else was able to make it,” said Berkowitz, referencing other Burien Councilmembers. “It was quite embarrassing to see that Burien’s new ordinance was the centerpiece and literally the laughing stock of the conference.” Councilmember Nancy Tosta said she listened to the conference that is available online, and “Burien was a bit of a laughing stock in the discussion, which was hard to hear.” Three other Council members agreed to a “reconsideration” of the ordinance, not repeal of the ordinance. The matter will come up in a future session. Parking and Impoundment The Council considered changes to the city’s parking and vehicle impoundment regulations. The changes would put regulations now in state law into the city code so they could be better enforced at the local level. This makes it easier for people to understand what they are being fined for, said City Attorney Craig Knutson. “The net change is not really much of a change,” Knutson told Councilmembers. Burien citizen Ed Dacy told the Council at the outset of its consideration that he would prefer that vehicle impoundments for vehicles driven by those arrested for drunk driving should be discretionary by police, not required. “This could be a major impact on people of low income, especially when they are not convicted – they can be detained and not convicted but they still have the impound fees,” Dacy told the Council. Knutson said police like to have discretion about whether or not to impound a vehicle, but state law requires impounding of vehicles in DUI situations. Councilmember Berkowitz asked to delete the section that allows vehicle impounds of people who have not paid outstanding citations. “Because they are poor to begin with and those tickets can accrue interest, they accrue more penalties, they keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” Berkowitz said. “If they weren’t able to pay that ticket in the first place, now you really can’t pay it. “What it does is it keeps who are of lower income from being able to drive to work so that it actually impoverishes them further and the penalty ultimately allows criminal charges and being punished by being sent to jail. “I don’t think that is something our city should be supporting.” Knutson said removing the penalty would be in conflict with state law and the matter could be addressed in a later meeting with police officials. Police have told him the matter is discretionary with individual violators – not everyone with outstanding tickets has a vehicle impounded. Berkowitz said discretion is fine, but she wants to know “what this discretion has allowed, who is getting the discretion and who is not?” Knutson told her he did not know if that data was available, but he would check. Councilmember Gerald Robison said he agreed with Berkowitz that the crime was an “economic crime.” He then wondered why it should be illegal to park in the wrong direction on narrow, quiet side streets, adding he understood why it was illegal on busy arterials. “We are told it isn’t going to be enforced much,” he said. “I don’t see why we have an extra law that can be enforced against individuals just to give the officer another tool to be used against somebody. I haven’t heard anything that there is actually a safety reason … ” Perennial commenter Goodspaceguy said people don’t like to get parking tickets and it makes Burien a “hostile place.” Instead of giving parking tickets, the city should build additional parking space. The matter will be up for final approval at next Council meeting slated for Monday, Oct. 13. Mitigating disasters The Council took up approval of local changes in the King County Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan that the Council must approve periodically. The participation of the city opens the way for potential federal money in case of a local natural disaster, but there is no direct cost to the city, said Nhan Nguyen, Management Analyst in the city manager’s office. “Things in the plan will help us be prepared in event of an emergency,” said City Manager Kamuron Gurol. Councilmember Robison wanted to know if the city has emergency power generators for various city facilities. Gurol said there was a small generator on the roof of the city hall, but none at other city facilities. Robinson suggested generators be added to the city capital facilities budget. Rental property theft The Council was asked to pass an ordinance adding state law on theft of rental property to the city’s criminal code. City Attorney Knutson said the city prosecutor ask for the change because she was unable to prosecute a case because the city had no such laws, but changing the state law version to make the crime punishable as a gross misdemeanor. State law allows the matter to also be charged as a felony, but cities have no power to have or enforce felony statutes. The measure was placed on the consent agenda for final passage. Legislative Goals The city annually adopts a legislative agenda to guide its lobbying efforts. The Council was given a list by city staff showing its proposed focus before the next session of the Washington Legislature. The city’s main focus “continues to be transportation funding. This includes $10.3 million construction funding for the new eastbound off ramp from State Highway 518 to Des Moines Memorial Boulevard, ongoing funding for street project needs.” Other goals proposed for consideration were support for reinstating sharing local revenues from the liquor profits and taxes, sharing recreational marijuana revenues and the state’s Public Works Assistance Account. Also the staff suggests support for new revenues sources. Gurol said after the Council considers and adopts priorities, his staff will set up meetings with the six state legislators that represent Burien in the 33rd and 34th districts.]]>

Jack Mayne

Senior Reporter Jack Mayne passed away in December, 2021. In his honor we have created the Jack Mayne Journalism Scholarship.

8 replies on “Burien City Council to reconsider ‘laughing stock;body odor’ trespass law”

  1. I appreciate that the Burien City Council is revisiting Ordinance 606. It Is unfairly targeting the homeless individuals of our city. I think a more proactive, solution-oriented approach such as an increase human services would be a better approach to addressing the homeless population in Burien.

    1. I agree, Mindy. It’s a pity that the Council has to be ‘shamed’ into revisiting this ordinance, and still (apparently) cannot provide a plan or forum for discussion of long term solutions to problems facing the homeless.
      I would submit that MANY Burien residents who are currently employed, and have homes are a single paycheck away from becoming homeless.

    2. So you will be the first to support and approve of some additional taxes or propose where else the City gets the funds to cover these new services, right? I’m waiting!

  2. Wow. Just …Wow.
    So the City Council will ‘reconsider’ this ordinance, only because Burien has become a laughing stock at some ‘local conference’ and NOT because it is (probably) unconstitutional?
    I guess we see where the Council’s priorities are … image over everything.

  3. My favorite part is the thought that the council should find ways to mitigate the penalties for the people that violate the law because they cant afford to pay for their offences. What is this country coming to? What would incentivize anyone to ever pay their fines. The impound is not because they have only one offence. If saying please does not work, what would be the method to encourage one to ever pay?

    1. I agree it is ridiculous. . The city of Burien is not in a financial position to solve the homeless problem. It is a financial black hole.
      This issue should be addressed with county state and federal funds as it is a regional and for that matter a global issue and only by default becomes a local problem.
      I would also like to add that Councilwoman Berkowitz apparently cares more about global problems than the rights and concerns of local Burien taxpayers. Maybe she plans to run for congress? Either way, I think she needs to focus less on saving the world and more on what a city council member was elected to do in response to these problems, which is put pressure on county, state and federal officials to provide the funding or wherewithal for the city to deal with the problem without burdening Burien taxpayers anymore than they already are.
      Now if they want to float a bond that specifically funds more police and road repair I will be happy to pony up, because that is a tangible benefit that will benefit everyone that lives in Burien.

  4. To be fair no one has called Burien a “laughing stock”, The Burien City Council on the other hand. oh yea you clowns even made it to “laughing stock” was used in pairing with the word incompetence a few times.

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