The Burien City Council announced on Thursday, May 25, 2023 that it will be holding a Special Meeting on Tuesday, May 30 to discuss King County’s decision not to provide assistance for a potential lessee seeking to relocate the unhoused from Burien’s SW 152nd & 6th Ave SW lot.
Council has called for the special meeting to deliberate on King County’s letter warning the City of Burien that it would not provide its police services to move the unhoused, as well as explore various options available.
PUBLIC COMMENT ON AGENDA ITEMS
Notice to all participants: Pursuant to RCW 42.17A.555, campaigning for any ballot measure or candidate in City Hall and/or during any portion of the Council Meeting – including the public comment period – is prohibited.
a) Next Steps in Response to King County Letter, Dated May 19, 2023: Adolfo Bailon, City Manager
During the meeting, the council will discuss several key points:
- Legal Implications: One of the primary topics of discussion will be whether Burien is obligated to permit individuals to seize public locations for camping due to the rulings in the Martin v. Boise and Johnson v. Grants Pass cases. The council will examine the Ninth Circuit’s observations, which indicate that a city is not mandated to provide sufficient shelter for the homeless or allow unrestricted camping. The court’s decision in the Grants Pass case further clarified that homeless individuals cannot be prosecuted for sleeping in public if there is an insufficient number of shelter spaces available.
- Lease Consideration: The council will also deliberate on whether to proceed with the lease of the lot to the potential lessee, Burien CARES. This decision will depend on various factors, including the council’s assessment of the situation at hand.
- Responsibility for Regional Homelessness: Burien’s role in addressing regional homelessness within King County will be examined. The council will seek to understand the reasons behind this responsibility and evaluate potential strategies to tackle the issue effectively.
- Local Efforts: The council will highlight ongoing efforts made by Burien, including the involvement of councilmembers, residents, and volunteers, in assisting and providing services to the unhoused population. These endeavors demonstrate the commitment of the city to address homelessness.
- Clarification to King County: A significant point of discussion will involve providing clarification to King County regarding Burien’s stance on camping and sleeping ordinances. The council will emphasize that Burien does not have any anti-camping or sleeping policies, except for parks. Additionally, Burien does not seek criminal penalties or arrests for unhoused individuals, aiming to differentiate itself from the cases of Martin v. Boise and Johnson v. Grants Pass. The council will reference a recent Seattle Times article to emphasize that Burien allocates a larger percentage of its budget toward providing aid to the unhoused compared to other jurisdictions in King County.
The council also expressed concerns about the value of the contract for King County Sheriff’s Office services, as the Sheriff’s Office has refused to provide police services in this situation. Furthermore, the council raised issues with decisions and statements made by the King County Sheriff’s Office, the King County Executive, and the King County Prosecutor, which appear to undermine the lawful authority of the council. The council also noted the potential health risks associated with the unsanctioned campsite being used as an animal relief area.
“The council may consider political responses to King County’s attempt to delegate its responsibility to house and assist its residents to KCRHA,” according to the agenda packet. “To date, KCRHA has not helped Burien house any of King County’s residents in Burien. As a result, King County has not helped Burien house people that are unhoused at this time.”
Additionally, the council will deliberate on how to address King County’s refusal to support Burien’s efforts in aiding the unhoused population, despite Burien being one of the few jurisdictions willing to welcome a DESC facility.
Financial considerations will also be taken into account. Presently, Burien incurs expenses related to maintaining a porta-potty and reallocating staff to clean the unsanctioned campsite. If the property is leased, Burien will be relieved of these expenses and will receive a nominal monthly fee of $185.00 from Burien CARES.
Conversely, if the property is not leased, and the unsanctioned campsite remains under Burien’s responsibility, the city will continue to bear the financial burden of cleaning and staff expenses.
The Burien City Council recognizes the pressing need to address the challenges posed by the unhoused population and the responsibility it holds as a part of King County. However, it also emphasizes the importance of a collaborative approach from all stakeholders involved, including King County, in finding sustainable solutions to regional homelessness.
The special meeting will provide an opportunity for council members to deliberate on these critical matters and explore potential courses of action. It is expected that the council will consider the legal, financial, and humanitarian aspects of the situation before making any decisions.
The outcome of the meeting will have far-reaching implications for Burien’s approach to homelessness and its relationship with King County. As the council members convene to weigh the options and engage in a constructive dialogue, they aim to prioritize the well-being and safety of both the unhoused population and the community at large.
The meeting is scheduled to take place in the coming days, and the decisions made by the Burien City Council will shape the city’s response to the challenges posed by regional homelessness, while also addressing the concerns raised in the King County Executive’s letter.
Council will decide between these options:
- Move forward with the existing lease deadline. (The unhoused would be able to rest and sleep on public sidewalks throughout Burien).
- Delay the execution of lease.
- Continue to seek alternative sites from King County and the State of Washington for the unhoused that have come to or are in Burien.
- Continue to seek placement on third party property such as places of faith and community service organizations.
- Continue to seek service providers for the unhoused.
- Designate the location as a park. (The unhoused would be able to rest and sleep on public sidewalks throughout Burien).
Read our previous coverage of this issue below:
- City of Burien responds to King County’s letter refusing to provide Sheriff’s police services for encampment removal
- Burien City Manager responds to King County’s letter warning that police won’t help with encampment sweep
- Homeless encampment update, lease of city property to Burien CARES and more discussed at Monday night’s Burien City Council