Excerpt of Burien’s controversial Ordinance #606. Click image to see larger version.[/caption] by Jack Mayne The city ordinance now under attack by homeless advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as, among other things, banning people with severe body odor on public property won’t be heard as expected on Dec. 15 but at the Jan. 5 Burien City Council meeting. City Manager Kamuron Gurol said the postponement was done because the Council must finish its work on the new comprehensive plan by year’s end and the Dec. 15 meeting is the final one for 2014. Additionally Gurol said Thursday (Dec. 11) his staff has been working with the Seattle ACLU on changes to the new city law and “I have asked for a little more time to do so.” [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="490"] Excerpt of letter sent to the City of Burien by the ACLU.[/caption] The vote for the ordinance was 6 to 1, with Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz the sole negative vote. She complained that the law’s perhaps unintended consequences were to allow police to ban people with offensive body odor from public sites. In an e-mail exchange initiated by The B-Town Blog, Gurol said the ordinance “did not ban people for poor hygiene per se. Rather there has to be an impact on others in a public space that unreasonably interferes with the use and enjoyment of public property. “We have not enforced the ‘body odor’ aspect of the ordinance so far and have focused on behavior problems that are violations of other long-standing city rules like camping in public parks,” the city manager said. “So far, I believe we have issued only about 20 trespass warning in total, for problems like camping or open container violations,” Gurol said. “I believe the tool is working as intended, as a mechanism less severe than arrest, to address a problem promptly with a comparatively mild sanction. And the right to appeal is provided for.” What the ordinance does The statute says behavior that is “unreasonably disruptive to other users” – defined as “behavior that is not constitutionally protected and that unreasonably interferes with others use and enjoyment of publicly owned property. The ordinance says that unreasonably disruptive behavior “includes, but is not limited to” such things as “unreasonably hostile or aggressive language or gestures,” or “unreasonably loud vocal expression or unreasonably boisterous physical behavior.” Other activity that could prompt police to ban people for from a day to several weeks when repeatedly done, include using sound devices “in a manner that is unreasonably disruptive to others,” or a lack of clothing suitable to the location – “no top, no bottom, no shoes, or bodily hygiene or scent that is unreasonably offensive to others. It also says the law can be used for those who “unreasonably” interfere with the “free passage of staff or patrons.” Finally, activities such as “bathing, shaving, or washing clothes in a public bathroom or skateboarding in a public parking area or plaza” can prompt police to eject the people involved for a period of time. Working in good faith Gurol said the city staff’s work with ACLU “has involved trying to refine the ordinance language to address their primary concerns which are wanting the code to be clear, narrowly focused and avoid affecting constitutionally protected behavior like free speech. He said he and the city staff “share those objectives, and we believe the adopted ordinance meets those tests, but we have been interested in exploring refinement language to bolster those areas to address the ACLU’s concerns.” He told The B-Town Blog he didn’t know “if ultimately the ACLU can accept or live with an amended ordinance, that’s up to them. But for now I believe we should continue to try to work with them in good faith.” We posted a Poll asking our Readers whether they thought Ordinance #606 was a good idea or not, and as of Dec. 12, 2014, 45% said “No” while 42% said “Yes”; the total number of voters so far is 453: Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 4.44.11 PM Read our extensive previous coverage of this issue here.]]>

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

2 replies on “Burien City Council won’t reconsider ‘body odor’ ordinance until January”

  1. Will that include people who bathe in cologne and perfume? You know, the ones who make you wish for a gas mask in the elevator …

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