As we previously reported, King County sent a sternly-worded letter dated May 19, 2023 to the City of Burien, warning the city that it will not allow Burien Police / King County Sheriff’s Office personnel to assist with any removal of unhoused campers from its city-owned lot on SW 152nd & 6th Ave SW.
City Manager Adolfo Bailon responded with a statement during Monday night’s Burien City Council meeting (included below), and also directly answered our inquiry for further elaboration:
“The King County Executive’s General Counsel has stated that King County, in addition to not providing housing to county residents in Burien, and that the King County Sheriff’s Office will not assist a potential lessee if the potential lessee asks for a police presence. Burien will continue to consider its options and make the best decision possible for its residents with its limited resources. It is important to note that King County has transferred county responsibility for assisting those experiencing homelessness to the KCRHA. To this time, KCRHA has not assisted Burien in housing any individuals experiencing homelessness in Burien.”
“Burien has not proposed to remove any people sleeping on municipal property on the SW 152nd Street lot. Burien continues to contact King County, churches, volunteer organizations, etc., to find housing for those unhoused in Burien. Independent of the lack of housing and the resulting unhoused persons throughout King County, the Burien City Council directed the City Manager to complete a lease agreement by June 1, 2023. The City Manager is prepared to meet the Council’s deadline.”
“Again, any potential lessee of this lot or any other would have the legal authority to ask for law enforcement assistance. If King County, the King County Executive, the King County Sheriff’s Office, and the King County Prosecutor refuse to provide housing, a site for unhoused to sleep, and police assistance, the potential lessee will decide how to proceed.”
“While there is no meeting scheduled to discuss the refusal by several agencies of King County to assist a potential lessee in exercising control over the proposed lease site, Burien is always willing and eager to learn how King County can help resolve the homelessness problem in Burien and throughout most of King County.”
City Manager’s Statement at May 22 Burien City Council meeting
Here’s a transcript of the statement City Manager Adolfo Bailon made about this issue to the Burien City Council on Monday night, May 22, 2023:
“The challenges that are raised by the correspondence that we received from the county – there’s several, I won’t list them all – but the very first point is that the county’s letter incorrectly identifies legal interpretation as facts. We feel that it is very challenging for us to receive a letter that says this is how it is, when it really should be ‘this is how it is to us,’ and that’s not how the correspondence was written to the city of Burien, which is a challenge.
“The letter also misrepresents actions previously taken by the Sheriff’s Office in support of the city’s efforts to address camping throughout the city. We felt it was very challenging to have a letter that states as fact information that was collected only from one party as opposed to every party that was involved, and as we all know, including city personnel and just our partners in the Community that with the action that occurred here at the library, we had more than just King County Sheriff’s Office involved. We had our partners with LEAD with Reach, Salvation Army, the city. So the letter only took into account information collected from one entity which is the Sheriff’s Office, which is also challenging to us for me in the city to accept and then also misrepresents the city’s efforts in general.
“The city has been working incredibly hard to address the issue of housing. We’ve reported to council how we’ve worked to address the issue of housing we’ve had, let’s say, at least a dozen, if not two dozen telephone calls with different agencies including King County to try to find resources to make available to campers throughout the city, especially in the campers that at the lot here in downtown and we have yet to identify an actual location. I will share that we don’t have an actual location identified. We don’t have any actual prospect that has been shared with us as an alternative location and so at this point we have the action taken by Council to direct me to establish a lease. We’re working toward it, but at this time we’re also working to address the correspondence that we received from the county because it has raised allegations that are based on interpretation as opposed to directly based on that. So we’ll have more information to share what Council is that progresses and we also will communicate this information to the winning bidder, the entity that is interested in signing the lease so that we could potentially move forward.”