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:

Will this letter stop the City from leasing the city-owned lot to Burien CARES?

“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.”

What is the City’s plan/timeline now regarding the lot and the proposed removal of campers?

“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.”

Would the city risk using non-KCSO personnel to remove the campers?

“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.”

Is a meeting planned with King County regarding this letter/issue?

“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.”

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7 replies on “Burien City Manager responds to King County’s letter warning that police won’t help with encampment sweep”

  1. Hello,
    Before the tent crisis in Burien is resolved, I suggest that the city put up a dumpster in the current public lot on 152nd and 6th. There are many more tents now and garbage is piling up big time. A regular trash can is not enough.
    Thank you.
    Elisabeth Hurley

  2. I don’t blame the Burien/King County police for not taking part in cleaning out the mess that is the corner of 6th SW and 152nd. This is a Burien City Hall created problem. As soon as the first tents and blue tarps went up and there was no response from the Burien City government, the campers/squatters had their new home. The people camping there aren’t unhoused; they choose to live that way. The high cost to the City to provide “services” for the campers/squatters? They don’t care. I doubt they actually want to be “housed”; their tents are good enough.
    So, it’s the city councillors and the Mayor’s responsibility to correct the problems they allowed to fester, not the police.

  3. Mr. Richard B Ellenberger your response regarding homelessness in the city of Burien is at best an irresponsible allegation, and at least a careless indictment of your failure to wholly comprehend the scope of the problem of the issue. For you to say of the homeless, “they choose to live that way” is only your ignorant opinion, and of course you are free to remain ignorant if you so desire. Afterall this still remains to be a free country for those that lack to understand and comprehend the entirety of the homeless situation. Homelessness has been an unresolved issue in this country before it was a country dating back to the mid 1600’s. You also say, “This is a Burien City Hall created problem”. In my opinion I say to you, “Wrong again”. I would guess you have heard or read the addage, “When you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you.” Yes sir, three of those fingers out number the one pointing to tell you that mean and cruel allegations does not resolve the issue of homelessness, and that we all need to hear the voice of reason and work together to help those that are not as fortunate as yourself. Do I make myself understood?

  4. Sure, I understand your point; I just don’t happen to agree. Yes, it’s a very complicated problem but has there been a survey of who these people currently camped out on SW 152 and 4th SW are, where they came from (here, there, wherever), and how did they end up living in tents and under tarps? If they were actually offered proper housing, would they take it? And more to the point, if offered aid, would they do the necessary things to join society? Help getting and keeping a job? I wonder.
    These days I think it would take some form of coercive measures (you know, involuntary incarceration) of rehabilitation to give them a chance at a decent life.
    If you think I’m cruel or heartless, fine. But I also know at some point a person has to want to change their situation.

  5. Also, I said “City Hall created this situation” because they didn’t act before or after the tents and tarps started to appear.
    “Before” because apparently no laws or ordinances are on the books preventing the overnight camping situation Burien now has.
    And “after” because once the first tents went up, the necessary immediate action to remove them did not take place. The elected leaders at City Hall didn’t lead.
    First, (1) tent goes up then (4) tents are up and then (20) squatters have permanent homes.

  6. If you look in the Seattle Times Sunday paper on page (2) of the Opinion section, you will see a David Horsey cartoon that accurately describe the “efforts” of the Burien City Council to solve the “tent city” problem that plagues downtown Burien.
    I’m condemned for my “heartless” attitude toward these squatters. I accept that. But please tell me just what the Mayor and the Council members are doing, what is their plan, to help these people to turn their lives around? “Offer” services? What good does that do for people who have no interest in them? As the old saying goes: “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.
    How are the Burien city leaders going to get ” campers” to drink?

  7. IHi Richard, I believe I found the Horsey cartoon. I have inserted a copy of it showing a link to the Facebook Page of RealChange of folks not liking the cartoon. Amusing thing is I use to work with Horsey’s sister before I retired from teaching with Seattle Public School Dist. Me condemning you for having a heartless attitude? I’m sorry if my response made you feel that way. Do you know any homeless people personally? Most of us, if we are not a member of the super rich 1% club, I think deep down inside of us we fear that we will end up the same way. We take that fear and twist and contort it into dislike and even hate what we see with the homeless and don’t understand the fear that we may end up in the same situation. These folks, most of them, do not want to be anymore homeless than you or I. If you personally don’t know someone that is actually homeless, and don’t keep in touch with them on a regular basis, then it is not fair nor wise to make hasty generalizations about them. Doing so only exacerbates the situation and is not a solution. Also, to liken homeless people to a horse not drinking water is to reduce them to something less than human. Herein lies the problem. Homelessness is not the problem. Homelessness is a situation. The problem is the way in which housed people look at the situation. Housing should be a human right and not a privilege. We are born into a capitalistic life style that teaches us that we must meet certain conditions in order to survive within the scheme of things. Some of us are lucky enough to have parents that teach and show us what we must do in order to not end up homeless. Some folks end up homeless because of mental and emotional conditions that the capitalistic system doesn’t know how to process, or doesn’t allow for those individuals to get the help they want and need. I am not trying to convert you to the way I think, or how, or what I believe. I think the way in which NOT to view the situation in broad strokes of white and black minus any allowance for shades of gray or any other color for that matter will widen your perspective. The black and white perspective is too simplistic for such a complicated situation resulting in the absence of a more thorough understanding of all the intricacies of homelessness. In limiting your understanding of homelessness you keep yourself in the closet from being able to see the full spectrum of the issue. I would challenge you to go to a homeless encampment and get to know people on a personal basis. If you do that please let me know. Thanks,
    Tony Canta

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