Here’s our recap of the Burien City Council’s regular meeting held on Monday night, Dec. 4, 2023:
Camping Ban Enforcement
At the start of the meeting, Councilmember Cydney Moore tried to add to the agenda a discussion of holding off on enforcing the camping ban. She did not have enough support to change the meeting’s agenda, but later she did garner support from Councilmembers Hugo Garcia and Sarah Moore for introducing this discussion as a new topic in a future meeting.
Councilmembers Stephanie Mora and Cydney Moore were both present at the final clearing of the campers at the Ambaum encampment, and each councilmember had completely different reports about it. Mora said that she witnessed many people getting help, and the organization The More We Love was present and offering shelter beds to everyone still at the encampment. Several other organizations and volunteers were there as well, offering aid to the remaining inhabitants. Mora said a few did not accept help, but many were relocated to the Oasis Home Church encampment.
Councilmember Cydney Moore’s report of the day was very different. She stated that many displaced homeless people were left with no place to go, and all of their worldly possessions taken from them in the “sweep.” She said they are now wandering the streets of Burien.
Mayor Sofia Aragon reminded Councilmember Moore not to use charged terms such as “sweeps” to describe the camp clean-up, since a sweep implies that the residents of the camp had no notice or assistance in moving. The city has been very careful to educate and inform campers of their options before enforcing the camping ban.
During the public comments section, multiple people asked for a straightforward and trustworthy report of what went down when the Ambaum camp was cleaned up, since the two descriptions were so different it was hard to know which is the reliable report. A couple of other commenters described enforcing the camping ban as inhumane, especially during wet, cold conditions. They were concerned for the safety and whereabouts of the displaced campers.
Oasis Home Church Encampment
City Manager Adolfo Bailon reported that the Oasis encampment remains in violation of city zoning codes, since they have not filled out an application for a temporary use permit. The city has waived the application fee to minimize any barriers to filling out the short application. He added that the city has no information on public safety at the camp or in the surrounding community, but he has learned that the code of conduct requirements at the camp have been changed. He said the organization has gone back on their commitment to the Sunnydale neighborhood.
During public comments, several neighbors of the Oasis church said the camp is now admitting homeless people regardless of active warrants, and drugs are now used and dealt openly on site. It was said that the camp suddenly went from six residents to what looks like a completely full parking lot, and the behavior of residents went accordingly downhill with the reduction in entry restrictions. Families in the neighborhood are no longer letting their teens walk their dogs. A petition has been started, with 31 neighbors signing so far in just half a block of petitioning, to get rid of the camp in the name of public safety. Another neighbor said the homeless have no incentive to stop their problematic behavior if it’s being allowed at the Oasis camp.
Because one member of the council, Cydney Moore, is party to the organization running the Oasis camp, it was decided by the rest of the council and City Attorney Garmin Newsom to break into a 30-minute private executive session, excluding Moore, to discuss the issue of the camp being in violation of city codes. They did not report back on what decisions they came to during this session. Earlier in the meeting, Moore would not answer questions posed to her about happenings at the Oasis encampment, which was created in partnership between her organization and the Oasis church.
Update On Future Pallet Village Near Kennedy High School
City Manager Bailon mentioned that there will be community meetings to discuss the coming pallet village on the Seattle City Light-owned lot. He said there are still many unanswered questions about the project, and once they have answers they will begin public outreach in earnest. Kennedy High School has offered to host these meetings.
One public commenter brought up concerns over teens witnessing inappropriate and unsafe behavior, with a camp being so close to the high school. She said many members of the homeless community need mental health and addiction help, but most won’t accept it. Her young teen daughter had already witnessed public defecation and masturbation when the camp was in a former location.
Another commenter said he was told repeatedly over the months that this lot was not seriously being considered for an encampment site. Despite those reassurances, council chose the Seattle City Light site adjacent to Kennedy High School last week in a 4–3 vote. He said the city had been derelict in the duty to engage and educate the impacted community. For many weeks, members of Boulevard Park have been coming to meetings to voice their concern over a possible camp in their neighborhood, but for the families living around the Seattle City Light lot, most residents still don’t haven’t heard what is coming.
Watch full video of the council meeting here.