By Jack Mayne

The Burien Parks pilot program to get homeless people to find other places to spend the night seems to be a success, Police Chief Ted Boe told the Burien City Council Monday night (July 1).

The Council at its regular meeting on Monday, was also told that, contrary to some local beliefs, the city Annex building is in urgent need of upgrades. City Manager Brian Wilson warned of a potential major failure of the heating system, which he said is a 1940s or 1950s-era boiler system that would be difficult to fix.

A parade of people also told the Council during public comment period that its help was needed in finding a place for a community market for micro-businesses.

Parks now clear at night
Council received the latest update on the halfway point in it four-month pilot project to control the use of Burien Parks and other public facilities from Police Chief Ted Boe and from his partners in the project, Human Services Manager Colleen Brandt-Schluter, and Interim Parks Director Casey Stanley.

“What we have seen is no one is using our parks outside of business hours, a few exceptions here and there, but for the most part people have stopped sleeping and camping in our parks,” the chief said.

Boe said the group was coordinating its efforts and Brandt-Schluter said the homeless of Burien are a mixed group of people often with extreme needs that could be provided with a wide ranging approach of many agencies beyond city services.

The pilot project is “an effort to limit park access outside of daylight hours to prevent encampments from developing on park property” and to keep citizens safe in public park property.

Responding to a question from Councilmember Bob Edgar, both Boe and Brandt-Schluter indicated the project should continue “in some form” beyond the pilot project.

No arrests since June 6
The chief noted that “since we started the program, we have given 27 formal notices and offers of services to people outside of daylight hours, asking people to relocate out of the park and providing options to them. Six of them have accepted our offer of services, the rest of them have moved on from the park on their own accord. There has only been one arrest from the park … in an after hours confrontation.” He noted that June 6 was the last time city officials confronted someone in a park and gave formal notice to stay away at night.

The homeless are in many cases now beginning to recognize some of the many people working on the project and, in one case, began willingly providing information to city and other services representatives. That person is now at an assisted living location.

Boe also said there is now a city effort to work with people now serving jail sentences at SCORE, the South Correctional Entity jail in Des Moines, to get a relationship with inmates, many of whom will return to Burien when their sentences are finished.

Brandt-Schluter said Burien’s efforts to work with homeless is “now a team approach.”

Regular mowing, weeding
Interim Parks Director Casey Stanley said her parks employees are now able to do their regular mowing, weeding and other work without problems from campers or more assertive people. They are able to clean the rest rooms once or twice a day instead of many times before efforts to limit park use was started.

“They are a little bit more at ease because they are able to get done what they need to get done,” she said.

Not mentioned at the meeting but previously reported on The B-Town Blog was the hiring of the Parks department of a private firm to patrol city parks:

“Burien Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services (PaRCS) has hired a private company to increase security during summer evening hours (through Sept. 30, 2019) around the Community Center and adjacent Dottie Harper Park, the Community Center Annex and adjacent park grounds, as well as drive-through patrols at Seahurst Park.”

At the Monday night meeting, Mayor Jimmy Matta praised and thanked the chief for his and Brandt-Schluter’s work on the project. City Manager Brian Wilson also thanked Chief Boe and Burien Police for their positive actions in changing the park area from forbidding places to where people are feeling safe again.

Major Annex problems
Wilson said he was still working on a proposal to upgrade city facilities, but did note that there were serious potential problems with the city annex park.

The website notes the Annex occupies the former Burien Community Center, which is the building that sits next to a multi-amenity park that includes a popular skate park, basketball court, picnic tables, and open grassy spaces.The Annex Auditorium is used on weekends by Burien Actors Theatre.

“I know there has been some public comment to say ‘Annex is fine, nothing wrong with the Annex.’

“In reality,” he told Council, “one of the biggest risks I believe that we, as a city, have is the condition of our Annex. If we have a major failure in our heating system which is a 1940s or 1950s boiler system, we will have a very difficult time trying to repair that or replace it and be able to heat the building.

“We also will not be able to use the electrical that is currently in place to do any supplemental work, too,” he said.

Police Chief for a day
Chief Boe told the Council about Gracin Casady, a fifth grade student in the Highline School District, who is currently fighting a form of Leukemia. Boe said the boy’s family reached out to Burien Police to say “he loves police and wants to be a police officer when he grows up.”

Chief Boe has appointed him as the ‘Chief for a Day’ on July 4th and Chief Casady will walk with Boe in the 98th annual 4th of July parade, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday.

Boe released his comments for the start of the parade: “Your Burien Police Department is being lead today (July 4) by Chief for a Day, Gracin Casady,” said Boe’s written comments for the parade. “Chief Casady will be a 5th grader next year in the Highline School District. He is fighting Acute Lymphsblastic Leukemia, a form of cancer. Chief Casady is joined by Chief Boe and his daughters Harley and Amelia, Captain Jessica Sullivan and the High Visibility Unit Detectives on their bicycles.

Boe said, “on behalf of Chief Casady, we would like to thank all of Burien for their support of the Burien Police Department.”

Community market help
Tony Carina, Federal way, wants the council to allow an international market place for all races to be located in Burien.

“It about our benefit and your benefit to establish a place in which in which micro businesses can sell their products to community members to strengthen not only the … economy alongside our own, but also establish a place in which people from all walks of life to come to the area,” Carina said.

“We come here to ask you and the community members to find us a place in which we may establish this mercado. We have the vendors, we have the dedication.” He said the have the ability toward hard, they “need is the opportunity.”

Aspire for ‘great things’
Zaira Rojas (pictured left), who said she is not a community market vendor but “I am the daughter of one” and remembers long days building up their business, working with customers “until they became extensions of my own family” and who would not “trade our experiences for anything else. On days when we sold everything, we would go across the the street for ice cream, and four or five-year-old me, that was as good as gold.”

Rojas said during the public comment period that she was glad to watch her mother save the money that “would eventually pay for my college tuition. Today I am an honor student at the University of Washington studying political science, philosophy and international relations” and hopes to become a lawyer and said she owed all of this to the micro businesses that ‘kept me clothed, fed and educated.”

She said she is not the only one, because “countless other people like myself have been able to go on and do great things because of our family and micro businesses.”

She said she was at the Council meeting to “ask the Councilmembers who have the power to find a place for us in the City of Burien to give us an opportunity — an opportunity not only establish a community market that gives us for economic growth, but to establish a community pillar.”

Griselda Rojas said she wanted to help find a new place to sell their wares and was a member of “Empresarios Unidos (United Businessmen) here in Burien and our goal is to make Burien a better community.” She said her son’s small business is her second job to help pay bills. She urged support for the Council to help find a place for a community market.

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