Here’s our recap of the regular Burien City Council meeting held on Monday night, Mar. 4, 2024:

Proclamation: Women’s History Month

International Women’s Day began in 1914, and is celebrated annually on March 8. In 1987, March was designated Women’s History Month. The National Women’s History Alliance chose the theme of the 2024 Women’s History Month as “Women who advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” 

The Highline Heritage Museum is hosting a panel discussion on Saturday March 9, exploring women’s empowerment and women in history. According to the proclamation, women comprise the majority of Burien’s population, and make countless contributions to the community.

The proclamation was received by Sharon Mann of the Soroptimist Club. Mann explained that the club was started 100 years ago when women weren’t allowed to join existing clubs. Since its inception, the Soroptimists have focused on empowering women and girls. In Burien, the club contributes to the support of Hospitality House, a women’s shelter. The Soroptimists meet virtually on the 1st & 3rd Wednesdays of each month, and welcome new members.

DESC Project Update

Noah Fay, Senior Director of Housing Programs for DESC (Downtown Emergency Support Services) updated Council on the new residential building located on SW 150th Street & 8th Ave SW. He said the project is on track to open in early May. It will have 95 single-occupancy studio apartments for those facing the most profound housing needs. 30% of the units are reserved for Burien’s own homeless population, as determined by organizations that work with the homeless. 

Residents will sign a lease and pay rent on permanent and independent housing. Fay explained that some residents eventually move on to live elsewhere, but many others stay until the end of life. Historically, he said, these projects have a very low turnover. Residents will sign a “Good Neighbor Policy” which will not allow drug use or panhandling around the building, or other nuisance behaviors. 

Fay said that DESC is a pioneer of the “housing first” movement, which aims to help people overcome barriers in life through providing housing first, followed by other services like mental and physical healthcare and drug rehabilitation. Service providers are brought directly to DESC tenants via organizational partnerships, with DESC itself providing healthcare.

The building will have a phone number available 24/7 once it’s open, for any community concerns. In addition, they hold a monthly Community Advisory Committee that the public are invited to attend. These meetings are on second Tuesdays. The building will also have a conference room that anyone can reserve for community use.

At the end of the presentation, Deputy Mayor Stephanie Mora asked if drug use will be allowed in the building. Senior Director Fay responded that “housing first” requires it. However, wraparound support will be provided for those wishing to stop using drugs. He reiterated that outside the building drug use is a clear violation of the Good Neighbor Policy that tenants will sign.

Public Comments

34 people signed up to speak, with the majority speaking against the proposed amendments to the anti-camping ordinance that Council will be discussing during the business portion of the meeting. 

Speakers asked Council to be patient and wait for DESC to open its doors before imposing further restrictions on the homeless. They said the map being used in the proposal, which outlines areas near schools, parks, libraries and critical areas where homeless will not be able to camp, is the equivalent of red-lining for 2024. The ordinance was called inhumane and draconian. They asked for shelters first, before instituting more camping restrictions. One homeowner wanted to make sure the council knew that not all homeowners want bans on camping. Rather, they want compassionate solutions. It was said that the Burien City Council is harming Burien’s reputation, and that this proposal is targeting the homeless.

There were a few who spoke in support of the proposal and the need for public safety measures. One mother said she no longer feels safe bringing her kids to the public library, due to the homeless population around the building. One woman said her friend was attacked by a homeless man, and when police were called they said it was a “homeless issue” so they couldn’t do anything about it. This woman also said that on her walks around the neighborhood, she has found many terrible things left by the homeless, including weapons, drug paraphernalia, and the worst thing: a dead body. She said that advocates for the homeless should be doing more themselves to clean up after the homeless, like removing feces, vomit, and trash from sidewalks.

Citizen Of The Year

Council received 23 nominations from the community for who should be named “Citizen of the Year,” and during public comments many speakers added a request that recently deceased Annie Phillips be posthumously honored. Phillips was a beloved and tireless activist and community organizer. She worked on issues such as climate change, election transparency, voter registration, and caring for the unhoused.

Deputy Mayor Stephanie Mora proposed that Mathew Brandis, AKA Matt from Wendy’s, be named “Citizen of the Year,” while also honoring Annie Phillips with an official proclamation. Mora said that Brandis has worked at the fast food chain for decades and never fails to brighten the days of all his customers. He remembers the names of everyone’s kids, and interacts with each person with joy and cheer. Council unanimously approved this motion, though they also agreed to consider another way to choose “Citizen of the Year” in the future, or possibly do away with it altogether. This will be discussed at a future meeting.

Camping Ordinance Amended

City Attorney Garmin Newsom II explained that these amendments are meant to clarify the previously-passed camping ordinance. The original ordinance does allow camping from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. if shelter beds are not available, and this maintains those hours. This amendment also includes a map with critical areas, schools, parks, and libraries marked. Camping will not be allowed within 500 feet of these areas (see map below). Police will still prioritize referring the homeless to services and shelter, rather than arrest. This amendment passed 5–2, with Councilmembers Sarah Moore and Hugo Garcia opposed. They voted against the original camping ban, and remarked that the homeless still have nowhere to go.


Watch video of the full meeting here.

Mellow DeTray is a Seattle native who has spent the last 16 years raising her family in Burien. She has volunteered at many local establishments over the years, including the Burien Library, Burien Actors...

10 replies on “Burien City Council strengthens camping ban; hears DESC update, selects ‘Citizen of the Year’ & more at Monday night’s meeting”

  1. First and foremost, these changes will indicate to the residents and businesses in Burien that the responsibility of Government is to serve all. You cannot have a downtown core become an uninviting mess and expect visitors to feel welcome and safe. The activists have played the “oh the humanity” card, what’s humane is not encouraging street camping and open drug use, but to seek to better your situation. A woman spoke last night about being born, raised, and educated in Burien yet still camps outside the Library, what should have been asked of her or any activists is why still? For how long does someone get to refuse help and just decide the street is her family as she said! If she or anyone else feels it’s their right to live as they wish, and society should just except and endlessly support them, then they are certainly confused or way too high.

  2. Unfortunately, many of the responsible citizens have busy lives that make it hard to attend council meetings. The homeless activists have nothing better to do than camp out at meetings. Thankfully, our Burien city council is aware of that.

  3. There was not public outcry. The same group of activists who show up at every council meeting made more emotional statements ignoring the realities of what’s happening in our community. And the council moderates, who were just elected by overwhelming majorities, did their jobs and made sensible policy ignoring the activists who lost. Elections have consequences, and these activists being ignored is a great one.

  4. In regards to the homeless issue, this council is shameful and embarrassing. The council is consistently out of touch and will likely face consequences for what certainly seems to be banning the unhoused from the city. I for one feel safer when the homeless are permitted to sleep at night rather than wandering aimlessly throughout the city.

  5. You are mistaken as they can sleep at night, just not in certain areas as listed in the Ordinance. Every single one of them has declined offers of services and shelter space numerous times over and that makes them responsible for the choice they make nighty. Please stop condoning behavior that serves no one, promote accepting help rather than enabling such behavior.

  6. yes Eva, there are consequences……
    it resulted in new members of the city council who are doing what the majority of the citizens want them to do.

    1. Election turnout was less than 37% this time around so this council represents at best less than 25% of registered voters, and an even smaller fraction of “citizens”. This council was elected alright but it has no overwhelming mandate to implement radical change.

  7. what kind of person mentally thinks its acceptable to house on the sidewalk ! and do drugs all day 24 hours a day – run around living in dumpsters trashing the whole community seems like jail could bring them to sobriety instead of sympathy it dont work ! there is no reason they cant work a job there job is drug peddling and loose sex spreading their toxic life style to younger crowds it needs to stop with jailing them sober making them foot the expense and have to put in volunter hours picking up trash along the freeways , cleaning camps, moving old debri and tents and cleaning up after their co-partners in crime pay back to society all the damage they inflict on the hard working class .

  8. Burien needs more than Lead. They need to get king county to allow other diversion organizations to work along side with lead.

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