The owners of Burien Toyota – a car dealership that has been doing business in Burien for over 68 years – on July 10, 2023 sent a letter to the Burien City Council expressing their opposition to a King County proposal that would move homeless encampments to a lot near their business that they lease.
The Burien City Council is considering relocating homeless encampments to the lot on SW 150th Street near 1st Ave South (map below), which is owned by the city and leased to Burien Toyota. King County has allocated $1 million and 35 pallet homes to fund a temporary shelter with services for the homeless, but the city council has not yet made a final decision on the plan.
Dean and Alan Anderson, the dealer principals, claim that the proposal would have negative consequences for their sales, taxes, employees, and customers. They estimate that the city, state, and county could lose up to $3 million in sales tax and $160,000 in business and occupation tax each year if they lose one third of their vehicle inventory space to an encampment site.
They also warn that they would have to lay off 20 to 30 workers and that the remaining ones would face lower income and higher security risks.
The Andersons argue that the homeless people who have refused services do not want to change their “drug-fueled lives” and will continue to harm others. They say that they have already experienced car thefts, break-ins, harassment, and threats from the homeless population. They question the effectiveness of the city’s plan and ask for a viable solution that does not hurt the hard-working citizens of Burien.
“Please explain to us where a homeless facility has succeeded,” they said in the letter. “How long do you expect the county’s $1,000,000 to last? And, will it help? We know that building a homeless encampment across the street will fail because we have been dealing with the byproduct of your carelessness each day. By catering to the small number of people who have already shown that they do not want our help, you are hurting the livelihood of so many other hard-working, honest citizens. We all want a viable solution for those less fortunate, but not at the expense of our ability to provide for our families and feel safe while doing so. We ask that you stop sitting on the sidelines. Join us in making Burien a safe, thriving city once again.”
The letter from Burien Toyota has sparked a heated debate among residents and businesses of Burien, as well as homeless advocates. Some support the dealership’s stance and say that the city should not accommodate homeless people who have caused problems in the community. Others criticize the dealership’s tone and say that the city should show compassion and empathy for homeless people who are struggling with poverty, addiction, and mental health issues.
The city council has received hundreds of emails and calls on both sides of this divisive issue. Councilmembers say that they are trying to balance the needs and interests of all stakeholders and that they are looking for a long-term solution to address homelessness in Burien. They say that they are working with the county, the state, and local nonprofits to find more resources and options for the homeless population. But as of July 12, 2023, no concrete action has been taken.
The council will likely address this issue at their next meeting this coming Monday night, July 17, 2023, although the agenda packet had not yet been released as of July 12.
Councilmember Cydney Moore Responds
Here’s a statement from Burien City Councilmember Cydney Moore regarding Burien Toyota’s letter:
“In the letter council received from the owners of Burien Toyota there is a noticeable absence of any mention of the 100 parking spaces King County has generously offered their business, should the City of Burien decide to end the lease agreement with Toyota for the city-owned lot on 150th St. These 100 parking spaces made available to Toyota are on property directly adjacent to the city lot Toyota currently uses – literally just feet away. Toyota currently lists 96 vehicles in their inventory, which presumably accounts for vehicles on their property, and overflow in the city-owned lot. This suggests that 100 parking spaces offered by the county would seem sufficient to account for the overflow parking currently accommodated by the city lot.
“Furthermore, I feel the letter from Toyota displays a lack of knowledge and understanding of issues surrounding homelessness – particularly relating to sanctioned encampments or tiny home villages. There are many successful models of sanctioned camps and villages that have operated peacefully for many years – we have one just down the road (less than 10 minutes away from Burien Toyota), called Camp Second Chance. Several other examples exist throughout our region and the country. Most of these long-standing organized camps and villages include agreements from their residents to be good neighbors, and avoid conflict with surrounding homes and businesses. Because sanctioned camps/villages include regulations and operational guidelines that can be enforced, people who do resort to criminal or disruptive activity can be removed. What we are seeing on our streets today are people left with no oversight and little support (despite what some people have said, our city-contracted, professional organizations addressing the needs of unhoused people in our community have made it abundantly clear there is not enough shelter or housing available to people). Our city deserves better, and our residents – housed and unhoused alike, deserve better.
“I hope the owners of Burien Toyota will come to the table with an open mind, and willingness to learn more about the realities of sanctioned camps and villages, and homelessness as a whole. We have people facing a major crisis in our community, and only by working together can we create a lasting solution that benefits us all.”
Homeless Advocates Respond
Homeless advocates also responded to Burien Toyota’s letter, referencing King County’s offer of 100 spaces in the Transit Center garage, that burientoyota.com lists 96 vehicles in inventory, and claim that “they appear to be getting sufficient space.”
“FACT CHECK: County is offering 100 parking spaces and their website lists 96 vehicles in inventory,” Tweeted @BurienGovWatch.
“I respect the rights of Business owners to lobby their elected officials as they see fit but when does it become a hostage situation?” Tweeted @Burien Cat Lady.
“Mayor Aragon said openly in a recent candidate forum that his status as ‘the largest taxpayer in Burien’ is why the council is so hesitant to consider taking back the lot they’ve leased to him,” @Burien Cat Lady added.
Andersons Donate $6,400 to Campaigns
According to the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), Dean and Mona Anderson have donated to the campaigns of Councilmember Kevin Schilling ($2,400), as well as first-time candidates Alex Andrade ($2,000), and Linda Akey ($2,000).
Image/text of Burien Toyota’s letter:
July 10, 2023
To the Burien City Council,
We understand that relocating the homeless encampments in our city is a complicated task and we are aware that you are considering moving them to the lot on SW 150th Street. You have learned about the daily impact these encampments have had on local businesses and Burien residents. Additionally, we are writing this letter to show you how it would impact the city’s financial situation if you to turn that lot into a homeless refuge.
That lot holds one third of our new and used vehicle inventory. Losing that space would mean less sales, which would directly affect sales tax and B&O tax income. By our calculations, the city, state, and county could lose a combined $3,000,000 in sales tax and $160,000 in business and occupation tax each year. You would also be affecting the financial situation of many of our employees. With a large, sudden drop in sales, we would not be able to afford to maintain our current payroll expense and would have to eliminate 20 to 30 positions. Those employees that do remain will find it much harder to pay their bills with less inventory available to sell. Each one of us still feels the effects of the pandemic; it would be cruel to add another stressor to an already anxious workforce that has fought so hard to continue providing for their families.
Along with financial stability, our hard-working employees deserve to feel safe. The Burien businesses have already offered so much to the people living in these encampments; the remaining homeless have refused such services. This proves to us that they do not want to stop living their drug-fueled lives and will continue to hurt others to feed their lifestyle. Our employees have already had to deal with their cars being broken into and/or stolen while at work. If the criminals who have stuck around in these tented encampments are living right across the street, where do you think they will go first? We often have to escort them out of our showroom for harassing our customers. Those same customers witness these people threatening and demeaning our employees as they are removed from the premises.
Please explain to us where a homeless facility has succeeded. How long do you expect the county’s $1,000,000 to last? And, will it help? We know that building a homeless encampment across the street will fail because we have been dealing with the byproduct of your carelessness each day. By catering to the small number of people who have already shown that they do not want our help, you are hurting the livelihood of so many other hard-working, honest citizens. We all want a viable solution for those less fortunate, but not at the expense of our ability to provide for our families and feel safe while doing so. We ask that you stop sitting on the sidelines. loin us in making Burien a safe, thriving city once again.
Dean Anderson, Dealer Principal
Alan Anderson, Dealer Principal
BurienToyota.com • 206.243.0700 • 15025 1st Ave South, Burien. WA 98148