Here’s our recap of the special Burien City Council meeting held on Monday, April 10, 2023:
The special meeting began with a rowdy Public Comment period, which was extended multiple times to give everyone gathered a chance to speak. Comment times were reduced to 1-minute per person, and the first person to speak refused to stop speaking at the end of her time, saying that others were deferring their time to her. This is not allowed, yet she continued to speak.
Tension was definitely high, with nearly 20 commenters speaking in defense of Planning Commissioner Charles Schaefer (no relation to B-Town Blog Founder/Publisher Scott Schaefer), who may face some kind of penalty for his recent action along with Councilmember Cydney Moore. Together, they are alleged to have facilitated the move of the unhoused campers from City Hall to the vacant lot on SW 152nd Street and 6th Ave SW, where they now remain.
Other residents of the downtown area, as well as business owners, spoke of the many problems associated with the unsanitary and unsafe conditions around the new homeless camp. One woman said her adult daughter was sexually assaulted in front of her kids by a homeless man. Another said that trespass incidents in their building had increased from an average of 3.4 per month, to 11 in the past 10 days.
Everyone seemed to be in agreement that a safe, sanitary, and immediate solution needs to be found. Many spoke of the importance of keeping the residents of the camp together, and not scattering their makeshift community. Church leaders said they wanted to team up to create a temporary detox shelter. One person said how important it was to find a solution that didn’t involve increasing the tax burden on Burien residents. Another mentioned a class action lawsuit.
Exploring the Options
City Attorney Garmon Newsom provided a comparison chart (see below) of what many surrounding cities are doing for their own homeless populations, specifically regarding the Boise case. The 2018 Boise decision essentially says that cities can’t outlaw public camping unless they are providing enough shelter beds. The city of Everett doesn’t allow people to sit or lie down in a specific 10-block zone, for example, and Tacoma has a similar rule around its shelters and protected waterways.
The county-owned parking lot that was a strong contender for setting up a more permanent encampment is no longer up for consideration. The lot provides parking for visitors to Burien’s King County Courthouse, and the county decided that it might impede justice if they made the courthouse harder to access by having campers in the parking lot. The county is currently looking at multiple other locations, and determining how an encampment might fit with their current use and surroundings. City Manager Adolfo Bailon said the city is in frequent communication with the county on the issue of location and funding for the city’s homeless population.
City Manager Bailon also said that not a single church has requested permits in order to offer beds to this homeless population, contrary to what has been said during some public comments. Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling expressed his disappointment that no churches have come forward to help.
Meeting Outcome: No Porta Potty or Other Solutions
There followed a series of motions for where to move the homeless encampment or how to provide for them, along with various amendments, none of which passed. Councilmember Cydney Moore proposed using a fenced-off section of the Annex Park. She said it’s not ideal, but it would keep the campers from being right outside anyone’s front door, and the community is demanding some kind of action. The Parks Department has not had a chance to consider this idea yet. Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling said he wouldn’t sanction camping in any public park, and that he thinks we can do better. The motion was defeated.
Councilmember Moore also made a motion that the city immediately put a Porta Potty on the location of the current encampment. Bailon interjected that he needed to know where the money for the Porta Potty would come from. The motion failed 3–4. No councilmembers spoke on their reasons for objecting to this idea at this meeting, but in previous discussions the question was raised of liability to the city once services like Porta Potties are provided. Moore then attempted to make similar motions a few more times, but was repeatedly denied.
One thing that did pass was Councilmember Jimmy Matta’s motion to direct the City Manager to attempt to lease the lot where the encampment is currently located, or have it designated as a park. This passed 4–3, but will not result in any immediate changes for the campers, as it will take time to advertise for a potential lease, or to create a park designation.
The meeting went quite late, so the council voted to table the discussion on Commissioner Schaefer until a future meeting.
Burien City Council, I believe the recommendation of Council Member Moore should be pursued, i.e. “Councilmember Cydney Moore proposed using a fenced-off section of the Annex Park. She said it’s not ideal, but it would keep the campers from being right outside anyone’s front door, and the community is demanding some kind of action.” Also security, sanitation, health checks should also be included to assist people!!!
Comments are closed.