Here’s our recap of the regular Burien City Council meeting held on Monday night, Nov. 20, 2023:

City Manager’s Report

City Manager Adolfo Bailon updated council on the Oasis Home Church temporary homeless camp. He said that the city received a description of the general code of conduct required at the camp, in an email from the church. The city offered to waive all fees associated with obtaining a temporary use permit for the church to host this camp. However, staff have received no update on whether rules are being enforced, what kind of security or sanitation services are available, or even how many people live at the camp. In addition, no application for a temporary use permit has been filled out by the organization. 

Bailon gave a brief report on the fiscal effects of potentially ending the lease with Burien Toyota in order to use the city-owned lot for a temporary homeless village. He said that business tax information is private, but he was able to share that the city would experience a direct loss in revenue of $24,000 annually in lost rent for the lot. Additionally, cancellation of the lease could result in the loss of “tens of thousands in annual sales and B&O tax” from this major business. He reminded council of the deficit the city budget already operates in, and reducing revenue further would quickly use up the reserve funds. This would result in the need to let go of staff and cut services.

In addition, Bailon mentioned that staff has set a date for full enforcement of the camping ban. Starting Dec. 1, 2023, no occupation of public land will be allowed between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. From 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., camping will only be allowed if sufficient shelter beds are not available. The encampment on Ambaum, he said, currently has about 20 tents remaining, down from a high of 69 tents and 90 residents. The city is actively working to clean it up and remove trash.

Bailon received council support for drafting a letter stating Burien’s desire to host a new international market. This market is being planned in a partnership between Seattle & King County, and its location is yet to be determined.

Public Comments

Around 40 people spoke, and the public comments time was extended to nearly 90 minutes. Most people were residents of Burien, though there were several businesses offering their services in setting up and running a potential tiny home village

A few people spoke very strongly against building a tiny home village at all, saying that none of our neighborhoods should have to take that on. One said that the surge of homeless people came from Seattle and King County policies, and are the responsibility of Seattle and King County. It was said that the county will keep extending the deadline on the million dollars, since they want Burien to take the money and take on the problem. 

Multiple people mentioned the problems with “housing first”, as evidenced by the explosion in recent years of people living homeless. They said this approach does not address addiction or require treatment, thus not tackling the cause of many who are living homeless. One person pointed out that there are a plethora of aid organizations ready to help the homeless, but the homeless individuals need to be willing to get the addiction help they need. Most, he said, refuse. One speaker challenged King County to use the funds instead for a sustainable solution to addiction related homelessness.

The majority of neighbors shared their concern with the idea of a Boulevard Park homeless camp, where they already are facing reduced services compared to other parts of the city. One person brought a petition with 35 signatures, saying they had just heard of this plan and no one they spoke to wants a camp there. Another speaker mentioned how downtown business owners and residents were negatively affected when a camp was there and asked, what about the residents and business owners of Boulevard park? Multiple people mentioned the level of noise pollution in Boulevard Park from airplane traffic, and how that would not be safe for a vulnerable population living in tents.

Multiple people spoke about the money being spent to remove the stairs at Eagle Landing Park. The demo will cost the city $750,000, and several people pointed out that this money could be used for many other things, such as solving the drainage issues in Boulevard Park. It was also pointed out that the stairs are much more stable now that stormwater runoff is being property channeled to the Sound, reducing the risk of erosion. 

Demolition of the stairs is already contracted out, explained City Manager Bailon later in the meeting, and set to begin early next month. Councilmember Cydney Moore received support in discussing the idea further at the next meeting. However, council has already had a full presentation on the reason for the stair removal at a previous meeting, and breaking the demolition contract would come with associated costs. It was determined that there will not be time for further research and discussion before demolition begins. 

Several people mentioned that we shouldn’t be criminalizing homelessness as a community. They said we should take the money offered by the county. Even if it only lasts long enough to run a tiny home village through the winter, it will save lives. One Boulevard Park resident said that though she believes the neighborhood is least suited to the camp location, it is better than not having a place for this population to go. 

It was asked of council not to let greed or contempt prevail over humanity. One speaker mentioned that she had just heard a camper at the Ambaum location had died. Another person pointed out that a tiny home village is structured and actively managed, and will not produce the chaotic and dangerous conditions of an unsanctioned homeless camp.

One neighbor of the Oasis Home Church homeless camp said that the people who are supposed to perform security duties have not been doing so, and that living near the camp is distressing to her family. One person mentioned that any city council members who would be benefiting by taking the county money, should recuse themselves from the vote. Multiple people took the opportunity to pray and preach about Jesus.

Pallet Village: Special Meeting Set

Mayor Sofia Aragon proposed that the city create a pallet shelter in Boulevard Park, which will operate for one year or until funds are spent. She proposed using $169,000 in city funds, in addition to the $1 million from King County. Her proposal included language about how the camp would be run, including prohibition of drug use. This motion was seconded, but discussion was essentially impossible because Councilmember Cydney Moore interrupted with “Point of Order” about 50 times. Moore’s issue was with the inclusion of any language about how the camp would be run, since council was supposed to only discuss the location. In the end, the motion was removed. City Manager Bailon later mentioned that he had no idea how much it would cost the city to use the lot in Boulevard Park.

Councilmember Cydney Moore then proposed that the tiny home village be built adjacent to Kennedy High School, in a lot currently owned by Seattle City Light. She said this lot is already vacant, so it would not require evicting anyone, ending a lease, or losing city revenue. She said that everyone knows teenagers already get up to a lot of trouble, so a homeless camp near the high school would have a negligible impact on that population. 

City Manager Bailon said at this point that we don’t know whether there would be a cost associated with using this land, or even if Seattle would allow this use on their lot. Councilmember Jimmy Matta said that we can’t make this decision for Seattle, and he wouldn’t be supporting any of the locations under consideration. Moore’s motion failed, with Matta abstaining and Schilling, Aragon, and Mora voting against it.

Councilmember Hugo Garcia then proposed that the city build emergency temporary housing at the Burien-owned lot, currently occupied by Toyota. He said it is already fenced, and close to the police station. Mayor Aragon argued that we shouldn’t be reducing the city’s needed revenue in the form of lost rent or sales and B&O taxes. She also said she was unwilling to adopt this motion without language making it clear how the facility will be run. This motion also failed, in a vote identical to the previous motion.

Councilmember Cydney Moore then moved to schedule a special meeting on Nov. 27, just to discuss the location of this camp. By this point the meeting was running late. Discussion about when and how to hold this special meeting went even later, though it did get approved in a majority of three vote, with Schilling voting no and Mora, Aragon, and Matta abstaining. Councilmember Sarah Moore voted to have the special meeting even though during the discussion she said she didn’t understand the content of it. She asked why council would revisit this topic, when it’s a holiday week and all location options have already been thoroughly discussed. 

The meeting was initially set for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Councilembmer Stephanie Mora said that at the special meeting they won’t be able to make any decisions if they don’t have quorum. Four councilmembers then said they would not be able to make the meeting. The date was then changed to Monday Nov. 27, 2023. The discussion went so late that it was decided to table the other agenda items until the special meeting as well. 

It was decided by a vote of 3-1-3 (Garcia, Moore & Moore), with Schilling opposed and 3 abstentions (Mora, Matta and Aragon) that the city hold a meeting Nov. 27 to discuss locations and ask King County for an extension of the deadline for accepting the $1 million dollars. Councilmember Mora tried to recall/reconsider the vote, but that was not allowed.

Watch full video of the council 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...

One reply on “Pallet village, encampments, special meeting set & more discussed at Monday night’s Burien City Council meeting”

  1. I attended the council meeting on the 20th. I have many thoughts but I think that in the future, council candidates should be required to pass a basic math test. As a parent, former teacher, and tutor, I disagree with a lot of what Cydney Moore says. I really resent her categorizing teens as troublemakers. Speak for yourself and your own family. Troublemakers are the people who hijacked the library and the property on the main street this last year. Their enablers were not a help. We were literally being held hostage in Town Square. Many of my former students and certainly my son, have a lot more common sense than some council members.

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