Burien to draft camping ban as search for encampment site continues

Jul 18, 2023, 12:10 PM

Burien camping ban...

Just across the street from City Hall, tents line one side of 152nd St. The other side, campaign signs. (Photo from Sam Campbell/KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo from Sam Campbell/KIRO Newsradio)

Burien is one step closer to enforcing a camping ban on public property as the city struggles to address a homeless encampment being moved from lot to lot.

After hours of debate and public comment, the Burien City Council voted 4-3 Monday night to direct the city manager to draft the ordinance that would ban camping on public property, modeled after Bellevue’s camping ban.

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The ordinance in Bellevue requires that people must be offered shelter but defines addiction and many behavioral health conditions as “voluntary behaviors.” If someone can’t enter a shelter because of these conditions, they can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Councilmember Stephanie Mora said that the ordinance would be important in encouraging people to seek shelter other than living in camps in the streets.

“They don’t want help,” Mora said. “If there’s no camping ordinance that’s blocking them from allowing them to stay on the streets, there is nothing that is pushing them to take the beds.”

Some council members argued the action is necessary to improve safety, but Councilmember Cydney Moore pointed out that Burien currently has no city shelters.

“Creating an anti-camping ordinance when we don’t have anywhere else for them to go doesn’t help anyone it just tells them again that we don’t want you here,” Moore said.

Nancy Kick, a Burien resident, expressed her frustration with the city and its lack of action on the issue, citing the amount of time that has been taken on this issue despite no permanent solutions.

“On February 27, you directed the city manager to bring back a menu of short-term rapid-action responses as soon as possible. And to identify a place for temporary sanction camps, tiny homes, sites for 24-hour shelter that was 140 days and nights ago,” Kick said. “This is your 15th meeting since then. So I’m here once again back to remind you that there are actual human beings living in those tents.”

There was initially an encampment outside City Hall, but when that was cleared by the city, the residents moved to Dottie Harper Park before that was also cleared.

King County has offered Burien $1 million and up to 35 pallet shelters, small mobile units that can house one to two people, in order to address the lack of shelter space in the city.

The council passed another motion directing the city manager to investigate these four potential sites, which include:

  • The Northeast Redevelopment Area on 15001 Des Moines Memorial Drive
  • A city-owned lot on Southwest 150th Street
  • The closed Beverly Park School  at 11427 Third Avenue South
  • A lot at South 136th Street and Third Avenue South

The Northeast Redevelopment Area is very close to Sea-Tac Airport and has a history of toxic pollution.

The city lot at SW 150th Street is being leased to Burien Toyota every month, which a City Council memo says the loss of the lot would cut a third of Toyota’s inventory, which could lead to the loss of 20 to 30 jobs.

More on Burien: 5 Burien city leaders resign in protest over homeless crisis

The field area of Beverly Park School has been offered as a possible site for a temporary shelter facility.

The lot at South 136th Street and Third Avenue South is owned by Seattle City Light and would need to be re-zoned in order to qualify to house encampments. Re-zoning is done by the planning commission, who all mass resigned last month. According to the city manager, the process to get a new planning commission is in the works but not yet ready to propose to the council.

The county wants the city to use the lot on Southwest 150th Street as a sanctioned camp.

No final decisions were made on where to start an encampment shelter.

Kate Stone contributed to this report

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Burien to draft camping ban as search for encampment site continues