Burien City Council votes to ban camping by thin 4-3 margin

Sep 26, 2023, 6:43 AM | Updated: 4:22 pm

(Photo from KIRO 7)...

(Photo from KIRO 7)

(Photo from KIRO 7)

Burien’s City Council passed a city camping ban during a meeting Monday night. The ordinance passed in a 4-3 vote.

Ordinance 818, which goes into effect Nov. 1, prevents people from sleeping in public places from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night unless local shelters are full. Also, tents can only be set up at night.

Violating the ban brings a misdemeanor charge.

The vote in favor of the ban came after months of debate and escalating tensions in the community, one homeless man noted to KIRO Newsradio.

“‘Go home!’ They’re driving by (saying ‘Go home!’) Go home? What do you mean ‘Go home’? We’re out here because we’ve got no home.”

Council member Jimmy Matta voted in favor of the ban.

“Yes, I will be voting for it,” Matta said before the vote. “And, yes, I’ll take the heat that comes from it because that is why I ran for office.”

Action in the city of Burien: 5 leaders resign in protest over homeless crisis

“We must stop enabling homeless encampments and start working on sustainable solutions,” Linda Achey said, during public comment, KIRO 7 reported.

Others said the ban would do more harm to the houseless than good.

“Arresting or ticketing people who have nowhere else to go doesn’t help them find permanent housing,” Patricia Hudson said according to KIRO 7.

Council member Cydney Moore voiced her disagreement with the ban.

“Creating an anti-camping ordinance when we don’t have anywhere for them to go doesn’t help anyone. It just tells them, once again ‘We don’t want you here,'” Moore said Monday.

No information has been released about how the new ban will be enforced.

“Having an officer shortage and allocating their time and resources to displacing homeless people instead of violent crime I think that’s something that should be concerning for all of our community,” Moore said, according to KIRO 7.

King County Executive Dow Constantine’s office provided a statement to KIRO Newsradio Tuesday.

“The county will be reviewing the legislation with our legal team to understand any potential impact to policies or procedures, and will be discussing next steps soon,” spokesperson Chase Gallagher said.

Looking back at last week’s meeting

The city moved one step closer to banning camping in public places last week when dozens of residents relayed their concerns during public comment at a city council meeting. Some spoke in favor of the ban.

More from Burien: City inches closer to camping ban after heated meeting

“I live across the street from the encampment on (Ambaum Boulevard), and it’s gotten so bad that I don’t feel comfortable leaving my wife and my son home alone without me,” resident Todd Baldwin said at last night’s meeting, according to KIRO 7. “So, I am commenting from home today. It is not compassionate to let this way of life continue in the way that it is, and it’s a horrible idea to have people living on an island in the middle of a busy street.”

“At this point, just something needs to be done,” another resident, Curtis Warick, said. “I’m sad ultimately that there has been this much inaction.”

The City of Burien has discussed many different solutions, including using a private group, The More We Love, to clear out encampments after multiple Burien business owners worked with the organization to help remove homeless from camps near their businesses.

Other residents at the public comment said the council’s move could backfire, stating that forcing people into sobriety or treatment may not work for everyone and that criminalizing the homeless could make things worse.

“Homelessness is solvable, so instead of spending a lot of time on camping bans, let’s talk about the solutions to homelessness,” Barb Oliver, Director of Operations for Sound Foundations NW, said. “I will sit down with a cup of coffee with anybody that’s here and talk about that further.” Sound Foundations NW is an organization that builds transitional tiny homes for the homeless.

Contributing: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio; Steve Coogan, Frank Sumrall; Bridget Chavez, KIRO 7 News

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Burien City Council votes to ban camping by thin 4-3 margin