Home Hope vs. Homelessness The Line of Demarcation: Why is the Burien Library Different?

The Line of Demarcation: Why is the Burien Library Different?

By Martin Barrett

Burien Library and City Hall lined with tents just inside the Condo Association’s property line

A tent fire began on February 23, 2023, next to the Burien Library and City Hall building. A tent camper caused the fire. It resulted in a burn injury severe enough to require hospital services.

Again on the evening of February 23, 2023, two more fires erupted on the property that seriously endangered public safety. A resident who lives across the street/park from the complex called the fire department. A tent dweller(s) had set a fire outside their tent. The flames rose to 3 ft. 

The Condo Association has become a destination for stolen property

These tents are right next to the City Hall and Library building. They are densely packed together and constructed of combustible fabric. The Burien/Normandy Park Fire dept came, requiring the campers to extinguish the fires. The tent camper(s) relit the fire minutes after the Fire department departed. 

On Tuesday, February 21, 2023, I went to the Boulevard Park and White Center Libraries. You may see the pictures here. Notice there are no tents at either location. I went into one of the locations and talked with staff. I learned from their perspective the tents at the Burien location because the City of Burien will not remove them. 

Neither the Boulevard Park (left) nor White Center (right) libraries have tents

In a follow-up conversation with Burien Police Chief Ted Boe on February 22, 2023, he said that the Police are not allowed to remove the tents because they are on private property. Chief Boe then showed the line between the City-owned Park and the library and city hall building on a property map. You can quickly identify the line on the west side of the building. The Condo Association property line is at or about where the posts and trees are, approximately 10 feet from the building. In this strip, the Police have no authority to remove tents because it is not public land. Is that as much a surprise to you as it was to the writer? 

A search of the deeds clearly shows that the King County Library System owns the land occupied by the Burien City Hall and the Burien branch of the King County Library System. Therefore it is public land and must comply with the laws regarding all public land, correct? No. There is a complication. The KING COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM AND CITY OF BURIEN CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION administrates the property. This association is a nonprofit corporation. The governors of this nonprofit corporation are Gregory Smith, KCLS Director of Facilities Management Services Robin Tischmak, Deputy Public Works Director at the City of Burien. They are the only listed governors. Do they have the authority to decide the property rules? Are they responsible for the open camping policy on the property? If not, who is directing them?

Condo rules

However, the story becomes even stranger. On February 9, 2023, the KING COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM AND CITY OF BURIEN CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION was dissolved. Who, then, is administrating this property? Who participated in the KING COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM AND CITY OF BURIEN CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION meeting, reportedly held on February 23, 2023? How can a dissolved corporation have a board meeting? 

Many questions require answers. Who controls the land and building? The corporation administering the property was dissolved when the fires occurred, resulting in an injury. Who then is responsible? Who decides what the residents of Burien are to experience when they visit City Hall or the Library?

Previous articleRise: Support and Encourage through Trauma
Next articleJoin The Highline School Board!


  1. Thank you for such a thorough and detailed report chasing down the property owners. I would think that holding public office both of those two named Governors should be able to be reached for comment as to the dissolution of the association. Did they refuse to comment?

    • Nikki the city no longer makes it possible to contact employees. Another example of hiding government decisions.

  2. Holy smokes. Frustrating and exasperating. The situation is obviously troublesome. A complete/total solution for “homelessness” is, of course, very complex and multi-faceted (I do not have an easy answer). But tents (and cold weather fires) ringing the the city hall perimeter will not address the problem. Your reporting of the “back story” (i.e., KCLS and condo association property) is very insightful. Where is the accountability and leadership? These types of behind-the-scenes maneuverings should be transparent and publicized in a timely fashion. What is the end-game? Decisions need to be made and action needs to be taken… sooner rather than later. Thank-you, Martin.

    • You are welcome, John. Please pass on the story to all your friends. We need to make sure the public knows.

Leave a Reply