by Martin Barrett
Burien residents are now fully aware that their City, its managers, and decision-makers are not listening to the residents who have shared their concerns, fears, and harms suffered as a direct result of the illegal camping by vagrants at the Burien Library.
Moms have informed the City that the vagrancy in the Burien Library has kept them from using the library with and without their children. Elderly citizens have expressed to the City their feelings of vulnerability and fear in coming to the Townsquare park and the Burien library. A woman was assaulted on the City’s property by one of the men camping on the City’s property. She suffered bodily injuries, was terrified by the attack, and will not return to the Burien library and Townsquare park as long as the vagrant men continue to live in tents at the Burien Library.
Additionally, fires have been started by the men living in the Burien Library tents. These fires have required the Fire Department and emergency medical and police response that would not be necessary but for the City condoning camping on its land.
One camper had significant burns on his body. His medical care is ongoing; it is not known whether the City of Burien is paying for his medical bills (which are expected to be significant) as he recovers from being burned at the City’s campsite.
Illegal drugs are routinely sold and consumed on the City’s property at the Library campground and Townsquare Park. Campers use the park and the library campsite for these illegal activities on a daily business which is intimidating to citizens who would like to use Townsquare Park and the library. Men believed to be living in the tents at the City’s campground stand in the park smoking what appears to be methamphetamine, heroin, and/or crack cocaine. Being forced to walk near or through an illegal drug transaction or a group of people smoking controlled substance is not what citizens want at their Townsquare Park and library. Families are no longer safe to play in the park. The City confirmed that it routinely uses City resources to clean up debris and litter in the park, which includes used hypodermic needles. Smoke from burning drugs being consumed at the library campsite has wafted into the City Council chambers. This directly contravenes the laws prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of the building. This prohibition applies to methamphetamines and crack cocaine, as well as tobacco.
Recently a citizen at the park reported seeing a man standing near the front door of the Burien Library, exposing his naked rear end as he had just completed defecating in front of the Library not far from his tent. This man, under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, was so high he did not even realize he had feces and toilet paper hanging on him. (We apologize for the crass description, but this is the crass reality our city and county leaders have allowed.) Another recent viewing was a woman camping at the City’s Library campsite; she came out of her tent and walked across the street to the Burien Condominiums. She pulled down her pants, squatted down, and defecated right in front of the Condo’s pedestrian gate. This woman left a pile of human feces, walked back across the street, and returned to her tent at the City’s campsite.
Numerous shopping carts and pallets are being stored on City property. These items are believed to have been taken by the campers/tenants at the City’s campground, stolen from local businesses. This drives up the cost of doing business in Burien, and it is a further nuisance for those citizens wanting to use the park being forced to walk around or being blocked by stolen carts loaded with debris and junk. Many of these carts are being pushed around by people who are obviously mentally ill or so utterly addicted to controlled substances that they do not even know where they are. The City is endorsing this anti-social, unsafe behavior by allowing the stolen property to be stored on the City’s land at its Library campground. It promotes antisocial and dangerous behavior, allowing the seriously mentally ill or those on drugs to wander through the campground, the Library, Library restrooms, and Town Square Park. Anyone wanting to be in the park or at the Library at the time these antisocial and dangerous activities are ongoing daily is at risk. The City authorities know about this! Since it does nothing to stop the danger, it is, in fact, promoting these antisocial and dangerous activities.
The City’s current policy and management practice is to simply ignore the laws governing the above mentioned illegal activities. City and library property has been damaged – concrete broken in the park, the lighting fixture at the front door to the library cracked, windows on the library and city hall defaced with etching and scratches; (it should be replaced at the City’s expense to its original undamaged condition.) Food and trash are left out, and overflowing trash cans attracting disease-carrying rodents. There is human waste accumulating which is unsanitary. The residents of the campground are forced to live in this squalor by the City that allows this encampment which is a health hazard for diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera, and flu during the winter and Covid 19 year-round. Some of the City’s campground residents also have pets, such as dogs that appear to be unlicensed, and their vaccination and rabies status is unknown.
Allowing this nuisance to emanate from the City’s Library campsites is causing citizens harm, including a loss of use and enjoyment of the Town square Park and the Burien Library. It has caused citizens to suffer fear and extreme anxiety that they would not have experienced but for the City’s failures to enforce its own laws. It has caused at least one citizen to suffer bodily injuries. It has caused citizens’ frustration over the City’s failure to respond to its “Citizen '’s” calls for help, to stop
this ongoing illegal activity.
Citizens have testified before the Burien City Council. They have sent letters to Council members and city staff. They have reached out to King County Library staff. They have talked with the police. All in vain! There are 12 plus tents in the City Hall on any given day. This illegal and anti-social behavior prohibits a large number of people from using the park or the library for their intended purpose.
Moms, vulnerable adults, senior citizens, dog walkers, and other citizens who have addressed their concerns to the City are tired of talking. The time for action has arrived! Local attorney John Kannin is working with these folks to file a class action lawsuit against the City of Burien and the King County Library System.
The plaintiffs are seeking to hold the City of Burien accountable for restoring the Town Square Park, City Hall, and the Burien Library to the people for its intended use, as a crime-free recreational area for all to enjoy and a place where families can come to learn at the library and enjoy the green space of the park and the rain gardens.
The claimants do not wish to profit from this (taking their fellow taxpayers’ money due to the failure of our civic leadership.) Other than reimbursement for stolen property and damages to the businesses, the claimants will receive no personal monetary awards. A fund will be set up to hold the monetary damages collected for use in future civil action needed to hold local government entities, their employees, and outside organizations like DESC accountable for ongoing acts and failure to protect the City and its residents.
If you have had your property stolen from your business and it is now at the library (carts, pallets, merchandise from your store), if you were harmed at the City Townsquare Park or the library, if you can no longer use these public facilities, the park, and the library because of the nuisance or have suffered further harm or losses as a direct result of your elected representatives and/or City employees or County employees’ failures to abate the nuisance, please join us in holding our government officials responsible for restoring our City and library to their original purpose and use. For the general public, please contact:
Kannin Law Firm P.S. at (206) 574-0202 and