By Martin Barrett
Camp as of noon on May 31st
At a special meeting of the Burien City Council on May 30, 2023, members confirmed the lease agreement with Burien Cares to restore the bare land at 6th and 152nd to a dog park effective midnight, June 1, 2023. That parcel will then be in private hands. Burien Cares has determined that it will not allow open camping on its land, and therefore, the campers must vacate.
During the meeting, 49 individuals gave their comments. Only 23 were focused directly on this specific issue, with 10 speaking in favor of the city finding a new campground immediately for the displaced campers, stating that the city has an obligation to provide housing for them. Thirteen spoke against the city accommodating the campers. A significant focus of the latter group’s emphasis was the crime, open drug use, and trafficking that is openly seen at the encampment.
As usual, Council Member Stephanie Mora, who spent time on the streets as an adolescent, was the most vocal council member against accommodation. She asked the council the question, “If the issue is a lack of housing, will this not be a problem in 60, 90 days? How will this be temporary? That is what has been said in the past, and look where we are. Still dealing with this”. Mora said she is in contact with and sees volunteers who have driven campers willing to begin healing to locations outside of King County where beds and space are available. Later in the meeting, Mora proposed a motion to reinstate a “no-camping policy” on all city-owned land and public space in Burien. The motion failed to get a second.
Council Member Kevin Schilling also clarified his position. “The campers have had many touches but turned them down. If they deny services, then they have violated what it means to a citizen in Burien,” said Schilling.
Council Member Hugo Garcia pressed an option to make a sanctioned tent campsite on the property currently used by Burien Toyota for overflow vehicle parking. He asked the city to break the lease and then work with Toyota to move their overflow into the County parking facility next to the bus transit center, one of the highest crime locations in the city. Garcia said that he and Council Member Jimmy Matta had been in conversation with King County officials, and the County had promised the city 100 of the spaces in the parking structure and $1,000,000 to move, set up tiny pallet homes, hygiene facilities and provide security. Garcia also said Burien United Methodist offered their property for a 30-day campsite. Garcia claimed they had achieved what the City Manager could not seem to get done.
This claim received pushback from City Manager Adolfo Bailon, who was defended by other council members. Council Member Cydney Moore expressed her opinion that the city owned the land leased to Burien Toyota, and they could do whatever they wanted to do with it. She put forward the thinking that Burien Toyota, the largest taxpayer in Burien, was fortunate that the city was willing to help them find another place to park their cars.
In the end, only Garcia, Cydney Moore, and Sara Moore voted to advance this as a motion.
It was a typical dysfunctional Burien City Council meeting that concluded with no decision. The city has caved to the County for so long that it cannot seem to move forward with a vision for what is best for Burien, the entity they were all elected to steward! All except Stephanie Mora and Sarah Moore have political career agendas or paychecks ties (as Hugo Garcia, who works for King County); this makes them servants, not of Burien, but of Dow Constantine or a party.
The campers must leave as of 11:59 PM May 31, 2023. However, Dow Constantine, who has taken control of our local police department, will not cooperate. So how will this standoff end?
Below is a Tweet from the ChoeShow related to this story:
SWEEP IS ON: As expected, Wednesday night's Burien City Council meeting was charged with emotions. Bottom line, homeless now have until 11:59pm today to vacate the property in downtown. Land has been leased to Burien Cares(@BurienCares) and will be turned into a dog park. It's… pic.twitter.com/o2JqQrOx1Y
— Jonathan Choe Journalist (Seattle) (@choeshow) May 31, 2023