From our sister site The B-Town Blog:
Photos, Video & Story by Scott Schaefer
On Friday morning, Mar. 31, 2023, 12 or so tents were dismantled outside Burien City Hall/Library, with most unhoused campers just packing up and moving a little over a block west to a city-owned lot at 6th Ave SW and SW 152nd Street (map below).
The new location is not park property though, and therefore is not subject to the city’s policy that bans overnight camping. The City of Burien said in a statement Friday morning that no staff was involved in the decision to move campers to the new location.
“City of Burien staff are aware that some individuals have moved their tents and belongings to a property owned by the City of Burien in downtown Burien on SW 152nd Street,” the city said in their statement. “The City of Burien does not have a law that prohibits camping on public property, with the narrow exception of dedicated park spaces. This land is not park property and therefore is not subject to the park policy banning overnight camping.” It is unknown at this time how long the campers will be allowed to stay in the new location. “The City of Burien is currently reviewing options to address community concerns,” the city said.
Below is a highlight video of Friday’s events, as shot and edited by Scott Schaefer (running time 10 minutes, 11 seconds):
Volunteers from local churches helped some of the campers move their items into vehicles, starting between 9–10 a.m. Friday morning. Around seven campers chose to go to Hope Christian Church, which had a mobile shower facility, warm meals and more, while most of the others moved up SW 152nd Street a little over a block away. Due to a late decision on permitting issues though, the church was not allowed to house campers like it originally planned.
Signs posted previously at the encampment said that campers had until 3 p.m. to remove their personal property. However, a city Public Works crew brought in a truck just after Noon and started removing property three hours prior to that deadline.
The once-crowded campsite was cleared by around 1:30 p.m.
Movement to the new location started Thursday night, Mar. 30 at around 10–11 p.m., when a few campers carried their tents and property and settled in on the grassy corner on 6th Ave SW and SW 152nd, in a city-owned lot just east of Town Square Dentistry.
As of around Noon Friday, at least six tents were set up there. Resident and former city council candidate Charles Schaefer (no relation to Founder/Publisher Scott Schaefer) told The B-Town Blog that he suggested the new location and helped campers start moving there Thursday night.
“We talked to the city, we talked to the Chief of Police; this is city property but it’s not a city park, so the ‘no camping in parks’ doesn’t apply,” Schaefer told us. “We know this is not a permanent spot. We know that at a certain point they’re going to get the approval to move people. This is just where people can camp and, you know, exist for a couple of days until we get better options. There’s lots of community members working on this, trying to get long term options.”
Linda Akey, who lives in the nearby Burien Town Square condos and is running for a seat on the Burien City Council, confronted Schaefer at the new location (as seen in our video above), and asked him:
“Can you tell me who authorized this location? I don’t think this is authorized.”
“I don’t have the authority,” Schaefer replied. “So what is happening here is this is city property but it is not a park, so there are different rules. It is not like you can look at Burien Parks that all these people here use. You can look at the Burien Parks website. You can look at the King County Parcel Viewer. It’s not a park, which means the camping and parks…”
“So you authorized this?” Akey asked.
“I let people know that it was an option,” Schaefer replied.
“You encouraged people to come here?” Akey said.
“Sure, that’s fair,” Schaefer said.
Here’s the full text of the City of Burien’s statement:
“Today the Burien Condo Association began enforcement of their new policy which bans overnight camping on the Burien Library and City Hall property. The prohibition is part of a new code of conduct the Burien Condo Association adopted.
“Service providers have been working intensively to find housing or shelter for the people living in tents.
“The Burien Condo Association, a legal agreement between King County Library System (KCLS) and City of Burien, was formed in 2010 when the shared civic building housing the Burien Library and Burien City Hall opened. The Burien Library and City Hall building is managed through the Burien Condo Association. City staff and KCLS staff sit on the board. Changes in building policy, including new codes of conduct, must be approved by the Burien Condo Association.
“City of Burien staff are aware that some individuals have moved their tents and belongings to a property owned by the City of Burien in downtown Burien on 152nd St. The City of Burien does not have a law that prohibits camping on public property, with the narrow exception of dedicated park spaces. This land is not park property and therefore is not subject to the park policy banning overnight camping.
“The City of Burien is currently reviewing options to address community concerns.”
Today the Burien Condo Association began enforcement of their new policy which bans overnight camping on the Burien Library and City Hall property. The City of Burien is currently reviewing options to address community concerns. Read full statement: https://t.co/Jzq441Al48
— City of Burien, WA (@Burien) March 31, 2023