Tag: Burien

Burien Makes “Camping” Ban Worse, Auderer Now on Red-Light Camera Duty, Harrell Order Subtly Improves New Drug Law

1. On Monday night, the Burien City Council expanded the number of hours per day in which being unsheltered will soon be illegal, changing the daily deadline for homeless people to be off the streets from 10 pm to 7 pm. The change, an amendment to the sleeping ban the council passed just one week earlier, bans people from “living on” public property between 7 in the evening and 6 in the morning.

During Monday’s meeting, Burien City Attorney Garmon Newsom II said the city decided to make the adjustment after learning that many shelters “begin making their decisions” about who to admit around 4:30 in the afternoon; by 10pm, most are closed and “it would be too late” to take people there. By starting the ban earlier in the evening, the city seems to believe it can plausibly say shelter was “available” and that people refused to accept it, making it legal for police to remove or arrest unsheltered people from the streets.

Signs of camping, according to the ordinance, include “bedding, cots, sleeping bags, tents or other temporary shelters, personal belongings storage, and cooking equipment use or storage.”

During the meeting, Newsom inaccurately claimed the new proposal actually increases “the amount of time they are able to camp” by allowing “camping” between 7 pm and 6 am; in fact, it does the opposite, making it illegal to be unsheltered in public spaces between those hours. Councilmember Cydney Moore, who opposed the underlying ordinance, tried to correct the record, prompting a brief back and forth with Newsom that Mayor Sofia Aragon cut off, saying Moore should limit her comments to “these technical changes.”

The council’s agenda also suggests proponents were confused about what the amendment does. According to the bill description, it “clarifies, consistent with the council’s previously stated intent, that there will be no camping outside of the hours stated in the ordinance. At this time, the proposed amendment would change the start time for camping from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.” In reality, it changes the start time when “camping” is illegal.

Before voting for the change, deputy mayor Kevin Schilling said the King County Sheriff’s office had signed off on the change. A spokesman for King County Executive Dow Constantine told PubliCola Tuesday that the county still has not made a decision about whether and how to enforce the law.

2. Daniel Auderer, the Seattle Police Officers Guild vice president caught on body-worn video joking with guild president Mike Solan about the killing of 23-year-old student Jaahnavi Kandula by another police officer, Kevin Dave, has been reassigned to review red-light camera footage and sign traffic tickets, PubliCola has learned.

Only a handful of officers are assigned to red-light camera duty at a time. Often, these officers are near retirement or, like Auderer, have been removed from patrol duty because of a complaint or other problem with their performance.

Auderer’s comments came to light when the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which is considering criminal charges against Dave, released the video to PubliCola and a reporter for the Seattle Times in response to records requests.

The Community Police Commission has called on Police Chief Adrian Diaz to put Auderer on leave without pay until the OPA complaint is resolved.

The changes are subtle—so subtle PubliCola didn’t notice them when we wrote about the executive order last week. The order reinstates language saying officers “will” determine the level of threat and make reasonable efforts to divert people from arrest when possible, and restores language Nelson deleted saying that officers should not arrest a person “absent articulable facts and circumstances warranting such action.”

3. In his executive order order clarifying how SPD should implement a new law criminalizing public drug use last week, Mayor Bruce Harrell mostly restated the language in the underlying bill, which says police should try to divert people to social service programs that will help them address their drug use instead of resorting immediately to arrests. But the EO includes a couple of subtle tweaks that could undo changes Councilmember Sara Nelson inserted at the last minute to give officers extra discretion to make arrests.

The changes are subtle—so subtle PubliCola didn’t notice them when we wrote about the executive order last week. They’re about the words “will” and “may.” In her amendments, Nelson changed language stating that officers “will” determine whether a person poses a threat of harm to self or others, and language stating that officers “will make reasonable efforts to” use diversion rather than arrest to say that officers “may” do both things, making each decision completely discretionary.

Harrell’s executive order reinstates language saying officers “will” determine the level of threat and make reasonable efforts to divert people from arrest when possible, and restores language Nelson deleted saying that officers should not arrest a person “absent articulable facts and circumstances warranting such action.”

Mayoral spokesman Jamie Housen told PubliCola, “As was discussed extensively during Council debate, the legislative branch cannot direct the actions of executive branch employees through legislation. Mayor Harrell has made it clear that under this bill he wants officers to conduct a threat of harm assessment and that diversion is the preferred outcome rather than further criminal legal system engagement.”

Under the language Nelson added to the bill, there would be little recourse if officers decided, using their broad discretion, to arrest every person using drugs in public without determining if they posed a threat, and no legal reason for officers to try to get people into diversion programs instead of arresting them.  By changing both words back to “will”—in the implementing executive order, if not the legislation—Harrell strengthened the bill (which, we feel obligated to add, still does not require diversion or fund any new diversion programs).

Burien Council Bans Sleeping Outside at Night, Still Has No Plan to Address Homelessness

Burien City Council members Kevin Schilling, Sofia Aragon, and Jimmy Matta

By Erica C. Barnett

The Burien City Council voted Monday night to ban unsheltered people from sleeping in public spaces between 10pm and 6am, after failing for more than six months to create any shelter or other legal place for a group of several dozen people to sleep.

The vote broke down along the same lines as every previous vote on the encampment, with a four-member majority (Stephanie Mora, Kevin Schilling, Jimmy Matta, and Sofia Aragon) voting to adopt the ban, which is modeled after a similar sleeping ban in Bellevue.

Burien police, who are King County Sheriff’s Office employees, would be in charge of enforcing the ban. A spokesman for King County Executive Dow Constantine told PubliCola, “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.” Earlier this year, the county decided not to help the city remove unsheltered people from another city-owned property.

“It’s not compassionate to force people to disperse to even more dangerous areas where their caseworkers can’t find them. And it is so painful to witness our council considering this right as the weather turns particularly nasty, knowing that it will keep getting worse.”—Burien Councilmember Cydney Moore

Unlike Bellevue, however, Burien has no year-round shelters that are open to all people, so the sleeping ban puts the city in a dubious legal position. Under a Ninth Circuit federal ruling called Martin v. Boise, cities can’t sweep encampments unless shelter is available. Other cities, including Seattle, have interpreted this ruling broadly, offering shelter that may not be appropriate or viable or proclaiming that a tent or group of tents are “obstructing” public space and removing them without notice or an offer of shelter. A King County Superior Court judge ruled recently that this broad use of Seattle’s police power is unconstitutional, and the case is under appeal.

Councilmember Cydney Moore, who voted against the ban, said prohibiting unsheltered people from sleeping at night won’t “get anybody off the streets” or solve homelessness in Burien. “It’s not compassionate to force people to disperse to even more dangerous areas where their caseworkers can’t find them. And it is so painful to witness our council considering this right as the weather turns particularly nasty, knowing that it will keep getting worse.”

The city has made no apparent progress on finding temporary places for people to live. City manager Adolfo Bailon said an offer of $1 million and 35 Pallet shelters from King County was insufficient to pay for a new shelter location, and that the city would need to find at least another $200,000 to make the offer pencil out.

The county offered the money to Burien earlier this year, along with garage space that would allow a Toyota dealer who is currently leasing a city-owned lot for his overflow inventory to store his cars so that the city could use the space for temporary shelter. After the council majority rejected this offer in July, council members and City Manager Adolfo Bailon have floated a number of non-viable locations for the shelter, including a contaminated site owned by the Port of Seattle that the Port has said is uninhabitable.

Last month, Bailon raised the possibility of moving the encampment to an empty lot next to a county library, businesses, and public housing in Boulevard Park, a lower-income, largely Latino neighborhood. Last week, councilmember Hugo Garcia pointed out that the original justification for displacing the encampment was that it was next to a library, homes, and businesses in wealthier, whiter downtown Burien. “This reeks of white supremacy,” Garcia said.

Mora immediately moved to censure Garcia, but her motion failed for lack of a second; she made the same motion last night, and it failed again. In a thread on X (formerly Twitter), Councilmember Sarah Moore, the third member of the anti-sleeping ban minority, said Garcia was not accusing any of his council colleagues, specifically, of being a white supremacist, as Mora suggested. “I applaud his courage for naming what he saw and I hope we can collectively engage in challenging conversations like this productively,” Moore wrote.

At last night’s meeting, Moore also proposed having a public discussion about a proposal, which Bailon said last night is moving forward, to pay a group called The More We Love to remove encampments from public spaces. The group, run by a Kirkland mortgage broker named Kristine Moreland, offers “sweeps” at $515 a person and was recently paid to remove the encampment in Burien from a spot next to the Burien Grocery Outlet. Although Moreland claimed to have “housed” a huge number of the people living in the encampment, the encampment has actually moved to another location in the middle of a busy intersection. The city currently contracts with REACH, an established outreach group.

Burien Outdoor Sleeping Ban Moves Forward Despite Lack of Places for People to Go

By Erica C. Barnett

The Burien City Council moved forward Monday night on legislation that will ban sleeping outdoors at night throughout the city, putting the bill on the “consent agenda,” which does not require public debate, for next week. The bill, supported by four of the council’s seven members, targets a few dozen people living unsheltered in the city of 60,000.

For months, the city has swept this group of people from location after location, forcing them from their original spot outside the building that houses Burien City Hall and the downtown Burien library to other pieces of public property such as planting strips. (Current city law, which will be overturned by the sleeping ban, prohibits sleeping in public parks but allows homeless people to rest on other public property.) The encampment is currently perched in what amounts to a traffic circle in the middle of two busy intersections

During public comment, supporters of the ban blamed the same small group of homeless people for everything from child sex trafficking to the presence of drugs in Burien to “gangs,” describing them variously as rapists, “junkies,” “tweakers,” and people who “don’t want help.”

A resident of the encampment, who said he became homeless after losing his job, told the council that if he didn’t have the encampment, he would have to go back to sleeping in alleys, yards, garages, and on public transit.  “I think it’s better for us to be in a park where you can see us,” he said. “Why not keep the camp? Why take it away? I also sleep on the train, and when I sleep on the train, I don’t get good sleep, and I make bad decisions the next day.”

As for what would happen once the ordinance passed, Councilmember Stephanie Mora said she hoped Burien’s unsheltered population would see that it was “inconvenient” to sleep outdoors in Burien and hopefully “find somewhere else to camp.”

During the debate over the legislation, the bill’s chief sponsor, Stephanie Mora, responded to a public commenter who asked council members to consider what they would do if they became homeless. “Well, I can tell you what I did do when I was newly pregnant,” Mora said. “I was a teen mom, I became homeless, and unfortunately, I was kicked out of my house. And I went to a local church, and I told the church members what had happened and those church members helped me out. It wasn’t the government that helped me out, it was people.”

As for what would happen once the ordinance passed, Mora said she hoped Burien’s unsheltered population would see that it was “inconvenient” to sleep outdoors in Burien and hopefully “find somewhere else to camp.”

A US 9th District Court ruling called Martin v. Boise bars cities and other jurisdictions from sweeping encampments unless there is “available” shelter, a loophole cities like Seattle have pushed to the limit. But there is no year-round overnight shelter for single men, who make up most of the encampment residents, in Burien, and the council has not come up with any viable proposal to locate a new shelter in the city. The latest proposal—a vacant lot in the low-income neighborhood of Boulevard Park—would be directly next to a library, like the original encampment.

Councilmember Hugo Garcia said it “reeks of white supremacy” to move the encampment from a library in a wealthier white neighborhood to a low-income Black and brown one, prompting Mora to immediately demand a vote to censure Garcia for his “very racist remark.” After some heated back and forth between opponents and proponents of the proposal, the council passed the sleeping ban on a predictable 4-3 vote, with Councilmembers Cydney Moore, Sarah Moore, and Garcia voting no.

Mora, notably, has proposed turning Burien’s outreach contracts over to a new group whose leader, Kristine Moreland, is a longtime volunteer with Union Gospel Mission with no experience providing direct services for governments. Until recently, Moreland advertised “sweeps” at a cost of $515 a head; she claims to have “housed” many of the encampment residents, but opponents of the sleeping ban noted Monday night that the same people are still sleeping outdoors in Burien.

Burien’s sleeping ban is modeled on a near-identical law in Bellevue—a city that, unlike Burien, does have an overnight men’s shelter. Once it passes, likely next week, the ban will go into effect on November 1.

The Burien police department, which is run by the King County Sheriff’s Office, would be responsible for enforcing the ban. A spokesman for King County Executive Dow Constantine said it would be premature to say whether he would instruct the sheriff’s office to enforce the law; earlier this year, the county decided not to help the city remove unsheltered people from a city-owned property that the city leased to a private company, ostensibly for a dog park, in order to evict the homeless people who moved there after the initial City Hall sweep.

Ceis Gets Another $30,000 from City, Poll Tests Anti-Andrew Lewis Messages, Burien Site May be Too Loud for Shelter

1. Tim Ceis, the consultant who received a no-bid, $280,000 city contract to work on issues related to Sound Transit’s Ballard-to-West Seattle light rail alignment earlier this year, received a $30,000 contract extension this month, bringing his total city contract to $310,000.

Ceis’ contract involves meeting with neighborhood advocacy groups and other stakeholders to build “community consensus” around the mayor’s priorities for the light rail extension, strategizing, and advancing Harrell’s views to the Sound Transit board.

PubliCola broke the story about Ceis’ initial contract in March.

At the time, Harrell was pushing a proposal to eliminate a station in the Chinatown International District (CID) neighborhood and replace it with a second Pioneer Square Station across from City Hall, roughly where the King County Administration Building currently stands. King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed creating a towering new residential neighborhood and new civic center in the area. Sound Transit board adopted this proposal as its preferred alternative in March, but left one potential CID option on the table in response to protests from residents and businesses.

The plan to skip over the CID would add a new light rail station near Lumen Field and an existing Salvation Army shelter, amid a broad swath of land owned by developer Greg Smith. As far back as 2022, Smith’s company Urban Visions had mocked up a proposal to move the planned CID station south into SoDo, suggesting the area could turn into a new destination like Chelsea Market in New York or the food and event center in the revamped Seattle Center Armory.

Documents obtained through records requests show that Ceis, along with the city’s designated liaison to Sound Transit, has met with Smith “to discuss potential partnerships related to the proposed CID south station” on Smith’s property. He has also met with attorney Jack McCullough, who represents the developer that owns the development rights around the proposed second Pioneer Street station.

The newly amended contract says that “due to delayed Sound Transit board action,” Ceis’ work will continue through November. The board spent several weeks this summer debating whether to eliminate a promised station on Denny Way or build it on Westlake as planned; Harrell, who initially seemed to support eliminating the long-planned station on Denny, ultimately got behind a station north of the original proposed site on Westlake that will cause less disruption to Amazon and the South Lake Union developer Vulcan.

Public records show that Ceis communicates regularly with Vulcan, and facilitated a meeting between Harrell and Vulcan VP Ada Healey, who told Ceis that the original plan for a station on Westlake would “put [the city’s] economic engines at risk and “sacrific[e] our downtown neighborhoods.” A spokesman for the mayor’s office said the scope for Ceis’ $250-an-hour contract remains unchanged.

2. There’s a new poll in the field testing positive and negative messages about District 7 City Councilmember Andrew Lewis, along with positive messages about his opponent Bob Kettle—a former Navy officer who received 31.5 percent of the vote to Lewis’ 43.5 percent.

The poll, which only tests positive messages about Kettle, appears to be from the Kettle campaign. For one thing, it mischaracterizes several of Lewis’ key positions in odd ways—saying, for example, that Lewis is “working…to bring rent control to Seattle” (in fact, he voted against a rent control “trigger” law earlier this month). For another, it describes Lewis’ views in a way that no human working on his campaign would be likely to phrase them—like a question that says Lewis “believes we can make progress… if we center the work and meet the moment with the urgency it requires,” or another that talks about “electrify[ing] houses.”

The real meat of the poll—the messages voters should prepare to hear from Kettle as he runs against Lewis from the right—is more or less what you’d expect from a guy with campaign signs all over the top of Magnolia and Queen Anne: Kettle will represent District 7 neighborhoods outside downtown Seattle, crack down on “open drug use and dealing from Downtown to our neighborhoods,” and “clean up our public spaces” by removing encampments now that “we’ve finally built-up enough shelter space to offer housing to everyone.”

Quick fact check on that last point: There are currently around 6,000 shelter and transitional housing beds in all of King County—a fraction of what’s needed to serve a homeless population that could be as high as 48,000. Even under the most conservative estimates, we have not “built up enough shelter space,” much less housing, “for everyone.”

3. A potential site for a Pallet shelter in Burien could be disqualified because of extreme noise levels from nearby SeaTac Airport. The property—an empty lot next to the Boulevard Park branch of the King County Library—sits inside a “35 decibel reduction zone,” in which all “living and working areas” must be soundproofed to reduce inside noise by 35 decibels.

Pallet shelters, which are thin-walled temporary structures ventilated to the outdoors, can’t be soundproofed—a fact the Port of Seattle brought up in rejecting a proposal from the city to site the shelter inside the Port’s Northeast Redevelopment Area (NERA). In both locations, the average noise level is between 60 and 70 decibels, a level SeaTac Airport’s director of environment and sustainability said was “not conducive to residential purposes, especially when it is highly unlikely that any temporary housing structures (let alone permanent structures) could be modified to attain the City of Burien’s stringent noise mitigation code.”

A spokesperson for the city of Burien did not immediately respond to questions about noise levels at the potential shelter location and how the site, which has been vacant for many years, first came to the attention of the city.

As Camping Ban Looms, Burien Considers Privately Owned Lot Near Library as Potential Shelter Site

By Erica C. Barnett

On Monday night, the Burien City Council decided not to immediately approve a bill that would ban sleeping outdoors in the city “at any time between sunset and sunrise,” opting to request more information from city staff about the implications of the ban before passing it.

During the same meeting, City Manager Adolfo Bailon said the city had been contacted by a private landowner who is interested in renting out their property to the city for use as a temporary shelter site for up to 24 months. According to a spokesperson for the city of Burien, Bailon learned about the site when Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling introduced him to the property owner.

Although Bailon declined to provide any details about the lease proposal, PubliCola has confirmed that the property is a commercially zoned lot sandwiched between a King County Housing Authority building and the Boulevard Park branch of the King County Library System (KCLS), about three miles east of the traffic circle where most of the encampment residents are currently living. Nearby businesses include a Dollar Tree, a laundromat, and a liquor store.

Over the years, the owners of the property have filed permits to develop the overgrown, unfenced lot into a mixed-use apartment building, a parking lot for the library, and a mixed-use townhouse development, but none of these plans have ever materialized. One of the current owners,Dan O’Neill of the O’Neill Design Company, did not respond to a call on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the King County Library System was unable to comment Tuesday about plans for the site. When the city first evicted encampment residents from outside City Hall in downtown Burien, some supporters justified the move by saying the encampment endangered patrons at Burien’s main KCLS branch, which is located in the same building.

King County Regional Homelessness Authority spokeswoman Anne Martens said the KCRHA hasn’t received much information yet about the potential shelter site. “We will be pulling together a meeting with all relevant parties to discuss,” Martens said. “This is still being scheduled, but we hope to do it soon.”

Earlier this year, King County offered the city $1 million, along with 35 Pallet shelters, and proposed a land swap that would have allowed a shelter to open on city-owned land, but the council narrowly rejected that proposal. Any action to turn the privately owned lot into a shelter will likely take several months, and will almost certainly require funding beyond $1 million King County has offered, depending on how much it costs to rent the land and hire a homeless service provider to run the shelter. The council may also need to rezone the lot.

“We have lots of tents throughout the city. These people are breaking into our houses, they’re breaking into our cars. Yes, I get that they’re trying to feed a [drug] habit, but that’s not acceptable to me.”—Burien City Councilmember Stephanie Mora

Meanwhile, the outdoor sleeping ban will take effect, assuming it passes, on October 1—meaning that even in a best-case scenario, there will be a period when homeless people are effectively banned from Burien after dark.

Although the legislation, modeled on a nearly identical law in Bellevue, is a bit of a fait accompli—four of seven council members support it—a strong council majority was still interested in getting more information about its impacts.

The exception was Councilmember Stephanie Mora, who proposed an unsuccessful motion that would have actually accelerated the legislation, allowing the council to pass it without additional review, last night, and putting the ban into effect immediately. “We are not criminalizing being homeless,” Mora said. “We are criminalizing criminal activity. We have lots of tents throughout the city. These people are breaking into our houses, they’re breaking into our cars. Yes, I get that they’re trying to feed a [drug] habit, but that’s not acceptable to me.”

Burien City Manager Adolfo Bailon and City Attorney Garmon Newsom II

Neither Mora nor several public commenters who claimed the encampment was a haven for child sex trafficking produced specific evidence to back up their claims. According to a state crime report, which Burien Police Chief Ted Bo presented earlier in the evening, crime dropped 8.5 percent in Burien last year, with significant reductions in burglary and robbery reports. There were no human trafficking reports in Burien in either 2021 or 2022.

Because a Ninth Circuit ruling called Martin v. Boise bars most encampment sweeps unless people have somewhere to go, the city will only be able to enforce the ban if shelter is “available.” However, the bill the council is considering defines “available” shelter broadly, as “any public or private shelter with available overnight space, open to individuals experiencing homelessness at no charge.” As written, the bill could strip away people’s right to decline shelter that requires attendance at religious services, discriminates against LGBTQ+ people, forces people to abandon partners and pets, or does not accommodate people’s physical and behavioral health care needs.

The bill explicitly defines drug and alcohol use as a “voluntary” choice among people who turn down spots in shelters that require strict sobriety, effectively criminalizing physical dependence on alcohol and other drugs.

Council members asked Bailon to come back with more information about how the King County Sheriff’s Office would enforce the sleeping ban, what kind of legal liability Burien will be taking on by passing the ordinance, and how far away shelters can be located to count as “available,” among other unanswered questions. Burien has no year-round beds for single men, who make up the majority of those living unsheltered in the city; the nearest year-round men’s shelters are in Seattle and Bellevue.

“I am not in favor of this ban, but I do think it’s important for us to know exactly what we are banning and what we are defining [as shelter] when we do it,” Councilmember Sarah Moore said.

Councilmember Cydney Moore, who also opposes the ban, requested information about how much enforcing the new law will cost the city—a question that could be critical, given that the city could face cuts or layoffs next year, according to a budget Bailon delivered earlier in the meeting. A spokesman for King County, which provides Burien’s police force through the King County Sheriff’s Office, said the county has not done an analysis of what would be involved in enforcing a potential sleeping ban.

Burien Considers Handing Contract for Homeless Services to Private Sweeps Startup With Scanty Record

The More We Love logo (fair use)

By Erica C. Barnett

For months now, the city of Burien has been locked in a stalemate over how to address a group of unsheltered people who remain in the city after repeated sweeps.

The latest plan: A potential contract with Kirkland mortgage broker Kristine Moreland, who offers private sweeps, at a cost of $515 per “camper,” or about $20,000 for a “40 person sweep,” through a new nonprofit called The More We Love, incorporated under the name The More Wee Love on April 10.

Moreland is a longtime volunteer at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, a religious charity that offers shelter, housing, and a Christian treatment program, and used to run a small nonprofit called the MORELove Project, which was dissolved in 2019. In interviews and public comments, Moreland has argued that homelessness is a drug problem, not a housing problem. This view is in conflict with a more widely accepted approach called “housing first,” which holds that people can’t achieve lasting recovery if their basic needs aren’t met.

Burien officials have been debating how to deal with encampment residents since March, when the council and King County Library System voted to evict a group of people living in tents outside the building that houses Burien City Hall and the local library branch. Ever since, the city has swept this group of several dozen unsheltered people from place to place; in June, King County offered the city a million dollars, a shelter location, and 35 Pallet shelters, but a four-member council majority voted to reject that offer in July, arguing it was a bad deal for the city.

Meanwhile, the same council majority has spent the better part of the summer proposing sites that are unavailable or uninhabitable—like a contaminated Port of Seattle property located right at the end of a SeaTac Airport runway.

On August 21, the council plans to take up a new proposal to criminalize unsheltered homelessness in the city, modeled on Bellevue’s near-total “camping ban.”

Last week, the council—at the request of Mayor Sofia Aragon—directed City Manager Adolfo Bailon to “explore a contract with Kristine Moreland” for homeless services,  “given what we’ve seen in terms of outcomes.”

According to people who work with Burien’s homeless population, Moreland started showing up at encampments in April, shortly after the initial sweep at City Hall. By the next month, Moreland was pitching herself to Burien leaders as a more effective alternative to longstanding nonprofit groups like Let Everyone Advance with Dignity (LEAD) and REACH, which she described in an email to City Manager Adolfo Bailon and the council as “struggling” and “not…successful.”

“As you may know,” Moreland wrote to Bailon in May, “we have been monitoring the encampment downtown and have been working with a number of individuals living there to provide essential services such as food, shelter, and healthcare. While we have been successful in our efforts, we have also noticed that other resources have been struggling to address the needs of the encampment and its residents.”

“Our organization has worked with other local governments and non-profit organizations to provide compassionate and respectful assistance to those in need,” Moreland continued, “and we believe that we can help the city do the same.”

A majority of the council was apparently impressed by Moreland’s pitch. Last week, the council—at the request of Mayor Sofia Aragon—directed City Manager Adolfo Bailon to “explore a contract with Kristine Moreland” for homeless services,  “given what we’ve seen in terms of outcomes.”

What outcomes was Aragon referring to? According to Bailon, who singled out Moreland’s group during a presentation on Burien’s homelessness efforts last week, Moreland got a group of unsheltered people to move on from a piece of vacant land near Burien Town Square, and then performed a similar feat when an encampment popped up outside a nearby Grocery Outlet, clearing around 20 tents from the property and “identifying housing for multiple people” at the site.

Moreland declined to speak to PubliCola, and did not respond to a list of detailed questions about her work. Speaking to conservative commentator Jason Rantz on August 11, said The More We Love had “successfully removed 27 people” from the site by guiding them into “truthful, real, intentional services”—like detox and treatment—and getting “real organizations in there that can do the real work and understand how to actually help these humans.”

It’s unclear how many people Moreland has actually referred to detox, treatment, or housing. But here are some facts. For people with little or no income, getting into detox and treatment can take weeks or months. King County offers only two detox facilities for people who can’t pay for private detox, including the 33-bed Recovery Place center in Seattle, so competition is high. Even after longer-term treatment, relapse is extremely common,  especially for people who have nowhere to live; sober housing is an option for some, but beds are rare, and most facilities immediately evict people when they relapse.

Comparing her work favorably to longstanding nonprofits like the Downtown Emergency Service Center, Moreland told Rantz it was high time for the government to stop spending resources on people experiencing homelessness and let “the private sector step up”—including her own group, which she called one of “the most effective organizations I’ve seen yet.”

Aragon did not respond to a request for an interview. Bailon referred PubliCola’s questions to a spokesperson for the city, who said they had “no update to share on the nature or scope of any potential contract at this time as the directive was just issued this week during the City Council’s meeting.” The spokesperson then directed the rest of our questions to Moreland.

After one sweep, REACH case manager Stephanie Tidholm said, Moreland said she had housed 14 people, but Tidholm saw many of them in the relocated encampment a couple of weeks later. “We keep a spreadsheet of all our clients in Burien, and there is no way she housed 14 people.”

Moreland has told interviewers that her father struggled with addiction and was often homeless, an experience that has shaped her approach to people living unsheltered and struggling with addiction. “Nobody wants to be living in this hell, but the fact of the matter is it’s drug addiction, and that drags you down to the depths of despair,” Moreland recently told FOX 13 News. “So, it’s our job to lift them up and out of that.”

Talking to KIRO News before the Grocery Outlet sweep last last week, Moreland said she had already moved several people from the site into shelter or housing, and had “beds” available for at least another six people who remained at the location. “[We] do an intake at the beginning when they come into our care, Moreland explained. “Once we’ve done the intake, [and] we understand their full story, from there, we can connect them to services, and sometimes that looks like sending them home to their families. It just depends on what the greater story is.”

Jeff Rakow, the owner of the Grocery Outlet property, confirmed that he hired Moreland to remove the encampment, and called her work at the site “remarkable.”

“In response to widespread drug use and unsafe conditions for the unhoused and the community, coupled with the absence of urgent government action, we engaged The More We Love to connect those living in the encampment with human services,” getting people into “detox, shelter, back with family, or other solutions best suited to their individual needs.”

But people familiar with the homeless population in Burien say they continue to see the same people month after month, including people who have accepted Moreland’s housing and shelter offers and ended right back where they started. In one case, according to encampment volunteer Charles Schaefer, an encampment resident “told [volunteers] she transported him down to [a place in] Lacey,” about 50 miles south of Burien. Schaefer was head of the Burien Planning Commission until June, when the council majority ousted him for telling unsheltered people about a city-owned lot where they had a legal right to sleep.

The Lacey site was neither housing nor shelter, Schaefer said; “it was a detox or treatment facility, and that wasn’t what he was looking for or led to believe. So he took three buses to get back to Burien from down there,” Schaefer said. “He was lured with some offer that did not materialize.” PubliCola was unable to connect directly with this individual, but heard about his experience from Schaefer and two other sources.

In other cases, sources familiar with the homeless population in Burien say, Moreland’s clients received hotel beds for a few nights, then ended up back on the streets in Burien when the money for their rooms ran out. After an earlier sweep, REACH case manager Stephanie Tidholm said, Moreland claimed she had housed 14 people, but Tidholm saw many of them in the relocated encampment a couple of weeks later. “We keep a spreadsheet of all our clients in Burien, and there is no way she housed 14 people.”

Kristine Moreland speaks to KIRO News in front of the pile of rocks that has replaced an encampment near the Grocery Outlet in Burien. KIRO News screenshot.

During the recent Grocery Outlet sweep, longtime clients contacted Tidholm to tell her Moreland was offering housing and detox services to people who agreed to leave the site. “Nobody she was with knew where they were going,” Tidholm said. “Somebody told me they weren’t allowed to go [with her] because they weren’t going to do detox. They thought they had to leave no matter what.”

A video posted by Discovery Institute staffer Jonathan Choe, who was fired by KOMO News for promoting a rally held by the insurrectionist group the Proud Boys, features a seemingly impaired woman describing how grateful she is for Moreland’s work to secure “the hotel we’re going into.”

According to Tidholm and others familiar with the encampment, Moreland moved as many as 12 encampment residents to a hotel in Renton owned by the company REBLX. Although REBLX has partnered with the King County Regional Homelessness Authority and LEAD to provide rooms for their clients in the past, the company is not itself a service or shelter provider. Proposals to turn the whole 116-room hotel into a shelter for Burien residents fell flat, in part, because Renton law effectively prohibits new shelters in the city.

Already, according to sources familiar with the situation, REBLX has kicked out one of the former encampment residents Moreland placed there for violating the hotel’s code of conduct, which applies to anyone staying in its rooms. REBLX did not respond to a request for comment.

Since the sweep, Tidholm said she has only managed to reconnect with clients who didn’t go to Renton; the others, she said, “are now gone.”

The size of any potential contract between Moreland and the city of Burien remains unclear. A sample budget sent to council members by one of Moreland’s allies, Dan Mathews (of the commercial real estate company Kidder Mathews) suggested that King County could use the $1 million it proposed spending on shelter in Burien, plus additional funds the city could save by “redirecting resources away from current less effective solutions for the unhoused” to hire Moreland at an annual cost of $1.8 million.

In his pitch to Burien officials, Mathews credited Moreland with leading the team that swept a notorious Seattle encampment called the Jungle in 2016; building the city’s first “mobile shower truck”; and providing “outreach services for SPD Seattle’s Navigation team,” which removed encampments during the Jenny Durkan administration. The first two items appear to refer to Moreland’s work as a volunteer with UGM, which provided outreach before the city swept the Jungle. The city has not responded to questions about whether Moreland ever provided “services” for the Navigation Team, but the team itself was made up entirely of city employees. Mathews did not respond to a request for an interview.

Two incidents in Moreland’s past could raise concerns for the city as it considers signing a contract for her services. The first is her arrest for DUI last August, when Kirkland police pulled Moreland over for allegedly driving 52 mph in a 35 mph zone. (In an incident in 2021, an officer who pulled Moreland over for speeding said she drove “past my vehicle fast enough that it shook” and acted “inconvenienced” by the stop.)

When Moreland rolled down the window, according to the police report, her “eyes were watery and her speech was slurred,” and the “odor of intoxicants was emanating” from her breath. Moreland failed a field sobriety test and blew 0.133 on a blood alcohol breath test—significantly above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Subsequent tests showed she had a blood alcohol level between 0.11 and 0.13 percent.

Between 2014 and 2016, according to the charges, Moreland facilitated “short-term, high-cost loans” with an unlicensed lender for at least four home buyers, then turned around and refinanced the loans through the company that employed her as a mortgage broker, pocketing the commission.

The court initially suspended Moreland’s license for 90 days. Instead of accepting the penalty, she contested the charges, arguing that the breath test was inadmissible. Her case is now on hold pending the results of an unrelated lawsuit challenging the alcohol testing method used by agencies across the state. In that case, lawyers for a man arrested for a DUI argued that because the state’s standard testing equipment truncates test results after the second decimal instead of rounding them up or down, it could indicate that a driver was more intoxicated than they actually were, resulting in unfair charges.

A drunk driving charge is not, in itself, disqualifying for a job working with people who are actively using drugs and alcohol; in fact, many drug and alcohol counselors get into the work because of their own personal experiences with addiction and recovery. Given the zero-tolerance views Moreland has expressed about drug and alcohol use among homeless people, though, her own recent alcohol-related arrest and decision to fight the charges instead of taking responsibility seem inconsistent with the kind of policies she advocates for others.

Another incident that could be relevant to the council’s contract deliberations took place in 2020, when the state Department of Financial Institutions found Moreland had violated the state Consumer Lending Act while working for the licensed mortgage company Caliber Home Loans. The charges included engaging in unfair or deceptive practices, aiding and abetting violations of of the law, and making false statements to the department, among other violations.

Between 2014 and 2016, according to the charges, Moreland facilitated “short-term, high-cost loans” with an unlicensed lender for at least four home buyers, then turned around and refinanced the loans through Caliber, pocketing the commission.  Later, according to DFI documents, Moreland failed to report on her license renewal application that she was under investigation for violating state law, which is itself another violation.

Moreland could have lost her license over the charges or been permanently barred from practice. Instead, the department agreed to a consent order in 2021 in which Moreland would pay a $15,000 investigation fee, plus another $14,000 to fund financial literacy and education programs. State records indicate that the department put her on a $500-a-month payment plan for her $24,000 unpaid balance the following year; a spokesperson for DFI said Moreland still owes the state $18,500, and has paid $10,750 so far. “Ms. Moreland has missed periodic payments and payments have been modified to $50 per month,” the spokesperson said.

Many people who spoke to PubliCola for this story noted that no matter what approach a service provider takes with their clients, access to shelter and housing is dictated by the availability of shelter and housing—and currently, there isn’t enough of either. According to every estimate of King County’s homeless population, there are thousands more unsheltered people than shelter beds—perhaps tens of thousands.

Housing is even harder to come by, especially for people living in encampments. Under federal rules, service providers have virtually no ability to allocate housing themselves; instead, applications go through a process called Coordinated Entry that prioritizes people based on need. Private entities that don’t participate in the official housing system like Union Gospel Mission, can house people directly, but the housing they offer often comes with high barriers to entry, including drug testing, work requirements, and even dress codes for women.

If Burien’s elected officials aren’t aware of the fact that that sweeps don’t actually address homelessness it seems like Burien’s business owners are. As Schaefer, the former planning commissioner, notes, every time an encampment gets swept, business owners fill the vacant property with rocks. “I think the businesses know it’s not going to be permanent and the homeless folks are going to show back up at some point.” If most people were actually accessing untapped shelter and housing resources through private groups like Moreland’s, why would there be any need to keep them from coming back?

No Solutions for Unsheltered Burien Residents After Another Contentious Council Meeting

By Erica C. Barnett

Burien officials continue to insist that they are doing everything in their power to shelter several dozen homeless people the city has been sweeping from place to place since March, even as they have antagonized potential partners, including the King County Regional Homelessness Authority and King County, and proposed a total ban on sleeping in public.

At a meeting of the Burien City Council Monday night, City Manager Adolfo Bailon doubled down on this no-fault narrative, laying out a version of events in which the city of Burien considered, and is still considering, every possible option for temporarily or permanently housing the city’s homeless residents,.

“We had these options that initially seemed like they were great options, and they just kept falling away,” Bailon said.

The truth is more complicated. In April, the KCRHA told Bailon it was willing to amend the bidding process for a new city of Seattle-funded tiny house village to specify that it would be located on a Seattle City Light property in Burien, with half the units reserved for Burien’s unsheltered residents. The catch, it seems, is that Burien would have to foot half the bill for its reserved shelter beds.

Bailon said he saw no reason to tell the council about the KCRHA’s proposal or city officials’ ongoing conversations with the KCRHA, any more than he would share mass emails from marketing companies marketing “the latest, greatest” new software

According to the homelessness authority, the city never responded to the KCRHA’s offer, and the deal never happened.

On Monday, Bailon said he saw no reason to tell the council about the KCRHA’s proposal or city officials’ ongoing conversations with the KCRHA, any more than he would share mass emails from marketing companies marketing “the latest, greatest” new software, as both were “unsolicited offers … superfluous to the general operations of government.”

Bailon said the offer “was not at all what we had been talking about with the City of Seattle,” adding that he had needed to “take a break from the particular issue for a few hours” before forwarding the proposal to city of Seattle officials.

In a followup email to PubliCola, a spokesperson for the city of Burien said the KCRHA’s offer “included factual errors that misrepresented the nature of the conversation commenced by the City of Seattle” about the City Light site. “The offer letter was shared by the City of Burien with appropriate personnel from the City of Seattle; they confirmed that the City of Seattle was not consulted and did not contribute to the creation of the offer, and subsequently expressed similar concern over the information and characterization presented by KCRHA. The City of Seattle and City of Burien decided jointly to move forward without providing any additional comment to KCRHA.”

PubliCola has reached back out to the city of Burien as well as City Light for more details about their decision not to move forward with a shelter on the City Light-owned property.

After the City Light plan fell through, King County proposed a land swap that would have provided Burien with $1 million, a free place for the unhoused people to stay, and enough Pallet shelters to accommodate up to 70 people, but the city council voted down the offer on a 4-3 vote last month, in the same meeting where they asked the city attorney to draft a camping ban.

Two other nonviable proposals appear to be officially off the table: A former Econo Lodge hotel owned by a company called REBLX, which has been “eliminated from consideration,” according to a council update posted July 27,  and a contaminated site owned by the Port of Seattle next to SeaTac Airport that the Port has said is uninhabitable.

Although Bailon implied Monday that the REBLX site may still be an option, KCRHA chief of staff Anne Burkland told both Bailon and Councilmember Kevin Schilling in a July 31 letter that REBLX “was clear that the use of its building would require rental of the entire hotel at significant cost, as well as identifying and contracting with a service provider for day-to-day site management and service connection.” As Bailon has repeatedly made clear, Burien does not have the money to fund a shelter on its own, much less rent and staff a 116-room hotel.

The Port had already informed Bailon that it would be impossible to locate a shelter on the site, and the reasons why, well in advance of the July 17 council meeting when Bailon first presented the site as a viable option that appeared to have “no contaminants” on site.

As for the Port location: On July 27, the Port’s aviation environment and sustainability director Sarah Cox sent a detailed memo to the council and Bailon explaining why the location is “not an option for any type of residential or housing use,” including shelter. “[A]mong other concerns,” the memo noted, the site “is not compatible with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety requirements, existing soil and groundwater contamination and associated Department of Ecology site requirements, and high airport noise levels.” For example, the site is at the end of the airport’s third runway, in a Runway Protection Area that has to remain unoccupied “to protect people on the ground,” Cox wrote.

Cox noted that the Port had already informed Bailon that it would be impossible to locate a shelter on the site, and the reasons why, well in advance of the July 17 council meeting when Bailon first presented the site as a viable option that appeared to have “no contaminants” on site. On Monday, Mayor Sofia Aragon defended keeping the site on the table, saying the additional study helped the council “get information to say, how possible is it to remediate that site? And so we’re hearing a lot more on the negative side at this time, but that wouldn’t have happened unless it was put out there as a question.”

King County’s $1 million offer is still outstanding, but without a location, the money is theoretical. The county has made clear it will not release the money until the city has identified a site in Burien, or found a location in another city that agrees to host a shelter for Burien’s homeless residents. The next Burien City Council meeting is scheduled for August 21.

Burien Leaders Face Crisis of Confidence on Homelessness, More on Former KCRHA Director’s Next Steps

1. The Burien City Council is still seeing fallout from its 4-3 decision to oust Burien Planning Commissioner Charles Schaefer two weeks ago, ostensibly because he directed unsheltered people to a piece of city-owned land prior to the May sweep of an encampment outside Burien City Hall earlier this year.

Schaefer said he was acting as a private individual, and not in his capacity as a volunteer member of the planning board, when he, along with Councilmember Cydney Moore, informed people who had been living at an encampment next to City Hall that it would be legal for them to set up tents on a nearby piece of city-owned property that some condo owners have been using as a dog relief area.

The vote to oust Schaefer sparked a wave of resignations by other volunteer commission members, including the entire Planning Commission.

The city later rented out the land to a local animal shelter run by the head of the Burien business group Discovery Burien for a future dog park, displacing encampment residents again. Many moved their tents to a small strip of city-owned land along SW 152nd St., the “Main Street” of Burien. Within weeks, large boulders had popped up along the strip, along with campaign signs for Alex Andrade, a city council candidate running on a public safety and accountability platform who’s endorsed by three members of the Burien council’s four-person anti-encampment majority.

The Burien Human Services Commission’s letter was a toned-down version of the initial draft, which accused city leaders of “choosing … to invest time and energy on show trials that do nothing to provide access to housing and other support for our neighbors.”

“We’re running out of space and Burien does not have any piece of public property that’s not parks that’s remotely habitable,” Moore told PubliCola this week. “Over the last several months, at almost every council meeting since the first sweep happened, I have asked at the start of meetings if we could amend our agenda to have a discussion about where these people can go.” But every time, Moore said, her request has been deemed out of order—a claim that is not supported by the city’s council rules, which allow proposals to “alter the current agenda” near the beginning of each meeting.

Although council members, including Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling, have claimed that encampment residents are simply refusing to accept shelter and housing, the city’s own Human Services Commission noted in a letter to the council last week that this claim “is simply not true.” The letter also decries a recent decision by the council and city manager Adolfo Bailon to reject an offer from King County to provide $1 million and 35 Pallet shelters, which can house two people each, along with a land swap that would open up a city-owned site for the shelter.

It was a toned-down version of the commission’s initial draft, which accused city leaders of “choosing … to invest time and energy on show trials that do nothing to provide access to housing and other support for our neighbors.”

Meanwhile, Bailon, who was hired by the city council, is undergoing a performance review by an outside consultant. It’s unclear whether the council plans to publicly discuss the details of that review, which is reportedly less than flattering. In Burien, which has a population of just over 50,000, the council hires (and can fire) the city manager, who manages the daily operations of the city.

2. Former King County Regional Homelessness Authority CEO Marc Dones, whose last official day at the authority was June 16, is negotiating a contract from the city of Seattle, through the Human Services Department  for work “related to using Medicaid funding for homelessness services,” an HSD spokesman confirmed.

As we reported earlier this month, the contract will serve as a kind of payment in lieu of severance. It’s unclear what work product Dones will be expected to produce, and the city did not reveal the size of the potential contract; PubliCola has filed a public disclosure request for this information.

As CEO of the homelessness authority, Dones was a vocal proponent for using a Medicaid program called Foundational Community Supports, which provides pre-tenancy services for chronically homeless people, to fund the KCHRA’s Partnership for Zero effort to eliminate visible homelessness downtown.

Neither Dones nor the city provided further details about this contract, which they said would be finalized this week, except that, according to Dones, “broadly[,] it’s pulling together the policy framework to integrate the systems.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this item said that Dones was going to work for the Schultz Family Foundation; Dones followed up to say that they are not taking a position there. 

Burien Decides to Take No Action on Encampment on Its Property, Opening Path for Private Sweep

By Erica C. Barnett

After a heated public meeting Tuesday night, the Burien City Council declined to take any action on a longstanding encampment on city-owned property, effectively allowing a private business that has leased the property to remove several dozen people who have been living on the site since the city forced them to move from a strip of land next to City Hall in April.

As we’ve reported, the city of Burien evicted encampment residents from an area next to the building that houses both Burien City Hall and the local King County Library branch in April. After encampment residents moved (legally) to a city-owned lot nearby, the city decided to lease the property for $183 a month to a nonprofit animal shelter run by the director of Discover Burien, a local business group, which says it plans to open a dog park at the site.

Over the course of the two-hour meeting, which was frequently interrupted by loud disruptions from an unruly crowd, the council discussed and rejected several potential resolutions, including a land swap that would involve accepting $1 million from King County and relocating encampment residents into pallet shelters on a city-owned parking lot site currently leased by a Toyota dealership, which would move the vehicles it is storing there property owned by King County Metro. The Downtown Emergency Service Center will open a new 95-unit permanent housing project in Burien later this year, with 30 percent of the units reserved for people living homeless in Burien, such as the current encampment residents.

“We don’t know where people will choose to go. Certain sidewalks are available. The city does not have camping bans on sidewalks throughout the city. However, there are regulations that govern ADA accessibility … that the sheriff’s office has addressed in the past.”—Burien City Manager Adolfo Bailon

As part of that deal, the encampment would move temporarily to a local Methodist Church that has agreed to host it until the city can work out a deal with the dealership, whose owner was out of town this week and apparently unaware of the discussion about his business.

King County floated this option during conversations with county officials, including Councilmembers Jimmy Matta and Hugo Garcia, last week. Councilmember Stephanie Mora called her colleagues “very unethical and not transparent” for talking to the county without letting the rest of the council know, leading Matta to note that as an elected official, he is allowed to meet with other government leaders.

Mora is a longtime encampment opponent who has unsuccessfully proposed a total ban on “camping” in Burien. During Tuesday’s meeting meeting, she claimed that homeless people draw drug dealers into cities the way children draw ice cream trucks to parks in summer; in April, she opposed placing a portable toilet near the encampment, saying that homeless people should relieve themselves in dog waste disposal bags.

Under a 2019 federal circuit court ruling called Martin v. Boise, governments can’t force homeless people to move from public property if there is no suitable shelter available. Burien has maintained that it isn’t violating Boise by leasing out the property and forcing people to move, because people can simply move their tents onto public sidewalks or other strips of land where they are technically allowed to be. (Burien bans people from sleeping in its parks, using a similar justification).

With its vote, the council also declined to consider other potential options to relocate the encampment temporarily, including other county-owned properties, or continue working on a resolution while allowing people to stay where they are. Councilmember Sarah Moore asked City Manager Adolfo Bailon to address the distinct likelihood that—as the council’s own agenda noted explicitly—people would simply move onto local sidewalks since the city has not found anywhere for them to go.

“We don’t know where people will choose to go,” Bailon said. “To your specific question, yes, it is possible. Certain sidewalks are available. The city does not have camping bans on sidewalks throughout the city. However, there are regulations that govern ADA accessibility … that the sheriff’s office has addressed in the past.”

The King County Sheriff’s Office provides Burien’s police department. Last month, King County Executive Dow Constantine’s attorney sent a letter to the city of Burien saying the sheriff’s office would not help remove the encampment, prompting the city to issue a statement saying it was King County’s responsibility, not the city’s, to address homelessness in the region. Burien officials opposed to the encampment have suggested repeatedly that homeless people are migrating from Seattle to Burien, but there is little evidence for this claim.

Earlier this week, the organization placed signs around the property ordering people to vacate by June 1; according to KIRO, most people had vacated the encampment by early this morning.

County Won’t Participate in Planned Sweep of Burien Encampment Residents

Image via City of Burien

By Erica C. Barnett

An encampment on property owned by the city of Burien could be swept as soon as this week, after a nonprofit animal shelter run by the director of Discover Burien, a local business group, secured the right to lease the property from the city starting on June 1, and—according to Burien City Manager Adolfo Bailon—evict the people living there. The shelter, Burien CARES, has said it plans to “revert” the property, which had been an informal dog park, “back to its most recent use by the community as a dog recreation and relief area.”

The encampment was originally located next to City Hall and the downtown Burien branch of the King County Library system, but was booted earlier this year after the condo association that owns the property, whose sole members are the library and the city, voted to make the area around the building a “no-camping” zone. Encampments are also banned in all city parks, limiting where people can legally sleep to bits of city-owned property like the one Burien CARES now plans to lease.

“If the city had taken the responsibility and said, ‘here’s a spot for the people living at City Hall,’ and put up some boundaries, [the encampment] probably wouldn’t have grown,” said Nancy Kick, a Burien resident and activist who opposes sweeping the encampment. “This was all foreseeable; if you don’t create a solution, then the solution creates itself. It’s going to just be what it is and you can’t control it at all.”

Although local advocates and outreach groups have asked King County and the King County Regional Homelessness Authority to help secure housing or shelter for the dozens of people who will be forced to move their tents elsewhere in Burien if the sweep takes place, those efforts have been unsuccessful.

Earlier this month, KCRHA director Anne Martens told PubliCola agency staffers have been meeting with outreach, shelter, and advocacy groups, as well as the city of Burien, and “continue to work together to seek housing and shelter placements.” However, as of last week, those talks hadn’t resulted in a solution for the dozens of people who stand to be evicted from the site this week.

Last week, King County Executive Dow Constantine informed the city of Burien that the county sheriff’s department, which provides Burien’s police force, would not help Burien CARES or city officials remove encampment residents from the property.

“Although the City currently owns the City Lot, it has not identified housing alternatives for the persons who live there despite constitutional duties imposed on the City under federal law,” the letter, signed by Constantine’s general counsel, David Hackett, says. “Instead, the City is attempting to circumvent those duties by entering a lease with a private party, who will maintain and continue the use of the City Lot as a public dog park while attempting to use criminal trespass to force unhoused persons from the premises.”

Meanwhile, the Burien City City Council has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday, May 30 to discuss—among other combatively worded agenda items—”the best response to the fact that Burien is one of the few, if not the only, jurisdiction other than Seattle to welcome a DESC facility, and yet King County refuses to help Burien help the unhoused” and “the value of the contract for King County Sheriff’s Office services since the Sheriff’s Office refuses to provide police services.”

Under a 2019 federal circuit court ruling called Martin v. Boise, governments can’t force people to move from public property if there is no suitable shelter available. Burien’s approach of leasing out its land and having its tenant evict encampment residents represents an attempt to “evade the holding in Martin,” Hackett wrote, because the land is still city property—and the city hasn’t offered the homeless people living there anywhere else to go.

Burien disagrees with this, arguing that the city doesn’t have an ordinance banning people from sleeping on city property in general, just parks, and that the city is “not asking for or seeking criminal penalties, fines, or even arrests” for the people it wants the sheriff’s department to assist in removing from its property.

Gallagher, a spokesman for Constantine, said the county has “continuously engaged with the City of Burien throughout the past few months to help the city identify a solution that meets the needs of our shared residents. Homelessness is a regional problem, and every jurisdiction plays a part in finding solutions. But that regional aspect doesn’t alleviate cities from the responsibility of serving their residents and taking action directly in their community.”

Last year the Burien City Council approved a new Downtown Emergency Service Center project that will provide 95 units of permanent supportive housing, with 30 percent of the units reserved for Burien residents. However, that building won’t come online until next year.

Meanwhile, the Burien City City Council has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday, May 30 to discuss—among other combatively worded agenda items—”the best response to the fact that Burien is one of the few, if not the only, jurisdiction other than Seattle to welcome a DESC facility, and yet King County refuses to help Burien help the unhoused” and “the value of the contract for King County Sheriff’s Office services since the Sheriff’s Office refuses to provide police services.”