Burien City Council could 'kill' tiny home village project with proposed amendments

The Burien City Council faces mounting criticism for its handling of the city's homelessness crisis, as advocates and residents express frustration over delays in establishing transitional housing. 

Despite available funds and property, zoning regulations have stalled progress on a proposed pallet shelter project.

"The question remains. What is the city council's plan to address the homelessness crisis in Burien?" asked Cydne Moore, president of the Burien Homeless Support Coalition.

Currently, around 80 unhoused people live in downtown Burien, awaiting the construction of a tiny home or pallet village. The project could house 70 individuals in 35 shelters, but recent zoning amendments have created obstacles.

"There are so few spaces in the entire city that they can legally put up a tent and survive," Moore said.


Zoning issues further delay Burien's tiny home village project

A recent decision by the Burien City Council regarding zoning regulations has sparked controversy over the fate of a proposed tiny home project, aimed at aiding individuals experiencing homelessness. 

Right now, dozens of unhoused people in Burien are congregated in one section of downtown, as they have nowhere else to go. Homeless advocates and individuals like 37-year-old Stephen Young believe city leadership is intentionally stalling. 

"They get together and they just find out what revision they can make to stop projects from actually happening to help the people who are experiencing homelessness," said Young, who is camped outside Burien’s City Hall waiting for answers.

Is a pallet shelter coming to Seattle's City Light property?

"Why aren't they taking it? Why are they creating more barriers instead of making that possible and making that a reality?" Moore questioned.

It's a question FOX 13 has been trying to answer for over a year now. Two weeks ago, we reported, the project could be dead with the council’s latest amendments: requiring the space to be a minimum of one acre and a maximum of two acres, and at least 500 feet from child care centers, parks and schools. 

The lot initially proposed by the council is 4.6 acres, making it ineligible under the new rules.

A letter from the King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) warned the council that these amendments would render the lot unusable for transitional housing. Moore believes the amendments are deliberate.

"It does seem like that is intentional," Moore said. "These emails make it clear they are fully aware. They are absolutely making these proposals intentionally and if they move forward with them, it will be with the specific intent of killing this project."

In response, Mayor Kevin Schilling issued a statement:

"The City Council has not made a decision yet on a major land use policy that impacts the entire city. The Council is utilizing our city process for making decisions of this kind, which the County did not follow when pressuring the City to do what they wanted us to do, regardless of the myriad of City requests for flexibility and more options. The Council is being responsible to ensure our decisions are aligned with regional requirements, but also for what works best for Burien."

A Supreme Court decision on a related case out of Grants Pass, Oregon, which seeks to ban public camping, could influence local policies. Burien has faced similar legal challenges as the King County Sheriff has not enforced its camping ban.


'Don’t turn us into criminals:' Unhoused people, advocates rally outside federal Seattle courthouse

On Monday, Supreme Court Justices weighed in on whether cities have the authority to fine or arrest individuals for sleeping in public spaces, marking a pivotal moment in the ongoing discourse surrounding homelessness.

Young speculates local officials are awaiting this decision. 

"They're going to lean on [the decision] heavily. They're going to say, 'hey, they think it's federally okay and then we want it on the state level,'" he said.

"Homelessness isn't going to go away," Moore said. "The Grants Pass decision isn't going to change that one way or another. We still need shelter."

KCRHA told FOX 13 the $1 million allocated for the project must be spent by the end of 2025. With time running out, the city council has yet to vote on the zoning changes. Their next meeting is scheduled for June 3.

For more updates on this developing story, stay tuned to FOX 13 News.


'Caged in like animals': King County sets up fencing around homeless encampment in Burien

Battle between Burien city manager, police chief could cause cop shortage

Silent vigil held outside Burien City Hall in remembrance of unhoused people's deaths, demand for housing

Burien City Council delays transitional housing vote amid rising homelessness concerns

To get the best local news, weather and sports in Seattle for free, sign up for the daily FOX 13 Seattle newsletter.