King County Executive accuses city of Burien of 'lease scheme' to evict people from homeless encampment

The King County Executive's General Counsel sent a strong warning to the City of Burien concerning a plot of land on SW 152nd St. and 6th Ave SW. where a homeless encampment has been growing for nearly two months.

In a letter dated May 19, the City Manager and City Council are accused of using a "lease scheme" to evict unhoused people living on the city lot. It also reminds them that federal law requires the City to identify alternative housing and that the King County Sheriff's Office can not participate in removing the homeless from this location.

Burien City Council voted to lease the city lot to Burien C.A.R.E.S. earlier this month, which the letter says intends to use the land as a dog park, with City Council believing the non-profit would kick campers out of the location.

Burien City Council and City Manager Adolfo Bailon would not go on camera, but Burien City Councilmember Cydney Moore did speak on behalf of herself. She says options are limited.

"Burien does not have any significant amount of shelter options for individuals," said Moore. "We have very limited public property. We've banned camping in parks, so that's been off-limits for a long time."

Several businesses across from the encampment spoke with FOX 13, saying the encampment has affected foot traffic in the area.

"They're using drugs openly, walking down the alleys and destroying property and stealing," said one manager who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation.
"My car was vandalized last week." 

Moore says she understands the frustrations that community members have with the encampment. 

She says a housing encampment sweep isn't in the best interest for residents with or without housing but a plan to find alternative housing for the unhoused is needed.

"We've had issues for a long time with people in the community being worried about unhoused people camping in doorways, sleeping in alleys, and if we disperse people without a plan, it's likely that's going to happen again," said Moore. "It doesn't serve anybody and it leaves people unsafe. It leaves it very difficult for us to connect them with outreach workers, case managers and service providers."

Moore says campers have told her they're willing to leave the city lot.

"They're ready to move as soon as we find an alternative place and tell them where to go," said Moore. "We need to have a plan and work together with all of our community partners and all of our residents to address this issue in a way that's productive and again, will serve the safety and well-being of our residents."

As of Tuesday night, Moore says a lease has not been signed with Burien C.A.R.E.S.

The non-profit has not responded to FOX 13's request.

Moore says the council is looking to hold a special meeting either this Thursday or next Tuesday.