City of Burien Response to King County

City of Burien Response to King County’s Letter Refusing to Provide Sheriff’s Service
Posted on 05/24/2023
Statement from City of Burien.

The City of Burien is finalizing a lease agreement with Burien CARES, a nonprofit organization that provides Burien’s animal control services, to operate a dog park on a Burien-owned lot at 6th Ave SW between SW 151st Street and SW 152nd Street.  The lot is currently the site of an unsanctioned encampment.

On May 1, 2023, the Burien City Council directed the Burien City Manager to enter into the lease agreement.  The Burien City Council approved the final lease agreement terms during their May 15, 2023, meeting.

On May 22, 2023, the City of Burien received a letter from the King County Executive’s General Counsel questioning the City of Burien’s right to manage and lease its lot at 6th Avenue SW between SW 151st Street and SW 152nd Street.  The General Counsel’s letter misrepresents facts, recent King County Sheriff’s Office action in Burien related to the unhoused community, and contains a refusal to provide police service to any potential lessee that utilizes the Burien-owned lot despite a taxpayer-paid contract between the City of Burien and the King County Sheriff’s Office.   The General Counsel and the letter’s signatories refuse to consider that Burien does not have a city-wide ordinance or policy that refuses to permit people experiencing homelessness like the communities in the recent Ninth Circuit cases that were referenced.  The General Counsel and the letter’s signatories failed to consider that Burien does not prohibit or seek to prohibit people from sleeping on all public property like the communities in the recent Ninth Circuit cases.  Perhaps more importantly, King County’s letter reflects a belief that Burien alone is responsible for the unhoused now in Burien with no duty, responsibility, or obligation on King County’s part.

The City of Burien is considering whether there is value in offering a further response to the King County Executive General Counsel’s letter denying police services to a potential lessee.

For many years the City of Burien has sought services, shelter, and permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness.  Burien spends a larger percentage of its budget to provide for those in need and homeless than most, if not almost all, other King County jurisdictions.  Because of the county and region-wide lack of shelter and affordable housing, inadequate funding from the federal, state, and county governments, and the inequitable distribution of responsibility for helping people experiencing homelessness, that is no appropriate shelter space for homeless individuals in Burien or throughout King County.  Burien has unsuccessfully sought services, shelter space, and housing from King County and its designated agent, KCRHA.  Burien staff, volunteers, and elected officials continue to seek options for people without a residence without any meaningful assistance from King County.