After months of controversy, Burien City Council to vote on camping ban

BURIEN, Wash. — After months of controversy, city officials in Burien may take a hard line on camping in public spaces.

The city council plans to vote on a camping ban at its next regular meeting on Sept. 25.

The ban is similar to one in Bellevue that carries a misdemeanor charge unless local shelters are full.

Earlier this year, a camp moved from Burien City Hall, to an open space about a block away, and then to Dottie Harper Park. Each time the campers were forced to leave, tents would pop up elsewhere around the city and there were calls from the public to come up with a solution.

During Monday night’s council meeting, many people spoke in favor of the ban.

“I live across the street from the encampment on Ambaum and it’s gotten so bad that I don’t feel comfortable leaving my wife and my son home alone without me. So, I am commenting from home today,” said Todd Baldwin.

“I’m here to let Burien know, it’s this council (that is) specifically responsible for the drug and the large crime wave brought into Burien,” said Darla Green.

Others said the council’s move could backfire, since forcing people into sobriety or treatment may not work for everyone and that criminalizing the homeless could make things worse.

Some supporters of the ban still said housing the homeless should be a priority for the council.

“It is not compassionate to let this way of life continue in the way that it is, and it’s a horrible idea to have people living on an island in the middle of a busy street,” said Baldwin.

If adopted, the camping ban, Ordinance 818, will go into effect on Nov. 1.

Correction: Earlier, this story said the Burien City Council had approved the ordinance, which was incorrect. Adoption of Ordinance 818 was placed on the consent agenda for the Burien City Council’s next regular meeting on Sept. 25.