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King County Sheriff’s Office files complaint over Burien camping ban ordinance

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(The Center Square) – The King County Sheriff’s Office has filed a federal legal complaint against Burien to determine the constitutionality of a recent amendment to the city’s public camping ban.

Burien’s Ordinance 827 effectively bans homeless people from living on any public property at any time. The ordinance originally made exceptions at certain designated, marked areas between the hours of 7 p.m. to 6 a.m..

Last week, the Burien City Council doubled down on the ordinance by approving an amendment that creates a 500-foot buffer zone around parks, libraries, schools, daycares, senior centers and makes it illegal for people to sleep overnight in those areas.

According to the complaint filed to U.S. District Court Western District of Washington on Monday, Burien disclosed the ban on public camping only one business day prior to the meeting it was approved in. The city also made no outreach efforts to King County because it was deemed an emergency and was made effective immediately.

King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall said that the city’s ordinance violates federal case law and that the her office “will not enforce on the public camping portion of [the ordinance], until the constitutionality of the ordinance is resolved,” according to the federal complaint.

Burien City Manager Adolfo Bailon responded to Cole-Tindall, saying that the Sheriff’s Office’s refusal to enforce the city’s ban on public camping was a breach of the interlocal agreement and that Burien would be hauling King County before an oversight committee. Bailon has also threatened to withhold millions of dollars of contract payments under the interlocal agreement “due to the King County Sheriff’s Office’s egregious violation of a longstanding contract with the City of Burien.”

In a news release following the filed complaint, the city said the lawsuit came as a surprise as city officials were actively working to schedule a meeting with Cole-Tindall later this week to discuss the existing issue between the two agencies.

“It is unfortunate that King County and King County Sheriff’s Office have chosen to cast the shadow of a federal complaint over a meeting that was intended to seek a mutually benefiting solution to a complicated issue,” the city said in a news release. “Despite these actions, the City of Burien looks forward to meeting with King County Sheriff Cole-Tindall later this week.”

This is the second lawsuit filed against Burien for its ordinance. The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, alongside three homeless individuals residing in Burien, filed a lawsuit in January regarding the ordinance.

The city is also in the process of constructing a supportive housing building in which 30% of the 95 units would be available to homeless people. The new building is set to open in May. Even with the 95 units of supportive housing, the city will still not have sufficient housing for homeless people within city limits, according to the lawsuit.

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