In January, 2013, the Seattle city council approved the Seattle Shoreline Master Plan (SSMP)and submitted it to the Department of Ecology for review. This process is expected to take from 6 months to 1 year to complete and it is indicated that the public will have the opportunity to have involvement during the process. The SSMP contains regulations that significantly affect the houseboat community, and although the City Council has indicated that the regulations regarding existing houseboats has not changed, the truth is that existing houseboats will become “non-conforming uses” under the current regulations and can not be expanded in any way nor can they be removed from Seattle water for an extended period and then returned.
The houseboat community, lead by Lake Union Liveaboard Association (LULA) made a number of statements at Seattle City Council meetings but was NOT involved in the policy formation process. This has led to a number of misconceptions and false statements made by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD). Without a voice in the development process, we were not able to counter the many erroneous statements made by DPD. Throughout this process, DPD has repeatedly indicated that there are some 150 illegal On Water Residences which is the term they are using for houseboats that they feel are not vessels. These statements were made without any accurate census and the city council seemed to receive this information as though it was factual.
Kevin & Linda Bagley performed a Statistical Analysis to offer a FACT BASED estimate of the number of Slips, Vessels, Floating Homes, and Houseboats. Click here to view the ANALYSIS. As the summary shows, the TOTAL number of houseboats (most of which are LEGAL) is approximately 113, comprising approximately 1.1% of the number of slips in the Seattle waters. It is obvious from this that DPD has gone to great lengths to create a problem where none exists.
Where are we now?
The city council has authorized a Stakeholder group with the following goals & objectives:
GOAL: Develop and consider alternatives for an orderly process to establish the status of residences on the water that are not identified as legal floating homes or legal house barges and are not clearly identified as vessels. For the purposes of this memo, these structures will be referred to as “on water residences”.
Objectives: Recommend to DPD and Council: (1) possible regulatory or procedural actions that can be taken by the City to provide greater certainty, clarity, or procedural safeguards for on water residences; (2) possible legislative amendments to Shoreline Master Program (SMP) that the Department of Ecology (DOE) agrees are sufficiently promising to merit formal review by DOE if adopted by the Council. Recommendations are to be consistent with the Shoreline Management Act (SMA), and not designed to legalize structures that are not vessels. Recommendations may include proposals such as additional definitions that will assist in determining whether a structure is a vessel; City subsidy of fee for DPD review of the status of structures; arbitration panels to decide disputes between DPD and residents about the status of a structure; and other ideas that may be developed by the group.
The stakeholder group is scheduled to begin meeting in March, with a target of providing recommendations to the city council by the end of April. The Stakeholder group is comprised of the following participants:
Kevin Bagley, Lake Union Liveaboard Association
Joseph Bogaard, Save Our Wild Salmon
John Chaney, Lake Union Liveaboard Association
Patrick Dunham, Lake Union Liveaboard Association
Barb Engram, Lake Union Liveaboard Association
Margie Freeman, marina owner
Al Hughes, Washington Liveaboard Association
Gail Luhn, Shilshole Liveaboard Association
John Waterhouse, naval architect
Chris Wilkie, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance
We will continue to provide updates throughout this process and will post updates on LakeUnionLiving.com, SpecialAgentsRealty.com, and LakeUnionLiveaboard.com as well as we will email members of Lake Union Liveaboard Association.