Seattle Shoreline Master Program Receives Final Approval
Ecology Director Maia Bellon signed the final approval for the City of Seattle’s Shoreline Master Program on Monday June 1, 2015. The updated SMP will go into effect on June 15, 2015!
A process that began nearly 8 years ago is finally coming to completion. In 2007, the Department of Planning and Development began a process to update the Seattle Shoreline Master Program. This process would see Seattle Houseboats placed in a very precarious position.
The Department of Planning and Development was charged with updating the Seattle Shoreline Master Plan, which was previously updated in 2005. Seattle’s SMP controls development and use of the shorelines in Seattle waters including floating homes and other floating residences.
Lake Union Liveaboard Association (LULA) was formed in 2009 as a result of changes proposed for the new SMP, which could have potentially eliminated Houseboats in Seattle. For the following 5 years, LULA fought hard to change the SMP to deal fairly with Houseboats. In January, the Seattle City Council passed the SMP, which placed restrictions on Vessels being used as dwelling units, and interpreted this to mean Houseboats as well. This meant Sea Trials, demonstrating navigation, certification by Naval Architects, and a host of other restrictions.
As the City was passing the SMP and submitting to Ecology for review, LULA went to state regulators and got a bill passed that created a new term “Floating On-Water Residences” and protected those Floating On-Water Residences that had been in existence prior to 7/1/2014 from adverse regulations.
As a result of the new law, the City of Seattle was forced to revise the SMP to accommodate Floating On-Water Residences and to treat them as conforming uses in the city. This required significant changes to the SMP. The city was required to remove many requirements, including Sea Trials, Freeboard, Naval Architect certifications, Navigational equipment, Boarding locations, cleat locations, Hull shape, Propulsion systems, Steering systems, and more.
In addition, the City was required to allow Floating On-Water Residences to be maintained, repaired, remodeled, and replaced in accordance with the new law.
What does this mean for Houseboats in Seattle?
A structure will be considered a Floating On-Water Residence if it was moored pursuant to a lease or ownership interest in a Marina within the City, prior to July 1, 2014 and was used as a dwelling unit.
Houseboats are required to be verified as Floating On-Water Residences
Applicants will pay a one-time fee to receive a verification number
Submit an application for verification with pictures, dimensions, a sketch, and proof of moorage in the City prior to July 1, 2014.
Verification Numbers will assigned and must be displayed in a prescribed manner on the Floating On-Water Residence.
Houseboats may be expanded with height restrictions, but may not change in footprint size.
Expansion is allowed subject to height limitations and is limited to 120 square feet, unless graywater is contained and disposed of properly or the Floating On-Water residence is connected to a City waste-water system.
Houseboats may be replaced, but are subject to the same footprint, height, and expansion requirements.
A one-time expansion of footprint is allowed for safety reasons, as certified by a Naval Architect. If footprint is expanded, no other expansion may occur.
Open Railings may be added to decks and stairs, but if over height restriction, are limited to 36 inches.
A Floating On Water Residence may be relocated and owners should update verification records within 60 days. Failure to update may result in enforcement action, but does not forfeit right to maintain the Floating On-Water Residence.
No New Houseboats are allowed in Seattle Waters.
Vessels with Dwelling Units that were moored in Seattle Waters prior to6/15/2015 are allowed, but are required to be verified and must be designed and used for navigation. These will be verified using a different form and have different requirements than Floating On-Water Residences.
Faith Lumsden, Compliance Director at DPD has indicated that the verification process will be available online as of 6/15/2015 and that the forms will be available online. She also indicates that DPD will try to create some press as an outreach program, to help spread the word.
GET A HEAD START! Download the official forms here!
Client Assistance Memo 229 – describing the rules for Floating On-Water Residences, House-barges, and Vessels with Dwelling Units. FORM LETTER – Floating On-Water Residences
This letter describes the requirement for Floating On-Water Residences to become verified, the process for becoming verified, and how the verification numbers are to be displayed. Floating On-Water Verification Form
This is the form to be completed to obtain verification of a Floating On-Water Residence. It also indicates what supplemental information must be included with the application and how to pay the required application fee. FORM LETTER – Vessel with Dwelling Unit
This letter describes the requirement for a Vessel with Dwelling Unit to become verified, the process for becoming verified, and how the verification Plate is to be displayed. Vessel with Dwelling Unit Verification Form
This is the form to be completed to obtain verification of a Vessel with Dwelling Unit. It also indicates what supplemental information must be included with the application and how to pay the required application fee.