Letter to Sally Clark from Susan Welch

Dear Councilwoman Clark ~

What a place we live in, when one’s own government sets about the destruction of a certain class of homeowner, for no clearly established or logical, community-benefitting reason.

Why has no one on City Council cried foul on the Department of Planning and Development’s tactic to continue to place themselves on the far extreme of vessel definition , in an apparent effort to maximize their success in displacing live-aboard houseboats from Seattle waterways, once and for all? Why have none of our elected officials publicly pushed back on DPD’s disregard for the Stakeholder Group’s fair, compromising and solutions-based recommendations?

Where is City Council’s vision?

How can the Council consciously tolerate the displacement of one of Seattle’s most iconic, environmentally efficient, most forward-thinking populations? How can it support DPD’s intentional and methodical destruction of the ‘small home living’ movement that houseboat living embodies, which should instead be heralded as a model for affordable and efficient housing? When these same slips are filled with plastic and fiberglass live-aboard boats, with no net environmental benefit, will the City Council feel that it has accomplished something meaningful for Seattle’s future, or will you realize when it’s too late, that you traded away a piece of Seattle’s identity and robbed hundreds of law-abiding, middle-class citizens of their homes and financial stability?

This matter now seems to be in the arena of pure political negotiation and horse-trading, with no public official willing to take responsibility for the havoc DPD is causing us. One wonders, after DPD’s sinister response to the Stakeholder Group recommendations, what un-disclosed special interest is being served. Please, Ms. Clark, do something to stop them from threatening to take away my home. Reign in DPD and urge your colleagues to accept the Stakeholder Group’s recommendations in toto.

Your work on City Council is much appreciated,

Kind Regards,

Susan Welch

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Report on City Council PLUS Committee Meeting 7-24-13

Report on City Council PLUS Committee Meeting 7-24-13

HOUSEBOATS FACE UPHILL BATTLE
THE SITUATION IS DIRE AND WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Yesterday the PLUS Committee met and put our fate back into the hands of DPD.  I don’t know how to better describe it but the folks at DPD who developed all six versions of the regulations will now be in charge again.
The video of the meeting is now posted on the city website.  http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/video.asp?ID=2391340
You will see 45 minutes or more of public comments mostly on our item and all in support.  Four members of the stakeholders group spoke. All of the testimony was heartfelt and rational, but it seemed to have limited impact.
Chair Conlin, Committee members Tim Burgess and Mike O’Brien (left early) and alternate Sally Clark (arrived after the public comments) were the only Councilmember’s present.  Nick Licata was out of town.
Ecology was represented by Joe Burcar, DPD by Diane Sugimura, Director; and Maggie Glowicki, Senior Planner, and Faith Lumsden, Compliance.
In a nutshell the Committee members approved all the staff recommendations as presented (CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE DOCUMENT).  They endorsed requiring a naval architect as the only party qualified to make an evaluation of our vessel.
DPD committed to working with our community (the proof has yet to be shown) in developing the license and vessel evaluation.  In my view, the DPD view of the “standards” far exceed those recommended by the Stakeholders and any prior guidance given by the city when our vessels were constructed.  This will be a long fight and I don’t predict an easy result.
We have to ask you to help again.
Please write to the Committee members, Mayor and DPD.  Give them a personal phone call in a week if you have not heard back.
  •  Tell them directly if you fear losing your home and if that concern, since the first SMP draft in 2011 or later, has affected your life and how.  Trying to sell your boat, how is that going?  Trying to refinance, how is that going?
  • Ask them to require that DPD include any vessel checklist or standards in an implementing ordinance, guaranteeing that the Council and Mayor will review and approve the “standards” after a public hearing, not the Director of DPD.
  • Ask them for a response.  Remember Mike O’Brien and Richard Conlin are running for their Council seats this fall, as is the Mayor.  Remember the Mayor is directly responsible for DPD.
The Mayor
Other Council members:
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Letter from Kevin Bagley to City Council 7-22

Dear City Council members,

As a participant of the On Water Stakeholder Group, I wish to thank the City Council for creating this group and applaud the inclusion, not only of those most directly affected (Houseboat vessel owners), but also those less directly affected (The majority of the group).  I entered into this group with the hope that our recommendations would be seriously considered knowing that such a diverse group would have widely varying views.

The composition of the group was chosen by Richard Conlin and was comprised such that Houseboat Vessel owners were in the minority, yet reasonable minds were able to come together and form high level consensus on most items and full consensus on some very critical items.
While the Stakeholder group was directed to provide consensus or non consensus, it appears that some of these High Level consensus items are being treated as though there was significant disagreement in the group, when in fact, most non consensus results boiled down to 2 people in the group who disagreed with a couple items and these 2 people were in disagreement consistently.  I believe that if the Stakeholder group were allowed to vote, all items except the Grey Water proposal would have passed with a significant majority.
All along, we believed that the purpose of this group was to try to reasonably clarify and provide certainty for those people (and I emphasize the word ‘people’) the vast majority who, in good faith, bought, or built what they believed, based on all available information, we legal vessels. EVERYONE in the groups was consistent with their belief that the WORST thing that could happen was if people lost their homes or their investments.
DPD’s recommendations do not take into account the DECADES of allowing these vessels to exist, be built, and bought and sold without repercussion.  In fact, many of these vessels WERE investigated by DPD and found to be vessels. People were effectively given permission to do this, and now, once again, DPD is on the hunt to remove as many of these vessels as possible by adding unfair and unpublished regulations that these vessels were NEVER previously subject to.
We have complained that DPD has been openly against houseboat vessels and has voiced their opinions with false and derogatory remarks in writing and in public.  Once again, this animosity has come to the forefront by making recommendations that are costly, unnecessary, overbearing, and beyond what is required of other vessels.
Specific recommendations by DPD that are unfair, unrealistic, costly, and punitive include:
Requiring Naval Architect certification
No other vessel is required to do this. If all of the trawlers, yachts, cruisers, etc., were required to pass this test, there would be THOUSANDS of failures in Seattle Waters. This is expensive and unnecessary. All of the questions except a subjective question specifically aimed at a naval architect can be answered by the owner (who is certifying under penalties of perjury). This speaks to the distrust that DPD has fostered during this process, consistent with derogatory remarks about houseboat owners and public accusations of evading the law, being scofflaws, and using generally derogatory terms.

Vessel Insurance that insures for Cruising. Our vessels are designed to navigate occasionally and to pay for something that only happens rarely is unnecessary. Most vessels will take out “Transit Insurance” when moving from one dock to another. Forcing a particular type of insurance is unreasonable and unnecessary.
(NOTE: Traditional vessels are not REQUIRED to do this. Why force a certain class of vessel to comply beyond other vessels?)
Vessel Insurance that requires a Motor. Based on some insurance claims, some insurers will not insure houseboats against perils of the sea. Their current insurance insures them while docked, and again, “Transit Insurance” is used when needed. Requiring this type of insurance will triple the cost, but provide no increased coverage.
(NOTE: Traditional vessels are not REQUIRED to do this. Why force a certain class of vessel to comply beyond other vessels?)
Is the floating structure designed to safely navigate in the type of waters in which it is moored considering the shape, material, size and stability of the structure and accepted naval architect industry standards?
This is an addition in the Vessel Evaluation Checklist that calls for a naval architect to make a judgement call. If this rule were applied equally to ALL vessels, there would be hundreds of vessels that would not pass. It is simply NOT FAIR, nor an equally applied standard to require this for Houseboat Vessels. It was clear that DOE required the application of rules to apply equally, but this is subjective, not measurable, and is the ONLY item that requires a Naval Architect to answer (forcing additional unnecessary cost on the houseboat owner).  This rule should be removed. The other items answer the questions of being DESIGNED AND USED FOR NAVIGATION. This is simply another way to allow the removal of houseboats based on new, unpublished regulations.  This is NOT clarification, it is an ADDITIONAL rule only applying to houseboats.
Requiring a motor to be installed at all time if the vessel is over 30 ft.
Again, a new rule, that if applied to all vessels would force many of them off the lake. PLEASE be fair and evenhanded. This is unreasonable. Many vessels store their motor when not in use. Many vessels remove their motors for repairs. Many vessels that are NOT houseboats do not have motors. Why is this only being forced on houseboats?
Proportions Hull Length twice as long as width.
Many commercially  produced catamarans would not pass this test. This is not a requirement to be designed and used for navigation. Again, no special rules should be created specifically for houseboats. They could not be reasonably expected to comply with this unpublished rule, and to make them comply now is retroactive rule making.
1/2 HP per foot
Again, a rule that is new. This was NEVER published, and is not being applied evenly.
Freeboard 1/2″ per foot of length
Many traditional vessels do not meet this requirement. This is a contrived regulation that should be removed. Again, a new rule that was NEVER published and houseboat vessel owners could not be expected to have known such a requirement.
Do you navigate the structure in the waters where it is moored, other than bringing it to its moorage location?
There is no rule that requires anyone to navigate their vessel. Many Trawlers, yachts, etc., NEVER leave the dock. Why is this being enforce ONLY for houseboats.  Houseboats are typically NOT navigated unless moving from one moorage to another, but there is no LAW that says they have to do this. I can buy a vehicle (motor home), park it and never drive it because I am not bound by law to do this. No one should be FORCED to navigate their vessel. Moving to its moorage location IS NAVIGATION. Again, this is a new, previously unpublished rule.
Requiring onboard water
Not required for other vessels. Why is this being added for houseboat vessels?  People can bring bottled water and there is no reason whatsoever to require this. It does not help nor hinder navigation.
In summary, the Stakeholder Group was created by the City Council, the members were assigned by the City Council, and they created reasonable, sensible recommendations that were well debated and thoroughly evaluated for fairness and to meet the goals set by City Council. DPD is adding rules that go beyond what could be reasonably expected to be known, and therefore will invalidate vessels that SHOULD be allowed. They met all requirements as published, but through NEW unpublished requirements, will become illegal. These people will LOSE THEIR HOME for what purpose. Will Seattle be a better place by implementing these punitive unpublished requirements?
Thank you for your consideration. Please include this letter in the official comments for the meeting on July 24th regarding On Water Resident Stakeholder Group recommendations.
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Letter from Nathan Everson

To City Council

Respectfully,

as a LULA member, houseboat/vessel owner and 21 year resident of Seattle I am greatly relieved after attending the City council meetings on Monday Jan.14th.    The fact that the Council voted to temporarily table the SMP so that a Stakeholder Group (SG)can be established has renewed my faith in our public representatives.

To date it has been difficult to understand why the SMP design process hasn’t already included an SG.   Unfortunately, the lack of an informed and empowered SG seems to have created a great deal of fear and confusion.  Many of us are very concerned by the potential outcome of sweeping new regulations if they are not going to grandfather existing live-aboard Vessels.

Please suspend the sections affecting houseboat residents including 23.60A.214.C until the SG has an opportunity to be involved in the SMP design process.

This is required by Washington law.

WAC 173-26-090

“In developing master programs and amendments thereto, the department and local governments, pursuant to RCW 90.58.130 shall make all reasonable efforts to inform, fully involve and encourage participation of all interested persons and private entities, and agencies of the federal, state or local government having interests and responsibilities relating to shorelines of the state and the local master program.”

Ideally, we can co-create an outcome that would benefit the City,  the Environment and those of us who are stewards of the waterways.  Houseboats and the variety of vessels that occupy the waters of Seattle are a quintessential part of the character of this great city and I sincerely hope that the City Council  will act responsibly to maintain that character.

Sincerely, Nathan Everson

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Letter from Michelle Simon ND, PhD

January 13, 2013

Dear City Council Member,

My husband and I bought a houseboat docked in Lake Union in October 2011.  We both love the lake.  Part of our motivation was to experience the unique lifestyle afforded by living on a boat.  Seattle is a wonderful city and is one of the few places where the climate and culture allow this type of lifestyle.  From the reactions of the Duck Boat passengers, I daresay houseboats are also an important Seattle tourist attraction as well.
We learned last year about the DPDs proposed Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) regulations and have been following the process this past year with a mixture of interest, alarm and confusion.  Our main concern has been the lack of inclusion of a voice from the live aboard community.  The house barge, houseboat, and liveaboard community is comprised of a diverse spectrum of Seattle’s population.  We are “stakeholders” who were not included in the proposal process despite the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) charter to involve all “stakeholders” and the public.  I am curious about why Triangle Associates (the consultant facilitator) or the DPD itself did not find, contact and invite someone from such a sizeable “stakeholder” group as the liveaboard community?  That is a glaring omission since the DPD’s own overview presentation given during the first CAC meeting on 5/27/2008 listed “house barges” as an “issue”.  Yet still, our community was not included in the deliberations.  The President of the Lake Union Liveaboard Association (LULA) tried unsuccessfully to engage DPD in discussions about the proposed regulations. Nevertheless, the conclusions and rules emanating from those deliberations directly and profoundly impact us negatively.  The current SMP amendments formulated by the Seattle City Council PLUS committee were also created without input from the stakeholders affected, and leave our houseboat in a category of possibly NON-CONFORMING use.  The ramifications of this are immense and negative.

 In trying to understand further why such onerous proposals have been made by DPD I explored several areas:

Perhaps this action is mandated by the State?

In researching the WAC 173-26-241 [3][j] that is the underpinning guidance for the SMP, it states the following:

“New over-water residences, including floating homes, are not a preferred use and should be prohibited. It is recognized that certain existing communities of floating and/or over-water homes exist and should be reasonably accommodated to allow improvements associated with life safety matters and property rights to be addressed provided that any expansion of existing communities is the minimum necessary to assure consistency with constitutional and other legal limitations that protect private property.”

This language honors the rights of the existing floating and/or over water residences.  It acknowledges the property rights of the existing community as well as the minimum necessary expansion of those communities.  This language also recognizes constitutional and legal limitations necessary to protect private property.  I do not think the proposed regulations meet the intent of this guiding WAC and instead go far beyond it.

Perhaps it is an effort to control growth of the house barge or houseboat population?

I wanted to learn the scope of the house barge “issue” as referred to in the first Citizens Advisory Committee meeting in 5/27/08.  A history link article states that “ at mid-century Seattle was home to nearly 2,500 houseboats – a number that has dwindled to about 500 today (mainly on Lake Union).” (1) In actuality this number is considerably smaller.  Kevin Bagley of LULA recently undertook a systematic assessment of all Seattle boat slips and found a total of 113 houseboats, this comprises 1.1% of the total slips available!  This is not a population expanding out of controlIn fact, house boats and house barge population is effectively limited already through the marina permitting system.  The City of Seattle already grants permits to marina owners to regulate the numbers of boats that can moor on their private docks. Marina owners then choose to allow liveaboards, a category that includes any vessel that someone chooses to take up residence in.  Because so few marinas permit liveaboards the number of these kinds of vessels is already limited. They are greatly outnumbered by hundreds of other kinds of boats temporarily or permanently docked or moored on the lake.  Houseboats and barges represent an even smaller fraction of the total liveaboards in Seattle, yet the regulations do not target other liveaboard vessels. To single out this small portion of all possible liveaboards suggests that there is some distinguishing characteristic not common to other liveaboards.  I see no argument for the regulatory focus on houseboats and house barges as distinct from other liveaboard vessels. 

Perhaps it is the Salmon fry issue?

There was a statement from an aide to Maggie Gilwacki of DPD during a phone call with a LULA member where it was suggested that houseboats contribute to excess Bass populations and that decreases salmon populations.  This may be a reason for the aim of decreasing over water residencies, but it is not stated as one and that lack of transparency is concerning in a regulatory agency. Second, in my brief internet search on the health of Lake Union I learned that the lake has been steadily getting healthier, the largest benefit was gained in 1968 after waste water was no longer allowed into the lake.  The only reference I could find to Bass being a problem was a sentence in a document on the King County Major Lakes Monitoring website where in discussing a recent downward trend in Sockeye fry populations it is stated:

“Largemouth and smallmouth bass are potential predators on sockeye, and one theory is that an increase in the number of boat docks has resulted in an increase in habitat for the bass. However, the spatial overlap between them and the sockeye may not be sufficient for there to be much of an impact.” (2)

The relationship between Bass and Salmon fry is a theory at this point relating to an increase in the number of “dock boats” not specifically houseboats or even liveaboard vessels.  Dock boats would incorporate all boats, including recreational.  The county website also states that

“Research into the cause of the decline is under way by several agencies. It includes research on food supply, predation, and physical damage from the Government Locks during out-migration.” (3)

Clearly, this is not a phenomenon with established causation at this point, and the new regulations miss the proposed cause since they do not limit the number of liveaboard vessels which seems to contradict the hypothetical concern for increasing numbers of over water residencies. 

Perhaps it is the greywater as pollution issue?

The greywater containment clause in previous iteration of the regulations was problematic from many angles and I was compelled to understand the reasoning behind this regulation.  From documents provided by DPD I understand that greywater is considered a pollutant.  I would understand if the topic were black water, as this is discharge from toilets and is not possible on our houseboat, but greywater, discharge from sinks and showers is mostly plain water.  Unless city water is a pollutant, the “polluting component” must come from surfactants, or soaps, and the material they wash away, dirt, food scraps, oils, etc.  I understand the major concern to be with the phosphorus content and its effect on algae growth.  Due to recent legislative action by the State of Washington, the phosphorus content of soaps is tightly controlled.  On the Washington State Department of Ecology website it states:

“Phosphorus in detergents IS and has been a problem for Washington State and its waters. Laundry detergent containing phosphorus has been banned since 1994. Major manufacturers in the United States made the switch in laundry soaps to help keep waters clean. The same is true for automatic dishwasher soaps as of July 1, 2010, when Washington retailers may only sell low- and no-phosphate automatic dishwasher detergents for residential use….”

The law says that Washington will stop the distribution and sale of automatic dishwasher detergents that contain more than 0.5 percent phosphorus on July 1, 2010. Because soaps designed for washing dishes by hand are already phosphorus-free, the new requirement affects only soaps used in automatic dishwashers.” (4)

The intent of the law is to decrease the phosphorus content of greywater, wherever the source.  Since this law has been in effect since 2010, the amount of phosphorus in all greywater has decreased.  Further, if greywater is an ongoing concern, why target only houseboats, not all liveaboards, and what about the much larger population of recreational boaters, whose numbers dwarf the previous two categories of boaters?  If there were compelling science that the quality of lake water was a function of houseboat greywater discharge, I was unable to discover it.  In fact, water quality is worst in the winter when storm water overflow enters the lake from many city sewer pipes.

Finally I considered a possible bias:

I am concerned that there is a negative bias on the part of the DPD towards the houseboat community.  I learned that in a December 14, 2011 Seattle PI article http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Seattle-cracks-down-on-houseboat-like-boats-2400872.php Maggie Glowacki made the following comments: The city disagrees. It says they’re more like houses, and that the motors and steering wheels were a way for owners to circumvent the 1990 barge ban. “They got around that definition,” said Maggie Glowacki.   What was meant by “get around?” and “circumvent?”.  The rule that was in place by DPD was written and adhered to since 1990. We bought a vessel which had served as a residence for families for 20 years before us.  To have a public official assign these dishonest intentions to us simply due to the fact that we live aboard a vessel which has a boxy shape, is offensive.  It certainly appears as an inappropriate bias on the part of the DPD and without other clear, compelling reasons for these regulatory changes, makes me wonder if this bias serves as part of the motivation in these punishing regulations. 

In summary:

·         It is unclear what the objective of the proposed SMP regulations on houseboats is.

·         There has been no inclusion of the houseboat liveaboard community in the regulatory process even though we are clearly the most effected community members.

·         There seems to be little to no scientific backing to support the need for regulatory changes proposed for houseboats.

·         To single out a small minority of the liveaboard community (1.1% of total boat slips) with these proposed regulatory changes would do little to effect anything except negatively impact the investment value of these houseboats.

·         Ambiguity in vessel classification leads to unnecessary litigation which burdens Seattle’s citizens as well as wastes Seattle city resources.

My experience so far with the liveaboard community is that these members are stewards of the environment and very concerned about the health of the lake, it’s flora, and it’s and fauna.  I would hope that there is a substantive discussion and reconsideration of the proposed regulations.  I would like to see a moratorium on these proposed regulations in order for a stakeholder advisory group to be convened which would include members of LULA.  We do live in a representative democracy; those being regulated should have representation in the discussion.   I would welcome the opportunity to be part of that process.  .

Sincerely,

Michelle Simon ND, PhD

[email protected]

(1) Peter Blecha, August 04, 2010, ”Newspaper features Seattle’s houseboat colony on January 5, 1902”.  HistoryLink.org Essay 9503 
(2)  http://green.kingcounty.gov/lakes/Lake-Washington-Story.aspx
(3) ibid

(4) http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/nonpoint/phosphorus/law.html

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Letter from Mauri Shuler to Geoff Tallent (DOE)

Geoff,

Thank you for sending this letter to us.  I appreciate your support for a separate process that is independent of the SMP update.  However, we are asking for a delay in the vote because our status is NOT just in that so-called grandfather section, 214.  (See note below)
I would like to share my thoughts on your letter, since you asked, and hope you have time for a dialogue on these points.
OVER WATER RESIDENCES
My belief: this was intended to be applicable to apartment buildings built over the water and floating homes over the water.  It was not about boats ON the water.
FLOATING RESIDENTIAL STRUCTURE
We contend ours are boats, vessels, NOT floating structures.  Houseboats are a recognized class of boat.  Rowboats, oil tankers, tugboats, houseboats… all different classes of boats built for different purposes.  Yes, houseboats are boats built to liveaboard… but sailboats, yachts, old rotten wooden cruisers, tugboats, old ferries can also be lived aboard.  They are all still boats.
Preferred uses are the water-dependent ones.  I don’t know how much more water-dependent our boats could be.  If they are not in water, they  might as well go to the landfill.
In your list of environmental concerns, there is nothing to distinguish our vessels from the 600 liveaboard vessels at Shilshole.  What’s the difference?
We are all in the excepted area of “Boating facilities,” since we are all boats.
I’m very curious about the whole “no net loss” of shoreline ecological functions:  If it is acceptable to ‘freeze’ the ecological level at its current state but allow no further loss of function, then why would the city be allowed to have MORE recreational boats functioning in the lake?  Wouldn’t the city have to limit the number of boats or cruises any boat owner could take on their personal boat to exactly what they did this past year?  And why would the city force houseboats to have to motor around the lake to prove they are boats if it results in a net loss of the ecology?
Where can you draw a line on “no net loss” without restricting every movement on the lake?
I take issue with your acceptance of the city’s estimate of 150 ‘additional residential floating structures’.  There is no data to support that claim and it makes it more difficult for us when you blindly accept a fact-free allegation.
Finally, I would respectfully submit that neither you (DOE) nor the city is qualified to determine what is a vessel.  Marine professionals who do that for a living have never been consulted in this matter.  I would hope you would tighten the range of people who can make that determination.  ((please see the DOE’s 1994 definition below))
Now, to the current challenges section of your letter:
First you state the city must more clearly define the limited circumstances when living on a vessel is appropriate.  I’m not sure the city has done that.  I think they have limited vessels to point-end boats… and therefore, those can be lived aboard.  Living on those vessels is apparently appropriate at all times and not limited at all.  This comment is linked to the questions over ecological impact.  Why are only squarish-looking boats to be limited in their liveaboard use?
Your second paragraph reflects a misunderstanding reflected by DPD, council staff and now council members, themselves.  There are land mines throughout the current SMP that will limit our vessels existence.  John Chaney has put together a memo he submitted today and I have copied it below for you.  Again, I think they believe those sections do not apply to us, but no where in the document does it say existing vessels are exempt.  This is why we are asking for a delay in Monday’s vote.
Finally, Geoff, could you please explain for me what you meant in the next-to-last paragraph when you wrote:
“We belief that at least part of resolving this issue lies in the administration and interpretation of the current SMP.”
Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you when you have time.
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Dear City Council Members and Dept of Planning and Development,
I have lived near Lake Union for 23 years.  All of those years I have enjoyed the fact that Seattle is one of the few cities in the country that have ‘house boat’ communities.  They are part of the fabric of Seattle life as much as any other vibrant neighborhood created on land.  I do not understand the current desire to eradicate houseboats by vaguely determining that they are not vessels.  Vessel, houseboat, yacht or dingy – where families are peacefully living, paying taxes, being stewards of the lakes –  why are they being harassed?  People who choose to live on the water do so because of a profound sense of awe and kinship with the water.  They are far more careful about the footprint they leave than any casual boater.  If this issue is based on concern for the ecosystems in Lake Union or Lake Washington it is ill founded.  The houseboats are not polluting the waters.  In fact, vessels motoring about dump more gas and oil into the Lakes in a weekend than a houseboat would in a year.
Regardless of the reason houseboats have been targeted, the city should understand that these homes are the single greatest investment these homeowners have.  They have bought or financed their homes no differently than you or I living on the shore.  To arbitrarily determine after decades of living in the same community that they have to vacate their home is unfathomable to me.  Is this any different than the City deciding one day that 3 story homes in Wallingford are just too big and therefore must be vacated and moved?  Such a determination on houseboats feels eerily close to a police state with willful disregard of homeowners rights, not to mention just plain common sense.
I do not understand how the City of Seattle could stoop so low as to evict families from their homes without just cause AND  remove the only source of investment capital that they have.  To lose your home and any means of selling it for the capital to move to another is unconscionable.   It makes my head spin to think such an action is being contemplated within the United States.  Please stop this crazy mission and get on with things that warrant your attention and taxpayer dollars.  This is a low point in City governance.
Sincerely,
Denise Olivier
 
Denise Olivier CPA
Olivier Associates, Inc.
206.979.3434 mobile
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Letter from Kevin Bagley

Dear City Council Members and Honorable Mayor McGinn,

The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them….  The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created. RCW 42.56.030

Background:

My name is Kevin Bagley and I am the founder of Lake Union Liveaboard Association. We have been living on Lake Union in a 72 foot Paddle-Wheeler (a fully functioning vessel, coast guard inspected, marine surveyed, documented, frequently cruised, and in every way a vessel). Together with my wife, Linda Bagley, we own Special Agents Realty and have specialized in Floating Homes, Houseboats, and waterfront properties in Seattle since 2006. During this time, we have become local experts on houseboats, helping many people purchase their houseboat. Initially, we knew nothing about 1990 SMP rules that might affect houseboat sales, but later, we learned of this and then advised prospective buyers and sellers to understand that rules that affected them. Primarily we provided them with copies of the CAM-229 to help them understand the rules so they could comply. We have also added this information to two websites that we created to assist buyers and sellers of these vessels.  We have participated in dozens of Marine surveys on houseboat vessels, have examined hulls, engines, nav stations, 12 volt systems, bilge pumps, even participated in sea trials.  As a subject matter expert, we were NOT involved in the development of regulations affecting liveaboards and houseboat-vessels.

My apologies for the length of this letter, but because our group has not been FULLY INVOLVED in the process, communication is limited to 2 minute speeches and lengthy letters. I implore the readers to read this document in its entirety.

Proposals are at the end of this document.

Flawed Process:

Members of Lake Union Liveaboard Association have repeatedly complained that they have NOT been involved in the development of the Shoreline Master Programs.  The entire process of the development of regulations affecting liveaboards has been conducted WITHOUT stakeholder involvement and participation.

WAC 173-26-090

In developing master programs and amendments thereto, the department and local governments, pursuant to RCW 90.58.130 shall make all reasonable efforts to inform, fully involve and encourage participation of all interested persons and private entities, and agencies of the federal, state or local government having interests and responsibilities relating to shorelines of the state and the local master program.

Please note that this law requires department and local governments to make all reasonable efforts to inform and fully involve all interested persons.

DPD has failed this requirement.

In the meeting of the City Council Planning, Land Use and Sustainability committee meeting, held on 12/12/2012, DPD presented changes to the Shoreline Master Program section 23.60A.214 Standards for using vessels as dwelling units, which significantly affect “interested persons” and “private entities” and were published only hours before being presented, reviewed by the PLUS committee and voted on.  This city council and DPD are in direct violation of WAC 173-26-090.

This change affects the following interested persons and private entities who have received no notice of this proposal or whom have NOT been informed or involved in any way:  Yacht Brokers, Marina Owners, Vessel Manufacturers, The Recreational Boating Association of Washington, Northwest Yacht Brokers Association, the public as purchasers of these vessels, the public as those who may desire to live aboard a certain style of vessel.  We are trying to contact affected stakeholders to assure they

Because these changes (and others) have been implemented WITHOUT proper stakeholder involvement, there are significant ramifications that went unnoticed, un-discussed, and which directly affect free enterprise and may cause potential legal problems.

A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION:

A Yacht Broker sells a Destiny Yacht to a buyer (LEGAL). The Buyer of this yacht purchases this yacht FULLY intending to live aboard the yacht. Unfortunately, the yacht broker knew nothing about this regulation nor the intended purpose (living aboard) and sells the Yacht. The buyer then begins living aboard the yacht (the buyer also knows nothing about this regulation). Later a complaint is filed and the buyer looses the ability to use his MAJOR purchase for its intended use. Law suits ensue. People lose their assets. Who is liable; the buyer who bought the vessel legally? The Yacht Broker who sold the boat legally? The Marina that moors the boat legally? (Sound familiar?)

While “CLARIFICATION” was a goal of these regulations, the proposed regulations will NOT improve the situation without all sides of the equation being addressed. Will Yacht Brokers be tasked with the responsibility of informing consumers that they cannot live aboard their vessel? What if the vessel is sold on Craigslist, or through a private party? Will Marinas be tasked with policing their marina to assure that someone does not live aboard a certain “style” vessel? Once again, we are back to complaint based enforcement and leaving the PUBLIC believing they are doing NOTHING wrong while the city allows peoples hard earned money to be THROWN DOWN THE DRAIN.  The problem that is facing houseboat owners NOW (unclear regulations, un-enforced regulations, no registration methodology, no oversight) will soon plague the public once again.

In the absence of FULL INVOLVEMENT, we will endeavor to respond to DPD statements in the section titled Questions and Answers below.

Assumption of Accuracy

It appears that the City Council has been assuming that information presented by DPD is correct and accurate. This is leading to flawed perceptions and decisions made on incorrect information. DPD has alluded to an estimate of 150 “illegal” structures over water and has said that perhaps 25% of “houseboat-style” vessels are “illegal.”   This would yield a total number of “houseboat-style” vessels at around 600. John Skelton admitted that they have no evidence of this, yet decisions are being made with this number being bandied about as though it were fact.

DPD has not performed a basic assessment of the number of Slips, Vessels, Vacancies, and Houseboat-style vessels, yet purports 150 allegedly illegal houseboats and indicates that Houseboat vessels are displacing Recreational and Commercial vessels.  Again, the PLUS committee seems to be accepting this as fact.

To provide a FACT-BASED estimate of the total number of Slips, Vessels, Vacancies, and Houseboat-style vessels, we have created a statistical analysis that provides a systematic assessment of all Seattle Slips and have made these results available to the public. It can be viewed at:      bit.ly/SeattleSlips

The following is the Summary Statistics page from this presentation:

Summary Statistics

 As can be seen by this fact based analysis, houseboat style vessels occupy only 1.15% of all Seattle Slips, and as no slips in Lake Washington were included, this is a CONSERVATIVE estimate.  The total number of Houseboats is approximately 113. Of these, we believe the vast majority meet the DPD criteria of being Vessels, designed and used for Navigation.

Per public record, DPD has issued a number of Notices Of Violations in the last five years and out of 5 allegations of a vessel being an “overwater structure” only 1 of these was found to be an “overwater structure.” This implies a success rate of about 20%, or, put another way, DPD has been wrong 80% of the time when they issue an NOV.  This seems like an extreme waste of time and taxpayer money.

Preserving Space for Water Dependents uses: Because DPD has not accurately assessed the situation, they have made statements that are not true. The recent survey we performed proves that there is an abundance of vacant slips and there are 19 vacant slips for every 1 houseboat.  With a vacancy rate greater than 24% in peak season, there is no validity that houseboats are displacing recreational or commercial vessels.

It is also commonly discussed by DPD as though the current owners of both vessels and house-barges are the same owners as existed in 1990. To assume this is irrational. The vast majority of vessels and house-barges have been sold MULTIPLE times since the 1990 SMP. It is completely unreasonable to expect 4th generation owners to know anything about 1990 rules that have been IGNORED by DPD. These people bought their vessels and house barges the same way you would be any vessel or car. You do NOT expect, NOR SHOULD THE CITY HAVE THE RIGHT, to suddenly make these “ILLEGAL.”

Imagine you buy your home in good faith, only to find a city agency tell you that you are not allowed to live in your home, you can be fined daily, and evicted, because your home is NOT SHAPED LIKE A ‘REAL’ HOME and is not allowed, and oh, by the way, this was a rule that was put into place 23 years ago – we just haven’t been enforcing it.

The Cost to Achieve No Gain or Negative Progress

The Cost of Regulation Development

A­s DPD is now in the 6th iteration of the Houseboat-Vessel-Liveaboard regulations (primarily section 23.60A.214) it is apparent that a great deal of taxpayer money is being expended on this section.  DPD has re-written this section repeatedly and every iteration was drastically different from the previous iteration. They have also spent 10’s of thousands of taxpayer dollars on Naval Engineers and Architects, only to throw out the regulations based on this information. It is also apparent that DPD does NOT have a good grasp on this issue. At this point, we are confident that tens of thousands of dollars have been spent, and possibly more than 100 thousand dollars have been spent on this section alone.  We believe that FULL INVOLVEMENT by the stakeholders would yield a more effective result, with a far lower cost, and less harm to the public.

We will be asking that DPD provide an accounting through the public records disclosure act, of how much taxpayer dollars have been spent this section.

What Kind of Vessel is it OKAY to Live In? REGULATING STYLE – NOT USE

DPD is stating that the regulations being proposed are for the purpose of clarifying what kind of vessel can be used as a dwelling unit. This statement is BLATENTLY stating that they want to regulate STYLE not USE.  Previously the regulations indicated you could live aboard a recreational vessel and the regulations were trying to define ‘What is a recreational vessel?’ Now, there is no reference to being a recreational vessel, it simply states you cannot live aboard your vessel if it LOOKS LIKE ONE OF THESE. This amendment is clearly and indisputably a regulation based on STYLE AND/OR SHAPE.   This type of regulation is COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE to the effort to improve our waters or limit the number of overwater residences.

The discussion should focus on USE, not what style of vessel where that use can occur. In 20 years, these regulations will INCREASE the number of live-aboards and INCREASE the contribution of grey-water because we will have MORE live-aboards. The ONLY difference is that they will now be on Pointy-nosed vessels instead of houseboat-style vessels.

Maggie Glowacki indicated on 12/12 that Ecology is secondary and the Residential use is primary. As there is NO RESTRICTION on the number of liveaboards on Pointy Shaped vessels and there is NO RESTRICTION on grey-water contribution from these vessels, I submit that NEITHER ECOLOGY or RESIDENTIAL USE is being addressed and in 20 years the ECOLOGY WILL BE WORSE, and RESIDENTIAL USE WILL BE WORSE, with the only change being that the residential use will be on Pointy-nosed vessels.  We will have a lake filled with live-aboard Yachts, Trawlers, and Sailboats.

This is NEGATIVE PROGRESS at significant cost.

DOE Guidelines REQUIRED that the regulations resulted in NO NET ECOLOGICAL LOSS. The current regulations fail this requirement

The Cost of Litigation

As Notices of Violations have already begun, this will likely end up in litigation. The cost of this litigation will likely be expensive, both for the City (paid for by taxpayers) and for the vessel owners (paid for by the owners – also taxpayers). People will typically fight for their rights when the city is effectively “TAKING” their property, or rendering their property valueless.  Imagine this cost multiplied by however many vessels DPD seeks to attack.

The Cost of Lost Revenue

As the city removes one of the culturally significant ways of living in Seattle, that has been a way of life for decades, it will reduce the charm and character of Seattle. NO ONE GOES ON TOURS OF SHILSHOLE.

As people are EVICTED and their life savings ruined, repercussions will crop up in many places. Loans will be defaulted on. Public Assistance demands will increase. Insurance companies will lose revenue, local businesses will suffer

The Humanitarian Costs

Above all, the cost in terms of damaging people’s lives, making them homeless, ruining them financially, and leaving people in uncertainty is the highest cost of all. IT IS MORE THAN A TRAGEDY, IT IS A TRAVESTY.

Question and Answers

This section is designed, in the absence of FULL INVOLVEMENT, to try to partially attain some sort of dialogue. Here we will look at questions that were asked of DPD, their response, and a response from a LULA member.  While DPD has had the opportunity to publically participate in an exchange of information, the liveaboard stakeholders have had no opportunity to respond to DPD statements as they are made. Had this been a TRUE DIALOGUE, both DPD and the City Council would have benefited from insight ONLY gained in a conversation.

Q: DOE reps discussing proposals, existing Liveaboard Vessels and Amnesty Proposal

DOE: Jeff Talent;

  • Need to figure out what to do with the situation, referring to existing Live-aboard vessels.
  • Indicated DOE is very concerned with the concept of an Amnesty program.
  • Indicated that he did not feel the Shoreline Master Program was the place to solve this problem (speaking to EXISTING live-aboard vessels). It probably should be city administrative actions.
  • If it was in the form of an amendment, he encouraged having the time to work on it and not hold up the rest of the SMP.
  • He also indicated that existing vessels are under the same set of rules when they came into existence.

DOE: Joe Burkhart

  • Fundamentally, we are typically looking forward at new uses and planning for new uses.
  • Black & White – prohibiting non-water dependent structure use
  • Indicated that they were not concerned about the Vessels but about the USE.

A: We concur with DOE and emphasize that the regulations should be about use, and NOT about the vessel. We are VERY concerned that Manufacturers of nationally sold recreational vessels (Destiny Yachts, Harbormaster, Gibson, East Coats Houseboats). While we have consistently stated that the proposed regulations are about style, not use, this has been summarily dismissed. There has been no honest open discussion about this and it is a delusion to think this is not true.

THESE REGULATIONS ARE REGULATING STYLE, NOT USE.

Living aboard IS THE USE.

Q: Nick Licata asked about the term “Shanty Boats”

DPD: There were chuckles by DPD representatives as though this seemed humorous. There were statements that this was found on AllAboutHouseboats.com

A: As Liveaboards, we find this language derogatory. There are NO Shanty Boats in Seattle Waters, and a search of the website mentioned during the 12/12/12 meeting did not reveal any “Shanty Boat” manufacturers. We feel this term was inserted to connote a level of disrespect (the definition of Shanty is “A small, crudely built shack”). This should be removed.

House-barge Compliance Program

Q: Richard Conlin proposed a compliance program requiring house barge owners to contain grey-water or obtain a hardship waiver. Nick Licata stated that he had no sympathy for people who agreed to make changes but didn’t.

A: The important things to consider in this regard are;

  1. The city failed to develop a procedure to ensure compliance
  2. The city failed to enforce this requirement (FOR OVER 20 YEARS)
  3. Most House-barges have changed ownership numerous times with NO conveyance of information regarding the Grey-water containment rule.
  4. Most current owners knew NOTHING about this requirement when they purchased.

Exemption based on hardship and BMP’s

  • All vessels are already going to be required to comply with Best Management Practices
  • The cost of implementing grey water containment should be borne by those that failed to comply, NOT by new owners. IF the owner at the time this requirement was implemented still owns the house barge, then they should be REQUIRED to comply barring a proven hardship. The failure to develop an implementation process and enforce this requirement is the City’s fault and requiring a NEW owner to comply should be considered an undue hardship. The new owners did not evade the requirements, they simply did not know and should be allowed to proceed by complying with Best Management Practices.
  • There are not enough resources; Ship Yards, professionals capable of doing the work, parts to accomplish this in 120 days. Many of these do not have the room, will encounter instability, or will have prohibitive costs to make this happen.
  • Currently, the infrastructure to dispose of the Grey Water does not exist. The pump-out services do not have containers large enough to hold grey water.
  • There is no clear definition of Hardship – i.e. what is a prohibitive cost?  NOTE, there are initial costs and then increased ongoing costs in the form of pump-out services which can be quite expensive since existing pump-out vessels would likely have to make multiple trips.

 

Based on these facts, and that these house-barges have existed for the last 23 years without causing any significant ecological impact, we recommend exempting all house-barges that are not owned by the owners at the time of the 1990 agreement.

 

Q: Nick Licata asked regarding house-barges and grey water impact; How does that compare to the impact from liveaboards on vessels like Shilshole?

DPD: Maggie stated “There weren’t good methods that marinas could ‘easily’ be put in place.”

A: This begs the question as to WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE “EASY” FOR POINTY VESSELS but it is okay if it is HARD FOR BOXY VESSELS OR HOUSEBARGES.

LULA proposed reasonable solutions that addressed grey-water (and limited liveaboards) for ALL liveaboard vessels – regardless of shape, but this was ignored. This is an unequal application of standards.

 

Historical Perspective:

It has been 23 years since the last Seattle Shoreline Master Program (SSMP) update. At the time of that update, a small number of vessels (about 34) without propulsion were “grandfathered” in as “House Barges” while at the same time, about 30 houseboat style vessels chose NOT to be grandfathered in, and instead added propulsion and steering and became licensed as vessels. The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) was aware of these vessels, and allowed them to continue to exist in Seattle Waters because they met the definition of a Vessel.

Over the last 23 years, about 83 more of these houseboat style vessels, meeting the CAM-229 standards, have been added to Seattle Waters. Again, DPD was aware of these vessels and made few attempts to prevent or remove them from Seattle Waters as they met the criteria required by law. There is NO LAW, REGULATION, CITY CODE, or ORDINANCE that indicates how a Vessel must look, what shape it must be, or that you cannot build a vessel that looks like a house.

Vessels come in ALL SHAPES AND SIZES.

Vessel Status:

DPD has been making overt statements about “illegal” houseboats which have no basis in fact (as admitted by DPD officials). These statements are not based on any evidence, examination, or proof; they are simply conjecture and opinion of those that do not like the concept that a vessel can look like a house.

It is important to know that Houseboat-Style vessels have been built, bought, and sold as vessels for decades.  Many of these houseboat vessels have changed ownership numerous times since they were built and each purchaser of these vessels went through a similar process that any other vessel-style (Yacht, Tug, Sailboat, etc.) buyer went through. These Houseboat-Vessels had MARINE surveys, they purchased MARINE insurance, they were closed through MARINE title services, their vessels were hauled out at MARINE shipyards, they had special MARINE bottom paint applied to protect their vessel, they paid sales tax as required of all MARINE vessels, they registered their vessels with the state and paid annual MARINE licensing fees. These MARINE vessels have engines, steering, fuel systems, navigation lights, bilge pumps, MARINE safety equipment, Fenders, cleats, 12 volt systems, black water tanks and other features that CLEARLY make them a vessel.

People buying and building these vessels bought and built their homes in good faith and NEVER thought they were doing anything wrong and in FACT were doing nothing wrong. Because DPD has recently stated that there are 150 “illegal” houseboats, does NOT make this a fact and we believe that the recent notices of violations will be found false.  DPD has made accusations like this in the past and has repeatedly been proven wrong.

Derogatory Public Statements and Actions

Public, recorded statements by DPD officials have indicated a strong bias against Houseboat style vessels and their owners. The following statements and actions have been made by DPD representatives;

  • DPD Spokesperson Bryan Stevens stated that houseboat owners “are skirting city oversight by calling themselves boats.”
  • Margaret Glowacki, after hearing a statement from Shilshole boat owners indicating they would never accept registration or deal with grey-water, indicated that “well, then we will go after the Houseboats”
  • Bryan Stevens stated “Some have just put outboard motors on the back of their floating home type structure and said hey I’m a boat and therefore I’m not regulated.”
  • The recent addition of the term “Shanty Boats” to the guidelines is derogatory (the definition of Shanty is “A small, crudely built shack.”) and completely unnecessary. The website claimed to contain this information has no information on “Shanty Boats” and there are no vessels on Lake Union that are “Shanty Boats.”
  • DPD Inspector, Christine Bruno has harassed and threatened houseboat vessel owners, telling them “they better get an attorney” and showing up after hours and multiple times per week.

We ask the City Council to exercise some scrutiny when considering the presentations by DPD and we encourage DPD to take a more responsible, professional approach as a public agency.

Proposals

Proposal: Alternative to Code Interpretations

The only way that a houseboat-vessel owner can establish their legality and avoid living in perpetual fear of DPD inspectors and having to defend potential Notices of Violations is through an expensive CODE INTERPRETATION. The following proposal would be allow a vessel owner to prove compliance with existing regulations and could be completed during a marine survey which is commonly performed on houseboat vessels. The CAM-229 is the ONLY document published by DPD clarifying the rules to be a live-aboard vessel.

  1. Houseboat vessel owners can demonstrate compliance with CAM 229 by providing a 100% compliant Live-Aboard Vessel Certification (see below).
  2. The Live-Aboard Vessel Certification would be completed by the inspector and 100% compliance would serve as proof of compliance with the CAM 229 guidelines.
  3. Houseboat vessels owners would be required to present a 100% compliant Live-Aboard Vessel Certification within 30 days request from DPD based on a bona-fide complaint (See Bona-fide Complaints).
  4. Owners of houseboat vessels would have a 120 day grace period to address and correct any issues (i.e. repairs) and present a 100% compliant Live-Aboard Vessel Certification.
  5. Any Vessel that is unable to produce as requested, a Live-Aboard Vessel Certification could be subject to enforcement action.

Bona-fide Complaints

It is reasonable to provide some protection against Frivolous Complaints (essentially harassment).

  1. The complaint process should be required to clearly identify what parts of the CAM-229 a particular vessel is out of compliance with.
  2. Reasonable evidence should be provided both to DPD and to the vessel owner that the vessel does NOT meet the CAM-229 standards.
  3. Repeated complaints (three) by the same individual that prove to be false should preclude that individual from filing further complaints to avoid harassment.

Sample Live-Aboard Vessel Certification form:

Proposal: REVISE Section 23.60A.214 and Include Public – Stakeholder Involvement

We ask the City Council to SERIOUSLY consider that the live-aboard community has not been FULLY INVOLVED as required in WAC 173-26-090. We remain committed to working with DPD, DOE, and the City Council to achieve a result that works for everyone and ultimately benefits our waters and protects our shorelines. To this end we ask that the City Council table the current proposals contained in section 23.60A.214, establish a task group to FULLY INVOLVE the stakeholders and work through the liveaboard regulations to achieve a reasonable proposal that can be presented to the City Council within 60 days.

Proposal: Housebarge Compliance Program

This proposal is based on the following concepts;

  • House-barges have been on the lake, with minimal consequence for the last 23 years.
  • The requirements implemented by DPD in 1990 did not contain sufficient checks and balances nor procedures to assure compliance.
  • Most house barges have had multiple owners since 1990 and the information was not conveyed to the new owners
  • Owners who owned their house-barge at the time of implementation and continue to own their housebarge should comply with regulations.

 

  1. Owners of house-barges that can demonstrate they purchased their houseboat after the implementation of the house-barge regulations are not be required to contain their grey water, but must comply with Best Management Practices.
  2. Owners of house-barges that purchased their house-barge prior to the implementation of the house-barge regulations are required to comply with the grey water containment requirements within 120 days.
  3. Owners of house-barges that purchased their house-barge prior to the implementation of the house-barge regulations who can demonstrate undue hardship to implement grey water containment may be granted an exception. Undue hardship is defined as any of the following conditions:
    1. Implementing grey water containment would cause an unsafe or unstable condition.
    2. An inspection by a marine surveyor indicates the vessel does not have sufficient space to provide for Grey Water Containment
    3. The cost of implementing Grey Water Containment is greater than 3% of the vessel’s assessed value.

CONCLUSION:

  • We remain committed to working with DPD, DOE, and the City Council
  • We believe the FULL INVOLVEMENT is required, would improve the process, and result in better regulations that are fair and effective.
  • The facts indicate that Houseboat vessels are NOT a significant problem
  • Current proposals accomplish neither improved ecology nor a reduction in Live-aboards.
  • Our proposals are reasonable and based on sound information and factual data
  • It is time our city stopped ruling with FEAR and assured the preservation of this uniquely Seattle lifestyle

Sincerely,

Kevin Bagley

Co-Owner Special Agents Realty

– Founder Lake Union Liveaboard Association.

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Letter from Matthew Pontius

Dear City Council Members, Mayor McGinn, and Honorable Christine Gregoire,

I will keep this as short as possible as it seems the city has little interest in listening to, or working with anyone affected by this DPD proposal, or by now you would have clearly seen how off base this whole thing is. Six years ago I answered an ad for a “fee simple” houseboat slip listed for sale by a licensed realtor to the tune of $210,000. “Fee simple” meaning that I actually own the dirt underneath the water in my slip. This slip was marketed as a houseboat slip and was priced accordingly. Both the seller, and the realtor informed me that a houseboat only needed to meet the current requirements of a vessel. Being a builder at the time, and familiar with the permit process, my next step was to go down to DPD and verify this information and file for any permits needed.  I told the inspector at the front desk that I wanted to build a houseboat and needed to file the necessary permits. He then asked me if I was going to register it as vessel and I said “yes”. He then told me “no permits were necessary as long as I registered it as a vessel”. He told me “DPD does NOT regulate vessels”. There was never any mention of cam-229 hull shape or anything else. Actually, I didn’t even know cam-229 even existed until just recently.  So I went about building my vessel using a licensed marine architect, licensed contractors and building everything to code. My electrician also went in to DPD to acquire a permit for the electrical work and was told the exact same thing that “we don’t issue permits for vessels”. DPD visited the vessel construction site on multiple occasions and again, never once said anything about it being illegal or in violation. We had lengthy, friendly conversations and their only comments were to make sure and keep the site clean (which it was), so debris didn’t wash into the lake.

I don’t understand why six years later we are being attacked because there wasn’t a system in place at the time to properly regulate houseboats. I did nothing wrong and went out of my way to try and do everything correctly and follow every regulation the city had in place.  I even came, in person, directly to DPD for guidance. Clearly, no one is silly enough to dump their life savings into something they know is illegal and will eventually be worthless?!?! It doesn’t even make sense.
        I pay a lot of taxes as a local business owner. My business is partnered with the City of Seattle as part of the new re-development of the Seattle Center. Harassing hard working citizens in a difficult economy is not how I want my tax money spent. I have business loans secured by this property and employees whose futures depend on it.Honestly, I don’t even understand what the goal is, that DPD is going after?

        First, it seemed environmental? Contain grey water? O.k. I already can. Use best management practices? I already do. How can you attack .05%* of the boat population in the state of Washington about grey water based on the shape of their vessel, but allow 99.95% of vessels to go unregulated? Doesn’t make any sense or solve any problem. Is there more pollution created by driving around a fuel-burning vessel, or one that just sits at the dock? Are more resources spent, and waste created, building a huge house and a also a yacht to recreate in, or building a boat that is also a home? Is grey water from a houseboat shower with biodegradable soap really more polluting than one of the cities many sewer overflows, one of which is right next to my slip, that overflows 1000’s of gallons of raw sewage into the lake every time it rains too much?  If you really want to make a dent in pollution to the lake, these sewer overflows are a good start.
Next, DPD’s goal was to make more slips available for recreational vessels?  Lula proved, with facts, that there is 24% slip vacancy rate at peak season on Lake Union, and that houseboats make up only  1.15% of the vessels. Is it more recreational using vessel a few days a year and the rest of the time it sits there dumping its oily bilge water into the lake (which houseboats don’t do)? Or is it more recreational, someone enjoying and caring for the lake on their boat 365 days a year? Is a person somehow recreating more on their vessel when they drive it around? (They certainly pollute more) than someone that stays parked at a dock?Now, it seems the goal has changed again, that it’s because the state wants to limit over the water residences?  Why attack .05%* of the vessels in this state and flat out ruin peoples lives, when it won’t even make the smallest dent in what the state is really trying to accomplish? It does not make any sense at all.

The only possible conclusions any sensible person can make are:

.. Someone at DPD just doesn’t like the look and shape of these so called (by DPD) “shanty houseboats”? (Strangely, when Coastal Living magazine flew here to photograph our vessel that word never came up?)

.. Is it a personal vendetta against one individual that everyone is being punished for?

.. Is it that DPD has wasted so much money on this, that they will keep pushing on, no matter the cost?

.. Has someone at DPD grossly misinterpreted what the states goals are, and then looked for the easiest target they could find to justify their job?

I urge you to please be sensible and listen to your concerned citizens. Work with LULA to find a realistic solution. Please don’t force this into an on-going legal battle that will just end up wasting more tax dollars that could be put to good use in these difficult times.

Seriously disappointed,
Matthew Pontious

*Based on – (from internet) 2004 study shows 266,717 registered vessels in Washington State (Surely much higher number now) and 150 (a DPD number) affected houseboats.

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Letter from Lynne Reister

Dear City Council Members;

A New Year has begun.
We still need to address an appropriate program for the Houseboats/Liveaboards so that we can meet the SSMP goals, accommodate the Live Aboard Communities and those who select this Life Style and have for upwards of 30 years, without prejudice and using Real Facts and Science, and not speculation, prejudicial selectivity, and unfortunate accusation this process has been fraught with to date.
I encourage you to form a Stake Holder’s Task Force to help formulate a successful plan which will address the specific issues of concern in the SSMP.
It is critical to have people who are familiar with the Water Life and Living Aboard vessels of all kinds.
This process, I believe, can bring a well structured Plan which will meet the SSMP in a timely manner.
We are eager to help!
It is important to point out that on these issues, in the past, a House Barge Task Force developed the Waste Management Check list that the DCLU/DPD used to evaluate each vessel as to their use of Black and Gray water.So we have historic precedent placed which has been used and could be used with ALL live aboard vessel. Although, every vessel is capable of pollution far worse than gray water, from bilge water(Oils, Coolants, acids, strong cleaners, etc.), which the typical houseboat style live aboard could not ever do as they have no bilge water to discharge. We also have the check list (DPD Code Inspectors have used) which the city has used to evaluate vessel, as to their capability of operating and their features. We can use these resources again and fine tune them.
Thank You, I look forward to your encouragement and cooperation. I know many of you have had an opportunity to truly dig deep into the issues at hand in an effort to more clearly understand them and recognize a solution is possible. ALL boaters who live aboard their vessels should be treated in the same manner equally.
I would like to serve on this stake holder’s group. I have served on a Stake Holder Group before for Seattle, and a couple of the LULA Board Members served with me in that group.
Again, Thank You and Happy New Year!
Lynne Reister
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