Proposed Grandfathering Revision

LULA proposes the following modification to the live-aboard “grandfather” provision of the revised Shoreline Master Program Regulations:

23.60A.214

D. Other vessels

1. Any vessel, as defined by Section 3 of Title 1 of the United States Code, that was moored in the City prior to the effective date of this ordinance may be used as a dwelling unit if it is moored at a lawful location.

2. A dwelling unit on a vessel that meets the standards of this subsection 23.60A.214.D but that does not meet the standards of subsection 23.60A.214.C is a nonconforming use.

Why is this standard preferable to the Mayor’s proposal?

  • The current “designed and used for navigation” language continues to be the subject of contentious litigation, costing the City and vessel owners hundreds of thousands of dollars and diverting limited enforcement resources.
  • There is little in the way of readily-available legal and/or practical guidance as to what watercraft meet the “designed and used for navigation” test.
  • Variations in interpretation and enforcement policy provide no assurance to vessel owners that their watercraft will be deemed to be “designed and used for navigation” and therefore qualify under the grandfather in the Mayor’s proposal.
  • The Mayor’s proposal does not resolve whether a vessel must continue to be “used in navigation” to meet the grandfather requirements; environmental and safety concerns compel a bright-line standard that discontinues the practice of regular inland water voyages for the purpose of satisfying the “used in navigation” standard.
  • Ordinarily, whether or not a watercraft constitutes a vessel and vessel design standards are issues of federal, not state or local, law.
  • The definition of “vessel” in 1 U.S.C. § 3 has remained virtually unchanged since 1873 and codifies the meaning that term has acquired under the general maritime law of theUnited States.
  • Vessels owners will be able to rely on the extensive and well-developed body of federal case law defining the parameters of what qualifies as a “vessel,” providing certainty in their grandfather qualification analysis.
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