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Monday, October 15, 2012

Tonight: An Epic Fight About Lake Union Waterhomes

Posted by on Mon, Oct 15, 2012 at 4:28 PM

City officials are considering adopting changes to Seattle's shoreline regulations which, some of Lake Union's floating residents argue, will kick all their merry asses off of the water, effectively leaving them high, dry, and homeless.

As Carol Brown, an impassioned Lake Union houseboat owner wrote in a letter to the Seattle City Council:

"Imagine this. You build your house, following the codes and legal guidelines to the best of your ability. Later (maybe years later), you are told that you do not meet the City’s definition that did not exist at the time you built your home. Because your house no longer fits the City’s interpretation, it is no longer deemed to be a “house” and will have to be moved, banished from the city!

“This is the nightmarish situation—living in fear that I could lose my home (and most significant financial investment)—that those of us who live on houseboats face with the latest version of the Shoreline Master Plan sent by the Mayor to the City Council for approval."

For context, most floating homeowners live on Lake Union. But Bryan Stevens, a spokesman for the city's Department of Planning Development, which is crafting the update to the city's Shoreline Master Plan—which will guide uses for Lake Washington, Lake Union, the Ship Canal, the Duwamish River, Elliott Bay, Puget Sound, and Green Lake—says Brown's concerns are off-base. "The proposal to update the regulations would prohibit any new houseboats but would allow the ones that have been there already," he says. The problem, he adds, is that roughly 120 homeowners have been illegally building and living off Seattle's shoreline since 1990—and they're now worried about the future of their homes.

At 5:30 p.m. tonight, the Seattle City Council is holding a public meeting on the proposed changes to the Shoreline Master Plan. I predict that it's going to be a total shit show. You can watch along here.

But to understand this complex issue, you need to understand a few distinctions between the types of waterhomes that people currently live in. Here, I will break them down for you:

· Vessels are functioning boats—structures designed and used for navigation—that people sometimes live in. These aren't policed by the DPD because they're primarily boats, not houses. Nobody gives a shit if you're living on your boat. Continue with the city's blessings!
· Houseboats: Seattle has approximately 500 Sleepless-in-Seattle-style floating houseboats that are permitted with the city. This means they're compliant with building codes and are connected to city sewer lines. Most of these homes are on Lake Union.
· House-barges: The city has another estimated 150 house-barges, which are defined as vessels without means for steering or efficient self-propulsion. (Think a yacht with the motor and steering wheel ripped off, or a houseboat with a outboard motor slapped on the back of it.) House-barges have been illegal in Seattle since 1990, according to the DPD (with the exception of 34 permitted house barges that were grandfathered in with the 1990 rule).

To reiterate, house-barges are already illegal.

The DPD's proposed changes to the Shoreline Master Plan really only impose new restrictions on houseboats, and only so much as they would prohibit houseboats from being built on Seattle waters in the future. The goals of the Shoreline Master Plan update are simple, according the to the DPD:

· Strengthen environmental protections of Seattle's many shorelines, bodies of water, and wildlife.
· Promote the public's access to the water.
· Prioritize water-oriented uses on the water. (Living isn't a water-oriented use.)

In other words, the city is limiting the number of people who want to brush their teeth and sleep on the water, so that the rest of us—who want to boat or swim or make our living off the water—can have better access to it. With these goals in mind, the DPD argues that houseboats—which take up valuable marina slip space—don't mesh. The change is designed to bring the city in line with state environmental regulations, and we're hardly the only city considering adopting it.

With all that said, let the shit show begin!


Comments (41) RSS

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ryanayr 1
They're probably worried that the city and port will do what they did at Terminal 105 and Terminal 107 in the LDW in the 1970s and 1980s and kick out all the houseboats for shoreline improvements and land exchanges. There is definitely precedent for the city kicking houseboats off of their moorage locations.
Posted by ryanayr on October 15, 2012 at 4:38 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 2
I'm glad the city council is doing what it can to get rid of anything that makes Seattle unique and possibly a little cool. We can't have more house boats and we can't have decent bike lanes.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on October 15, 2012 at 4:45 PM · Report this
This article is flat wrong. The issues isn't with barges or houseboats. It is with vessels that have self-propulsion (so not barges), are licensed as vessels (so not houseboats), but don't look like a yacht. It is unclear if these in-between vessels (totally legal under today's code) will be retroactively banned. If they are, then lots of people are out of a home, and a huge investment.
Posted by Keith Scully on October 15, 2012 at 4:55 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 4

One of the things that this region is really stingy about is public lands on waterfront. Despite the rich amounts of shoreline, very little foresight was given to buying up beach areas and turning them into public parks. I think of the magnificent beaches of New York City and State and New Jersey. Then I think of the crowded little beaches like Dash Point and Salt Lake. It really is a shame that so little was given over to the public from Lake Washington and Elliot Bay.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on October 15, 2012 at 5:02 PM · Report this
@4: Really, all you have to do is drive south to the Oregon shore to see what it could have been like. Vast swaths of public beachland.
Posted by Orv on October 15, 2012 at 5:10 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 6
Homes are condemned all the time for the greater good (open to interpretation). Schools are built on the land, or salmon habitat is restored if it is lake frontage. The home owners are paid market value (in this case millions per home I would suspect). A family losing its home is not easy, never is never will be. Do you want millionaires in their house boats or do you want salmon habitat. No Virginia you can not have both. The Salmon can't deal with it.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on October 15, 2012 at 5:11 PM · Report this
Wow... There is so much wrong in this post. The city wants to take hundreds of vessels and redefine them as house barges because of the way they are shaped. Whether or not you have motors and propulsion would now be irrelevant. Hundreds of people could have their currently legal homes become illegal. The proposed law would do nothing to improve the quality of or access to the lake. It would just mean lots of people lose their homes and yachts can move into the newly vacant spaces.

If the city really cared about the quality of the lake they would stop the sewer overflows and every storm drain from Queen Anne and Capitol Hill from emptying into Lake Union.
Posted by seajake on October 15, 2012 at 5:12 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 8

And no highways or parkways to get you there speedily.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on October 15, 2012 at 5:15 PM · Report this
@6 - the most expensive home affected by this proposed law is about $350K and most are in the $200 - $300K range, and no one is proposing compensating the home owners. Their home would just become illegal. The "Sleepless in Seattle" type house boats are unaffected by the new law.

If the city were trying to declare 300 homes on Capitol Hill illegal and kick the owners out with no compensation The Stranger would be all over it.
Posted by seajake on October 15, 2012 at 5:21 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 10
It would be far more effective if the city made sure water-based homes met certain standards of energy use and water/waste treatment instead.

And removed all exemptions for owners who made more than $250,000 a year under all circumstances.
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 15, 2012 at 5:29 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 11
@9 only if the homes were deemed "hipster-friendly".
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 15, 2012 at 5:30 PM · Report this
douchus 12
Maybe some of these house boats are worth millions of dollars, but there were 2 house boats for sale 2 years ago on the east side of gas works that cost ~$120,000 for basically a studio house.
Posted by douchus on October 15, 2012 at 5:31 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 13
#9 thank you for that clarification. Apparently there is a problem. Sewage? Live aboards that are not licensed as such? "Homes are condemned all the time for the greater good (open to interpretation). Schools are built on the land...". what I said above is still valid.

If 300 homes any where were condemned, and homes are condemned all the time, people would ask logical questions, not emotional questions. I don't know if what is going on is a MEAN EVIL CITY hating on barge living boat people, but I suspect the city is NOT evil, mean, awful hateful when it comes to people living on barges. I could be wrong. Maybe they are all space aliens.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on October 15, 2012 at 6:06 PM · Report this
Uh-oh, another developer must have approached McGinn with another suitcase full of cash.
Posted by Mister G on October 15, 2012 at 9:01 PM · Report this
Salmon habitat? You really want to tell people that's the reason? Wow, what lie will the "progressives" come up with next?!
Posted by Mister G on October 15, 2012 at 9:42 PM · Report this
The article conflates a couple of points, and therefore gets the debate somewhat backwards. Currently there are three different things:

1) Floating homes; these are the big things along eastlake. they are architecturally buildings built on giants floats/barges permanently moored and hooked up to regular land sewer and water...the number of floating homes is capped, but they are all grandfathered in. Nothing important is happening with these.

2) Barges; there are 34 of these grandfathered in; these are like smaller floating homes in most ways, but built on real barges and not hooked up to shore sewer/water. Their number is also capped and they are grandfathered in, nothing is happening to these under the new shoreline code either.

3) vessels; these are boats and "house boats". DPD and the City are changing the definition a boat in the new code in such a way that several hundred people who to date have been scrupulously obeying the law will suddenly be deemed "not boats" and not compliant. They will lose most of the value of their investments...these are the small square bottomed boats with motors and steering systems; typically owned by working folks and retired folks in lieu of a small house. Essentially this will destroy the life savings of about 300 middle class and retired families. The Stranger should visit some folks at Gasworks Park Marina and talk to the Lake Union Liveaboard association. This isn't a case of a few rich guys being told their yachts have to move...under the proposed new definition even the hugest of Paul Allens yachts would be totally groovy, but grandma's 30-foot flat bottom lake boat would be illegal. The nominal issue is "gray water" (black water is already pumped out via pump-out services). Gray water is things like dish water, which on some boats its true, does get put back in the lake...but the proposed new rules don't do anything to limit of regulate the gray water they use as a justification, instead, they just screw the small boat owners.
Posted by The Shadow Blows on October 15, 2012 at 9:44 PM · Report this
#16, welcome to Seattle, where "progressives" hate the working class but just loooooooove the homeless, the drug dealers, the panhandlers, and the gang bangers almost as much as they love California billionaires who need a new stadium and fatcat developers who need another zoning variance.

You see, you're just not hip enough. You need to get all these people into spandex and onto bicycles. Then McGinn and the city council will listen to you. The smell of marijuana would help.
Posted by Mister G on October 15, 2012 at 9:56 PM · Report this
seandr 18
@6: You are ignorant and misinformed.

Homes are condemned if they are in such disrepair that they would contribute no improvement value above the worth of the land itself. If a home is condemned, the structure is torn down but owner keeps the property, and thus their losses, if any, are minimal.

If the government needs to clear property for schools or highways or rail, that's called eminent domain, and owners are compensated market value, sometimes more, for their property.

In this case, the concern is that the government will, with a few strokes of a pen, render hundreds of thousand dollars in property utterly worthless. That happens rarely, if at all, in free societies, and for good fucking reason.

Posted by seandr on October 15, 2012 at 10:01 PM · Report this
@6 in this case the owners would not be paid anything by the city, they would just have their boats declared "not boats" and told to high-tail it, even though they have qualified as boats under the City's definition for the last 30 years. These aren't the big millionaires yachts that are affected, these are the little flat bottomed lake boats owned by old hippies and do-it-yourself nuts. Its not a condemnation under eminent domain, but an ex-post facto change in a legal definition. If the city wants to change the definition of "Boat" then they owe it to those folks already there to grandfather them in, like they did for all the rich folks in the floating homes.
Posted by The Shadow Blows on October 15, 2012 at 10:06 PM · Report this
@10, I gotta say, living in a little 300-sq ft boat next to Gasworks is as "hipster friendly" as it gets...its just most hipsters ain't hip enough to have hipped themselves to the nautical grooverhood, dude. shhhh. don't tell them.
Posted by The Shadow Blows on October 15, 2012 at 10:10 PM · Report this
Homes are condemned if they are in such disrepair that they would contribute no improvement value above the worth of the land itself.

What utter horseshit from a lying "progressive." I've seen plenty of shacks in this city go uncondemned. This is a power play by the corrupt "progressive" city council that's getting ready to clear out Lake Union so they can sell the rest of the shoreline to whatever developer will pay the fattest bribes.
Posted by Mister G on October 15, 2012 at 10:14 PM · Report this
seandr 22
@21: It appears you are too stupid to recognize when someone is on your side of the debate. I don't know what "G" stands for, but it's definitely not general intelligence.

Did I mention you're an idiot? No? You're an idiot!
Posted by seandr on October 15, 2012 at 10:47 PM · Report this
You know what? I had that coming. It was a stupid comment. Argggh. Shot and missed.
Posted by Mister G on October 16, 2012 at 12:29 AM · Report this
Living on a houseboat, however it is defined, would seem to me to be inherently precarious. It seems to me the idea that these would somehow be a stable investment with the same value, stability and durability as a more traditional home is ludicrous. I have no more sympathy with these people than those who would build in a flood plain. As in all things, buyer beware.
Posted by dbgill56 on October 16, 2012 at 12:43 AM · Report this
Bauhaus I 25
Those houseboats are one of the last vestiges of old, lesser Seattle. They were once occupied by working class people, but in the eighties, living on a houseboat on Lake Union was like having a waterfront condo and only well-to-do people could own or rent there.

I agree there shouldn't be more houseboats because the whole purpose of them has changed. Lake Union belongs to the city and its people and mustn't ever be divvied up more than it has already been to real estate interests. That's what has happened to almost all of downtown and is currently underway on Cap Hill/Pike/Pine.

Maybe it's evolution. I hate to see Seattle torn down and re-built to someone else's specifications, but perhaps you leave that sort of thing up to a new generation who may or may not care one way or the other. I just hate witnessing it. I'm glad I won't be around to see Seattle become Atlanta or Dallas if that's where it's headed.
Posted by Bauhaus I on October 16, 2012 at 2:02 AM · Report this
douchus 26
It's been a dream of mine for several years now to move back to Seattle after Residency and live on one of those house-boats/soon-to-be-not-house-boats. I hate having to come up with other plans...
Posted by douchus on October 16, 2012 at 3:33 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 27
Mister G, ha ha ha ha ha.

When I lived near Lake Union, there was a barge with a giant pile of crushed rock that would go by every day. It typically went through the Fremont Bridge around 3:45, before they stop opening the drawbridges for rush hour, but sometimes it would go by after 6:00, when they allow them to open again.

Mister G, I suggest that you do something useful. Find that barge, take a large mallet, and pound all that crushed rock up your ass.
Posted by Matt from Denver on October 16, 2012 at 7:09 AM · Report this
California Kid 28
@5 you realize that maybe about a third of seattle's lake Washington shoreline is public space right? It's your lauded suburbs that are tight with parks on the water. Also much of the the Washington coastline outside of the sound is public. I will agree with you that Oregon did thier beachs right, and they don't allow cars on the beach
Posted by California Kid on October 16, 2012 at 7:26 AM · Report this
@ 24 Your point is clearly stated and well made. Which makes you, well, clearly a jerk.
Posted by The Shadow Blows on October 16, 2012 at 7:33 AM · Report this
douchus 30
Houses aren't investments for everybody. For some people, they are simply a home. Not everybody walks around with thoughts of every object's future monetary value in the forefront of their mind.
Posted by douchus on October 16, 2012 at 8:13 AM · Report this
These are floating trailer parks. If you want security for where your "home" is located, buy the space where it's located.
Posted by tiktok on October 16, 2012 at 8:58 AM · Report this
Sir Vic 32
Wow. We went from millionaires on yachts to floating trailer parks, with lots of insults thrown in to boot. That's some damn fine slogging, folks.
Posted by Sir Vic on October 16, 2012 at 9:20 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 33
Trailer parks for the Rich.

Just saying.
Posted by Will in Seattle on October 16, 2012 at 10:13 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 34
Who the fuck wants access to the water in Lake Union? Gross.
Posted by keshmeshi on October 16, 2012 at 11:21 AM · Report this
It should be illegal for anyone to liveaboard a vessel that does not function or have proper propulsion. im not talking about floating homes. i personally know of a person who lives out of state and owns two inoperable house barges in one seattle marina. This person barely knows how to opperate a boat. This person rents the house barges out and takes up two liveaboard slips that could be used by people who actually love boating and want to live on their boat. There are a number of people who live in sailboats and house barges that never leave the slips because it is a cheap way to have a roof over their heads, nevermind the pollution that flows out their sumps right into the sound.
Posted by Freeboater on October 16, 2012 at 11:42 AM · Report this
Sooo.. how did the meeting go?
Posted by jeffklein99 on October 16, 2012 at 11:44 AM · Report this
By "house barge" I mean boats that have flat bottoms with motors and steering wheels. The ones I'm talking about are in such disrepair that they are inoperable. The owners will never intend on making these vessels run. They are floating trailers taking up limited liveaboard slips.
Posted by Freeboater on October 16, 2012 at 12:01 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver, yeah it's terrible when anyone admits they were wrong. You'd hate to do it, and so would any other "progressive" in Seattle. Like the worst wingnuts, the one thing you people can never do is admit a mistake.
Posted by Mister G on October 16, 2012 at 12:47 PM · Report this
No more sympathy for us than people who live in a flood plain? If we want security, buy the space where our houseboat is moored? Guess what folks? We live at Gasworks Park Marina, and we do own our slip. This is underwater land that was sold by the State of Washington in the early 1900's to help finance the Pacific-Yukon Exposition (which raised money for the University of Washington's new campus). We paid a huge sales tax on our houseboat and license it each year. We pay property taxes on our slip and Marina grounds.

We feel fortunate to have been able to make the decision to buy a house OR a boat to live on. We just aren't rich enough to have both (our houseboat would be fine with the City if we also owned a house). We chose a simpler life style with the most wonderful community imaginable. Our 400-sq. foot boat (which is Coast Gaurd-certified) has been our home for 13 years. We pay a hefty amount to insure our boat against any disasters (we get no "flood plain federal help"), and we cannot bring a boat into our marina unless it is insured.

Lake Union is one of the most diverse and exciting lakes in the world...our visitors often tell us our dock was their favorite place in Seattle. We have public access, and share our uplands patio and garden swings with anyone who wants to enjoy the view. Could I come to your house and have access to your pool and garden?
Posted by Floating Along on October 16, 2012 at 5:29 PM · Report this
LivingInLimbo 40
I'm a Seattle resident who, in 2005, purchased a fee-simple slip on Lake Union for the purpose of living aboard a houseboat which at the time was merely envisioned. The fruition of that vision occurred in December 2006 with the delivery of my 55' twin-engine, three-bedroom custom houseboat. I have lived happily and legally aboard MV Limbo for the past six years, and I have a lot at stake in the city's codification of the DPD's proposed Shoreline Master Program (SMP). You see, the DPD's final draft contains language that is so ambiguous that I have no way of determining for sure whether Limbo will pass muster as an approved recreational vessel when the ink finally dries on the legislation at hand. She certainly passes muster under the current regulations (dating back to 1990) requiring that a "vessel be designed and used for navigation." She is fully self-propelled and is equipped with bow and stern thrusters. She's equipped with a depth finder to be sure that I'm operating her in waters of sufficient depth, a GPS to insure that I'm navigating on the prescribed course, a fire suppression system in case of fire in the engine compartment, an anchor in case she loses power while underway, and a long list of other features that only a true boat would have. She therefore certainly satisfies the definition of being a "boat" or a "recreational vessel." But then there's this little problem of her being shaped somewhat boxier than a sedan-class powerboat of similar length and with similar amenities. My neighbor's sedan-class powerboat has a stateroom, two cuddy cabins, a kitchen and two heads, and is considerably sleeker in appearance, yet he has no worries whatsoever concerning the final form of the SMP. Doesn't sound right does it? Two recreational vessels (boats) with nearly identical liveaboard amenities and rather similar powerplants and controls, but subject to different sets of rules because of their outward appearance?

I'm not the type to leave anything to chance, so prior to purchasing my slip, I made certain that there were no restrictions against liveaboards at the marina in question (the seller represented that the slips had grandfathered liveaboard rights and were not subject to DNR). In addition, prior to executing a contract for the construction of my houseboat, I researched the pertinent regulations to be certain that my houseboat would be constructed in full compliance with U.S. Coast Guard and State of Washington motor vessel licensing requirements. The manufacturer of my vessel has built and delivered hundreds of similar vessels to more exacting standards than any regulatory agency requires to customers throughout North America. Even though I'm fairly confident that my vessel would qualify as an approved recreational motor vessel under the nebulous language contained in the DPD's final draft, I don't want to leave this determination to the whims of some city inspector who knows little about my vessel's "boatiness" and who could arbitrarily rubber-stamp every boxy vessel on his beat as noncompliant. I therefore implore you as elected public officials - and as the legislative body having the last word on the SMP - to not rubber-stamp the DPD's capricious, arbitrary, and discriminatory language pertaining to liveaboard vessels of a certain shape.

As you consider the DPD's final recommendations pertaining to liveaboard vessel minimum requirements, bear in mind that previous DPD drafts made no references to Sail Area to Length Ratios (SALR's), fore and aft decks, symmetrical boarding and mooring provisions, and other contrivances inserted in an apparent last-minute attempt to "legislate" houseboats and housebarges off of Lake Union after failing miserably in its earlier efforts to address the liveaboard issue fairly and directly. As the Lake Union Liveaboard Association and others have pointed out, the final draft employs some rather unconventional and bizarre criteria for defining approved recreational vessels. As LULA has astutely observed, those criteria are sharply skewed against the majority of Lake Union's existing houseboats (and thereby a sizable percentage of the total liveaboard population) by discriminating against form versus function. This ambiguous and discriminatory language must be stricken from the final code. No recreational vessel (yacht, sailboat, houseboat, etc.) can be pigeon-holed by its shape, sail area, cleat symmetry, etc. If the objective of the language in the proposed SMP final draft is to constrain or evict liveaboards, it should be clearly stated as such without all the contrived pseudo naval-speak which serves no purpose other than to blacklist houseboats without alienating the mainstream boating or floating home community. I would urge the city not to legislate or regulate with smoke and mirrors. The DPD's language in this area is fraught with ambiguity, and if adopted into code as presently worded, would effectively condemn hundreds of once-compliant vessels and subject hundreds of currently law-abiding citizens to the threat of eviction from their homes. Surely, this is not the city's intention in enacting this legislation, but left in its present form the SMP would do precisely that.

As a liveaboard, I naturally have grave concerns over any attempts to constrain my chosen and legally entered into lifestyle. The city should be as much concerned with preserving this uniquely "Seattle" lifestyle as they are with preserving the sustainability of our natural environment. Lake Union has a long and rich history of overwater living of one sort or another, and this ongoing history is one of Seattle's most iconic charms. The liveaboard lifestyle is as “Seattle” as it gets, and dates back well over a century to the gold rush era when floating shanty towns began popping up on Lake Union. This lifestyle has evolved over time, and yesterday's unregulated and unsanitary floating shanty towns have evolved into today's regulated and environmentally-consciencious floating home communities and marinas. Seattle's urban shoreline is like a welcome mat to the city. Elliott Bay, Lake Union, Portage Bay, and the ship canal are symbolic of the City of Seattle and unique to the world in their present form and function. Unlike a welcome mat, however, these iconic shorelines have been deeply interwoven with their urban environment for over 150 years and simply can't be lifted up and replaced overnight with a LEEDS certified doormat.

Today's overwater inhabitants have kept pace with the times in adopting best-practices regarding their environmental impact. The waters and shorelines addressed by the SMP are our back yards, and it’s not in our best interest to treat our own yards as sewers or landfills. Like the majority of most liveaboards I know, I take pride in my role as a concerned and responsible steward of Seattle's precious shoreline environment. Liveaboards are the best volunteer neighborhood watch committee the City of Seattle could ever assemble as partners in protecting the shoreline environment. Don't dismantle us! If an unattended pleasure boat, yacht, trawler, or derelict vessel catches fire or begins leaking fuel or oil, or starts listing dangerously on the verge of sinking with hundreds of gallons of fuel and toxic batteries onboard, a liveaboard is likely to be the first-responder. I have witnessed and/or assisted on several such occasions in my six short years as a liveaboard, and had it not been for the proximity and vigilance of fellow liveaboards, several of these incidents could have easily escalated into environmental disasters. The environmental consequences of just one such preventable disaster would far outweigh the alleged harm the DPD attributes to the collective impact of liveaboards upon the shoreline environment. Think about it! Would you rather have a little biodegradable grey water recirculate its way harmlessly out of the lake on its own accord (with no measurable or consequential environmental impact) or have hundreds of gallons of diesel and caustic battery acid spill into the lake and foul the shoreline for months or even years? This is a no-brainer. Don't be misled by some of the DPD's outlandish claims and recommendations. Far more can be accomplished with respect to safeguarding our shorelines by working with the liveaboard community rather than by working to eradicate it.
Posted by LivingInLimbo on October 18, 2012 at 8:56 AM · Report this
Another point to consider here is that Seattle is considered the pleasure boat capital of the world. Any vessel that has a "head" is supposed to have it's sewage pumped out, but it's grey water goes overboard (sink and shower water), just like the houseboats (Not to be confused with floating homes, those bastions of unchecked wealth Seattleites so love to hate, which are connected to sewer lines). The difference is that houseboaters and house barge owners are required to make sure they use biodegradable soaps and prevent food waste from going in the lake. We had to sign an agreement to that effect. It's called Best Management Practices for grey water.

There seem to be many misconceptions about who we are, and what we do. We did our due diligence when we bought our housebarges. We followed the laws that were on the books. We are not millionaires, nor are we wealthy by any stretch (for all you haters of wealth and prosperity). There are approximately 150 of us by DPD's count, and they are trying to make us accountable for the pollution in Lake Union, while thousands of pleasure boats (many of which cost in excess of the $350,000 we paid for our 40 x 14 slip and 30 x 12 houseboat) are free to discharge grey water, and are not required to follow Best Management Practices. Additionally, pleasure boats with toilet facilities on board have the ability to flip a switch and dump their sewage if they so desire, from a port near the water line of their vessel. Our houseboats have no such ability, they must be pumped out, via a port on our decks parallel to the water. We have no such ability to dump our waste. We also live next to a superfund site (Gasworks Park), owned by the city, and in the ship canal, the city sewers recently spewed thousands of gallons of raw sewage (… ). The mayor says this should be fixed by 2025, 12 years from now, so you can see how much of a priority it is for the city to clean up the lake from my grey water vs their own introduction of pollutants into the lake.

The city wants to change it's rules, which it has neglected to enforce for 20+ years, the result of which could mean people will lose their homes if they are not shaped like a boat, and there has been no offer of compensation as would be the case with "eminent domain". If this happened to your house on land, you would scream bloody murder! The city is painting us as scoff-laws, shanty owners, ne'er do wells, and we resent and reject that characterization.

These issues are complicated. Many people are misinformed about the issues, and are quick to judge us as lazy, tax avoiding, polluting, whiny rich people. Please consider this scenario:
You bought a home, used a realtor, followed all the rules, got an inspection, paid all your taxes, and did your due diligence, and the city comes along and says you have to go because they are changing the rules retroactively, but will not compensate you for your loss on the value of your legally purchased and maintained home. How would you feel?
Posted by Law abiding citizen on December 13, 2012 at 11:20 AM · Report this

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