by Kirby LindsayThe waterfront of Fremont, and all of Lake Union, contains an eclectic (what else?) mix of industrial, residential, public and commercial uses that make it difficult to generalize, or even define, the area. Now the City of Seattle, and specifically the Department of Planning & Development (DPD), have attempted to comprehensively update regulations that govern the users and/or owners of properties along the shoreline of Lake Union, and all bodies of water.
The Shoreline Master Program Update draft, over 400 pages of documentation, is now available for review by the general public. During the tour of Fremont by Mayor Mike McGinn, on February 27th, several citizen pleaded for an extension on the comment period, originally set to close March 21st. At a public meeting on March 1st, organized by the Lake Union Association, Maggie Glowacki of DPD reported that comments will now be taken until May 16th.
What Is the Shoreline Master Program?
The State of Washington adopted the original Shoreline Management Act (SMA) in 1972, at the urging of citizens. With the SMA, the State establishes policy goals for the management of shoreline areas. The City must establish requirements to achieve those goals, and they do so in the form of the Shoreline Master Program, last updated in 1987.
The State Department of Ecology updated the SMA in 2003, and focused on three policy goals –
- preference for water-oriented shoreline uses, appropriate for the environmental context, as well as single-family residences
- environmental protection, with no net loss of ecological function
- promotion of public access, and maintenance of current access features
The City, in a proposal summary dated January 2011, drafted the updated SMP that attempts to comply with these goals, and “implement citizens’ vision for Seattle’s shorelines.” The summary describe visions of the future Seattle shoreline, but it rarely references current, existing uses - structures, businesses, and accesses – or it describes them as becoming ‘non-conforming uses.’
The summary describes the area around Lake Union, and Fremont, as “a unique environment within Seattle,” and the buildings as ones that, in most cases, “existed before the SMA was enacted.” That is, before 1972. These properties, and any along the shoreline of Seattle, are currently the most regulated, and generally accepted as the most difficult to develop and/or improve no matter what the reason or need.
This attempted update has proven difficult for all. Glowacki has worked on this since 2007, according to Margie Freeman, President of the Lake Union Association (LUA.) “It’s a long, not-easy process,” Freeman allowed.
For citizens directly (and daily) affected, it raises myriad concerns. Reviewing, and making sense, of the draft has members of the LUA (and the North Seattle Industrial Association) seriously concerned. “You’ve got War & Peace to try to make sense of,” Freeman explained, and to figure out, “how it affects us.”
“We need flexibility,” Freeman asserted. The draft update calls for a 35’ setback – no building, development or use of property within 35’ of the water except for some park-like amenities. Yet many small businesses, and property owners, own less than 35’ of property back from the water. This converts their properties into non-conforming uses, and prohibits them from replacing their structures or businesses, and limits any ‘substantial improvements.’
Lake Union, Freeman described, as “an economic engine,” with hundreds of businesses here that contribute jobs, products and services that “create billions of dollars of revenue.” She also wrote, “There are parts of the SMP, as written, that could well create economic stagnation,” and loss of these businesses will not protect the shore line.
“We are a built environment,” Freeman explained of Lake Union. Long developed and populated, this area deserves acceptance of what already exists – acknowledgement of the people that own, maintain, and depend upon its use.
To comment on what we love about our area, and what we need, send an e-mail or call 206/386-4036 before May 16th. To review the extensive documents of the update, and read how information and changes were collected, check in through the DPD website.
©2011 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.