by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 3 June 2016
Work on the Westlake Cycle Track is down to the details, with most of the dedicated bicycle path if not finished, at least available for use. Cyclists who work and live along the corridor have more reason than ever to jump on their bicycle and enjoy the improvement… those who still have a bicycle to ride.
A Violation Of Shoreline Code
The tenants at Commercial Marine, located on Westlake, no longer have a place to store their bikes, and at least one bicycle has since been stolen from a boat deck. On March 31st, marina owner Sue Dills had to remove the bike rack tenants had come to depend on, or pay hefty fines to the City of Seattle. Earlier this year, Dills received notice that the bike rack, which sat on a float, violated shoreline use code and must be removed. “The City has created a problem that doesn’t exist,” she observed.
Dills still doesn’t know where, or how, tenants will store their bikes. “People have had to put bikes on their boats,” Dills reported, “They’re not allowed to be stored on the docks, for emergency and fire reasons.” Yet, locking a bike onto a boat decks isn’t an easy task, or even possible with some designs.
Since receiving notice of violation, Dills has focused her attention on getting a new permit for the float. While the float has been on Lake Union for over half-a-century, the City has required her to get it permitted again – without the bike rack. “That float is nothing new,” Dills explained, as it is a piece of a much larger float that once held the Grandy Boatworks building, which burnt down in 1967.
For eight years Dills has owned Commercial Marine, but before that, since 1955, the marina had been owned by her family. After the 1967 fire, Dills’ father repurposed the float, a few times, eventually maintaining the much smaller portion for tenant amenities, as a community bike rack conveniently located the marina’s sidewalk entrance.
Other Storage Options?
According to Dills, “along Westlake, your property line begins with the submerged property,” which leaves owners, and visitors, of the 80 boats docked at Commercial Marina very little area on which to legally store their bicycles. The public sidewalk runs along property line, immediately outside the front gate, and the new Cycle Track has been built on the other side of that. Tenants who drive, or walk, to the Marina must navigate traffic on both the sidewalk and the track and as Dills observed, “carrying gear and/or groceries will be a potential for conflict,” along the corridor. All of this leaves no space for a bike rack.
Tenant David Bowes has talked to KING 5 about the bike rack (see the news item here,) and then “I went outside a couple of days ago and found a notice on my vehicle,” he said. He hadn’t heard about expansion of the Restricted Parking Zone as part of the Cycle Track, and the need for residents of the area to apply for a permit or, as someone with the City told Bowes, ‘park somewhere else.’
“I’m extremely pro-bike,” Bowes explained, “but everywhere I go,” in Seattle, he said, parking and securing his bike has been difficult. “It’s my main grind,” he said about the lack of planning going on to make Seattle bike-friendly. “It’s the city planner that says we’re going to build a bike-dependent city without adequate bike parking.”
A new Commercial Marina tenant, Amanda Lillet doesn’t own a car, deliberately. She moved to Lake Union 10 years ago but then lived at Shilshole for two years, “until they pulled out the bus route.” She returned to the Lake for better access to her work and other resources. “I walk probably 90% of the places I go,” she said, particularly as METRO has removed the bus stop closest to the Marina, making walking actually more practical for her commute. As she observed, “It’s not hurting the city to have a bus stop,” but she acknowledged that, “it’s just part of living in the city.”
‘The Very Best Use’?
“Seattle is too expensive,” Lillet said, “There are not a lot of ways to live this close,” to South Lake Union (where she works now,) or Capitol Hill (where she used to work.) She does take her boat on journeys, and cruising trips, but she also must buy groceries by carpool and get to work, and having a slip at Commercial Marina made it possible for her to stay in the city. Lillet had looked forward, with the arrival of the Westlake Cycle Track, to getting a bicycle to ride to work, but the loss of the bike rack stalled her plan. “I can’t lift a bike over the life lines,” she explained about her boat.
Bowes has lived on his boat, at Commercial Marina, since November of 2015, which he chose because of its location. He’s been in Seattle for approximately 13 years, but he’s lived all over the globe and worked in five different countries over his career. “Thailand is more amenable,” to cyclists, he observed, “without all the pomp & circumstance.”
“Democracy doesn’t always work better than a ruler,” Bowes said about the need for practical, and pragmatic, decisions about land use codes. Quoting Benjamin Franklin, ‘laws without morals are in vain,’ Bowes observed the need to have more planners walk the area and make sure the rules fit the area, and the need. A bike rack on a float may not be the ideal shoreline use, but as Lillet observed, a bicycle “is part of my maritime use. This seems like the very best use.”
As to who, and why, the person was who made the complaint about the bike rack, Dills doesn’t know. “They will not reveal the complainant,” she said of the City, but the representative that came to give her the violation showed her pictures and told her they had complaints, plural, about the rack.
“I don’t understand who would care,” Lillet observed, “We want to go on living our quiet little life. I think that [the bike rack] is the very best use of the space.” The rack meant tenants at Commercial Marina weren’t filling up the parking lot, with more cars or parked bicycles. “It comes down to ‘what does the City want people to do?’ Ride the bus? Don’t remove bus stops. Ride bikes? Allow bike storage.” Lillet asked.
On Wednesday, June 15th, at Noon, the Fremont Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual Picnic-In-The-Park at Gasworks, in support of the working waterfront and maritime businesses, like Commercial Marina. If you want to talk to politicians and policy makers about how we can support businesses and residents along our shoreline, make reservations for the $25 Chamber picnic (and a delicious lunch provided by Trident Seafoods,) at Fremont.com
- Shoreline Master Plan, Take Two
- by Kirby Lindsay, March 14, 2012
- On The Record: On House Boats
- by Kirby Lindsay, August 23, 2013
- A Historic Glance At The Fremont Waterfront
- by Kirby Lindsay, July 29, 2013
©2016 Kirby Laney. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.