Are Seattle Houseboats Drifting Away?
I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about Seattle houseboats in the news lately. And if you receive your news from just one source, it might sound like Seattle houseboats are drifting away.
So what’s really going on? What is the dispute over? One could argue it’s really about should private people be taking over public space.
In broad terms, the dispute is about freeing up the shorelines on parts of Lake Union. According to the state law, water dependent (vs water oriented) businesses and industries, shoreline restoration and public access are all given priority. With this in mind, some city council members say shorelines should be preserved for recreational and water-dependent uses (aka not houseboats). Yet other city committee representatives say they want to protect the Seattle lifestyle of houseboats. Yep, definitely confusing. But one thing is crystal clear: current houseboat owners and liveaboards say they’re tired of battling for their chosen lifestyle, investment, and freedom to live and just want to be left alone after years of this with the city.
Big agencies like The Planning Land Use and Sustainability Committee, State Department of Ecology, Coast Guard, and Lake Union Liveaboard Association are all trying to come to an agreement about what defines a houseboat. The due date of January 14th is fast approaching to make this distinction and it’s complex to say the least. By current standards, a houseboat is treated as a water oriented vessel. Most should have propulsion, safety equipment, steering and navigational lights, and all already have a black water holding tank, also title and registration. One must beg the question: How is this standard different than say a sailboat, yacht or ferry which are all legal and not up for debate.
Some LULU members (Lake Union Liveaboard Association) remind city officials that houseboats have been around Seattle waters even before it was a city. Naturally, anger and resentment have come to an all time high for the liveaboards, houseboat builders, marina owners, local vendors and businesses.
I want to be clear there is a difference between houseboats and floating homes in Seattle. The 500 floating homes in Lake Union and Portage Bay are completely void of these litigation’s. Floating homes, unlike houseboats, are floating structures usually consisting of logs or concrete which are connected to city water/sewer and are considered “real property” and remain in place by a very heavy moorage arm and do not move from their location.
I understand with the growing population and the fascination of such an intriguing lifestyle, the state/city would want certain regulations intact. There are essentially two arguments going on simultaneously: preserving the shoreline for recreational and “water-dependent” use and the defining a houseboat. The houseboat community is no stranger to reinforcing their lifestyle to the city. These are folks who care deeply about their lake and go to great lengths to pacify others in order to remain there. This will not change and it will not change without a fight.
If you’d like more information about houseboats or floating homes please feel free to contact me via email at [email protected]