State Senate floats bill to preserve all houseboats
Bill would let owners stay in movable houseboats just as a 2011 state law preserves the rights of owners whose floating homes don’t move.
Seattle Times Olympia bureau
Houseboat owners on Lake Union and other state waters would be able to stay in their homes if a Senate bill passes.
Owners on Lake Union became worried about what it could mean for them when the city of Seattle started drafting new shorelines policies three years ago and questions came up about whether houseboats were a good use of limited marina space.
Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, sponsored a 2011 bill to provide grandfathered protection to floating homes, but left out houseboats. Floating homes are usually stationary and connected to utilities and sewer, while houseboats have a means of propulsion.
Pedersen said he didn’t “understand what kinds of structures were down there” and unintentionally excluded live-aboard vessels and barges.
People who regulate shorelines, he said, have now assumed that local governments should not accommodate movable houseboats.
He’s introduced Senate Bill 6450 to protect existing houseboats.
Passed unanimously in the Senate, the bill would amend the Shoreline Management Act, 1971 legislation that regulates how shorelines can be used, to consider existing houseboats as an acceptable use of space. Floating structures used or designed primarily as residences would be protected if the owner held leased moorage space before July 2014.
Mauri Shuler is president of the Lake Union Liveaboard Association, an organization of more than 100 people who live on vessels. She said houseboat owners on Lake Union have had “massive trouble” with the city of Seattle and the state Department of Ecology, who together establish regulations for the city’s shorelines.
Tom Clingman, policy lead for the department’s Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program, said that with limited space in marinas, the state prefers to lease to recreational vessels.
“The smallest houseboats are probably bigger than the biggest sailboats,” he said.
Susan Neff, a Lake Union houseboat owner, told members of the House Committee on Environment they should reject most houseboats as a waste of space.
“The space is limited and we’re not building new marinas,” she said at the Feb 21 hearing. She says her houseboat is up to regulation and maintained, but “most of them don’t even move” although they are supposed to be vessels.
Members on Wednesday passed the bill out of committee.
The bill waits for a vote in the House.
Ashley Stewart: 360-236-8266 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @ashannstew.
Information in this article, originally published Feb. 28, 2014, was corrected March 3, 2014 .A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled state Sen. Jamie Pedersen’s last name.