Urban Politics #71: Opening Up Shoreline Street Ends

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.


Opening Up Shoreline Street Ends

This Monday City Council will vote to amend Ordinance 119260 to remove private encroachments on all shoreline street ends so that they are eventually opened for public access.

The City has approximately 149 unopened shoreline street ends. Many of them are currently unused by the public because of general unawareness that the area is public property with the right of access, or because privately installed encroachments and barriers effectively block visual and physical access to water.

This ordinance could add thousands of feet to our waterfront open space. Street ends are now used as follows: 1/3 are already open to the public as small neighborhood view spots; 1/3 are overgrown by blackberries and brush; 1/3 are used by adjacent property owners. Most of the encroachers are currently not paying any fee for this use. Although, a number of them are maintaining these public lands out of their own pocket. This contribution will be taken into consideration in establishing the permit fee for a particular street end.

The legislation creates a new category of street use permits for shoreline street ends. A new annual fee schedule for encroachments on street ends is also established. The new fees will be based on a formula that takes into account square foot of the area, the types of barriers, land values, probable public demand and an annualized rate.

The City currently collects $169,000 in fees from 48 permitted street ends. The new fee schedule will increase collections to $481,000 from all street ends, if no encroachments are removed.

The increased fees will encourage removal of encroachments. And they will also provide funding for improving sidewalk access, vegetation maintenance, and signs to let the public know that these are public spaces. These purposes are consistent with the City’s 1996 Council Resolution 29370 that stated that shoreline street ends shall be preserved as public rights-of-way, to allow improvements for public use and access.

Last Tuesday, I attended Council Member Richard McIver’s Transportation Committee and voted in favor of the above legislation after successfully amending it.

I succeeded in adding language to the legislation that clarifies that protection of public “views” is part of the purpose of this legislation. Previously the language was limited to protecting public “access to” street ends. I also had opportunities for appeal and for public input added to the permitting process.

In addition I supported the Parks Department’s proposal for a 10% annual increase in permit fees rather than the Executive Services Department’s recommendation of 85%. The higher rate sends a stronger price signal to permit holders that their encroachments are not permanent. I also voted in favor of having a clearly established date or circumstance for the removal of existing encroachments identified in each street end permit.

Both amendments passed unanimously in the Transportation Committee attended by Council Members Richard McIver, Margaret Pageler, Jan Drago and myself.

A citizens group, Friends of Street Ends, has notified the City Council that they support final passage of the shoreline street end ordinance at this coming Monday’s Council Meeting. They believe any remaining inconsistencies can be addressed at a staff level.

I also concur with their assessment that the ordinance allows for flexibility, so that staff can revise fees for specific streets when additional information is available.

Action on shoreline street ends is long overdue. I expect this legislation to pass and bring this topic to closure. It is my expectation that the new process should open up acres of water frontage to the public.


With this issue of Urban Politics (UP), I’m introducing a “Corrections” section to correct facts or clarify information that was presented in previous issues of UP. I suppose none of us like to admit making mistakes, (and it’s seems to be particularly difficult for politicians), they do happen and I certainly have made more than my share. Hopefully these corrections and additions will help establish a more accurate history of those subjects. An index of all subjects covered in Urban Politics is available at my home website.

RE: Community Kiosk Task Force Report

The three representatives from the CKTF committee that are on the current design subcommittee working with Seattle City Light are design professionals from three different design firms: Leslie Gamel of Johnson Architecture and Planning, Scott Souchock of Collabrio, and Phil Klinkon of Hewitt & Associates. All are volunteering their personal time.

The figure to be allocated to each Kiosk, based on the model from Columbia City is $2500 each, not $250.

Keep in touch…


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