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Shoreline Master Program Update

Our Shoreline Master Program has rules about public access and environmental restoration.
An update of goals, policies and regulations that govern land use and activities within the Seattle Shoreline District.

What's Happening Now?

On January 26, 2015, the City Council introduced the Mayor’s proposed legislation amending Seattle’s Shoreline Master Program. The City Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee will deliberate on the bill (Council Bill 118311). This legislation is anticipated to be the final step in an update mandated by the State Legislature. Seattle is required to comply with the 2003 Shoreline Master Program Guidelines established by the state Department of Ecology (DOE) under the Shoreline Management Act.

The City Council adopted the original Shoreline Master Program update in January of 2013 (Ordinance 124105). The Department of Ecology then reviewed Seattle’s Shoreline Master Program to make sure it complied with the 2003 Shoreline Master Program Guidelines. DOE issued a conditional approval of the 2013 Shoreline Master Program on June 5, 2014.

The proposed legislation addresses changes required by DOE’s conditional approval of the Shoreline Master Program.

The PLUS Committee will hold a briefing, discussion, and public hearing on March 3, 2015. The PLUS Committee is tentatively scheduled to vote on the legislation on March 17, 2015, and the full Council’s vote is anticipated on March 23, 2015. City Council will post information about the location, time, and agenda of these meetings and hearing at as the dates get closer.

Next Steps
After City Council adopts the amended Shoreline Master Program, and the Mayor has signed it, we will submit the final amendments to DOE for their final review and approval. The changes to Seattle’s Shoreline Master Program must be consistent with DOE's June 2014 conditional approval and must include an explanation of how they comply with that conditional approval. Seattle’s updated Shoreline Master Program will be effective 14 days after DOE’s final approval. If DOE does not approve the Shoreline Master Program, we must complete another review and approval cycle.

Project Goals

The SMP is mandated by the state Shoreline Management Act (SMA), created by citizen referendum in 1972, and includes the goals, policies, and regulations that govern land use and activities within the Seattle Shoreline District. Seattle’s Shoreline District includes the Duwamish River, the Ship Canal, Lake Union, Lake Washington, Green Lake, Puget Sound, associated wetlands and floodplains, and all land within 200 feet of these water-bodies.

Seattle’s SMP is based on three required policy goals:

  1. Preferred Shoreline Uses: The SMA establishes a preference for uses that are water-oriented and that are appropriate for the environmental context (such as port facilities, shoreline recreational uses, and water-dependent businesses). Single-family residences are also identified as a priority use under the SMA when developed in a manner consistent with protection of the natural environment
  2. Environmental Protection: The SMA requires protections for shoreline natural resources, including “… the land and its vegetation and wildlife, and the water of the state and their aquatic life …” to ensure no net loss of ecological function.
  3. Public Access: The SMA promotes public access to shorelines by mandating inclusion of a public access element in local Shoreline Master Programs and requiring provisions to ensure that new development maintains public access features.

The End Result

Our updated Shoreline Master Program will:

  • Comply with Department of Ecology requirements
  • Allow appropriate use and enjoyment of our shorelines
  • Protect our shoreline ecosystem

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