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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?

The new Shoreline Master Program took effect on June 15, 2015. Here is a link to the new shoreline code (23.60A).

Major changes include:

  • Owners of most floating residences must obtain and display a City-issued identification number. For detailed information on this process, see our Floating Residences webpage.
  • Best management practices must be followed for all shoreline uses and developments, as outlined in the code, to minimize impacts on the aquatic environment. 
  • New uses, such as restoration and research, are categorized within the Shoreline District.
  • New standards are required for vegetation and impervious surface management, and for shoreline modifications.
  • Application of synthetic fertilizers is now prohibited within the Shoreline District. Application of organic fertilizers must follow best management practices for use of fertilizers within 200 feet of water bodies. Best management practices include limiting the use of fertilizers, hand mixing the fertilizer with ingredients that do not dissolve quickly, and using composted dry grass clippings, leaves, and saw dust as fertilizer.
  • All shoreline environments now include shoreline setbacks.
  • The Urban Commercial shoreline environment replaces the former Urban Stable environment to better convey the general purpose of this shoreline environment.
  • Ecological restoration and mitigation projects must now be sited as close as possible to the action that requires the restoration.

Why was the Shoreline Code changed?

We received many comments regarding the number of recommended changes in the Washington Department of Ecology’s Conditional Approval. Table C1 – Explanation of the source or intent of the Recommended Changes (Attachment C) from Ecology’s June 5, 2014 Conditional Approval of Seattle’s SMP, explains the source and intent of those changes.

The City's final response and Ecology's decision materials for the updated shoreline program can be reviewed at Ecology's website.

More Information

If you want more information about Shoreline Master Programs in general, read the Dept. of Ecology Shoreline Master Programs Frequently Asked Questions.

If you have questions about Seattle's Shoreline Master Program please contact Maggie Glowacki, (206) 386-4036, margaret.glowacki@seattle.gov.

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 following water-bodies: the Duwamish River, the Ship Canal, Lake Union, Lake Washington, Green Lake, and Puget Sound; their 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:

  • Complies with Department of Ecology requirements
  • Allows appropriate use and enjoyment of our shorelines
  • Protects our shoreline ecosystem

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