Shoreline Master Program Update - What & Why

Shoreline uses in South Lake Union, including recreation and water-dependent uses.

What's Happening Now?

Washington State Department of Ecology requires all Cities to have a Shoreline Master Program (SMP) regulating development in shoreline environments to protect ecosystems, encourage water-dependent uses, and provide public access to shorelines. Seattle’s shoreline code (23.60A) outlines our current regulations.

SDCI is conducting its periodic review of Seattle’s Shoreline Master Program. This State periodic review requirement stems from a long-standing rule that encourages local governments to review and revise their SMPs to reflect changing local circumstances, new information, or improved data. Our review will address changes to local and  state legislation, improved population and environmental data, and information from both residents and the City staff since Seattle’s last SMP update in 2015. The SMP periodic review process will include broad public outreach, including outreach to Tribes, federal, state, and local government agencies that have interests and/or responsibilities relating to the shorelines of the state, the maritime industry, environmental and recreational organizations, and shoreline residents, including floating residence communities.

The Shoreline Master Program is mandated by the state Shoreline Management Act (SMA), created by citizen referendum in 1972. The SMP 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
  • All land within 200 feet of these water-bodies

Moratorium Information

Seattle’s shoreline code lacks clear regulations that address the replacement of vessels that are verified floating on-water residences. To address this regulation gap, the City enacted a moratorium on replacing these types of floating on-water residences. SDCI’s SMP review will include recommended regulations to rectify this gap in the shoreline code.

What is the SMP Moratorium?

  • It is a temporary action limited to the replacement of vessels that have been verified as floating on-water residences (FOWR) until Shoreline Master Program (SMP) regulations are updated
  • During the moratorium SDCI will amend the SMP regulations
  • The SMP amendment process will include broad public outreach including to the FOWR community

Who is not Affected?

  • People living on conventional vessels
  • People who want to replace verified FOWR-structures
  • People who want to verify a vessel as a FOWR
  • People living on floating homes, house barges, vessels with a dwelling unit
  • Repair and maintenance of any type of floating residence

More Information

For more information about Shoreline Master Program periodic review, read the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Frequently Asked Questions: Periodic Review of Shoreline Master Programs.

If you have questions about Seattle's Shoreline Master Program, please contact:

Maggie Glowacki
(206) 386-4036

Project Benefits

Seattle’s SMP is based on three required policy goals: preferred shoreline uses, environmental protection, and public access. The SMP provides the following benefits for Seattle’s residents, visitors, and business owners:

  1. Preserves the shoreline for uses that are water-oriented and appropriate for the environmental context. Examples include port facilities, shoreline recreational uses, and water-dependent businesses (such as marinas and vessel repairas).
  2. Protects Seattle’s shoreline natural resources, including vegetation, wildlife, and aquatic life.
  3. Protects public access to shorelines and ensures that new development maintains public access features.

The End Result

Our updated Shoreline Master Program will:

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

Construction and Inspections

Nathan Torgelson, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 2000, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 34019, Seattle, WA, 98124-4019
Phone: (206) 684-8600
Phone Alt: Violation Complaint Line: (206) 615-0808
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SDCI issues land use, construction, and trade permits, conducts construction and housing-related inspections, ensures compliance with our codes, and regulates rental rules. SDCI is committed to an antiracist workplace and to addressing racism through our work in the community.