Big changes coming in city ruling on Lake Union houseboats

A group of Seattle residents say a city proposal meant to protect the waterfront could cost them their way of life.

At issue is the definition of the word “vessel,” and how the city chooses to define that word could affect the Seattle residents who live on the water.

Susie Stenejhem owns a chunk of land under Lake Union, and her home floats on top. She loves living on the water and is afraid the city’s new Shoreline Management Plan could make her home illegal.

“It’s like I live in a fairy tale world,” Stenejhem said. “You feel so cozy and warm and comfortable. And the thing I love about it is you know you’re part of the universe when you live on a boat.”

The Stenejhem’s floating home is one of dozens hooked up to city power and water and one of hundreds of local liveaboard homes. Many of those homeowners share Stenejhem’s concerns with the Shoreline Management Plan.

“(The city could) say that I have an illegal home, kick me out of Seattle waters. (They could) say I have an illegal vessel. I couldn’t sell it,” said Barbara Engram of the Gas Works Park Marina Homeowners Association.

City leaders are now trying to define what a vessel is, which is a crucial term requiring navigation and no interference with public use.

“People are in fear for their homes,” said Mauri Shuler of the Lake Union Livaboard Association.

The city has revamped several proposals, defining and redefining words in an attempt to protect the waterfront while also taking into consideration a way of life.

“They don’t’ want to kick us off the lake, so they’re going to have to find a way to gracefully grandfather us in,” Shuler said.

The city may vote later this month on the plan.

thanks to KOMO! for this story

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