What is envisioned by the contract lease document that was approved by Seattle City Council on August 14, 2017, is the creation of first-rate marinas that will accommodate not just the small boaters—sailboats and paddleboats, but large cabin cruisers and speedboats. The lease is for 20 years, with an option to extend for another 20 years. City Council has committed $4 million for upgrades, but Marina Management, Inc. must provide coverage of the additional costs, several million dollars.
Most of the boat slips are similar to current configuration, for vessels as long as 25-feet or 30-feet, but there will be provisions for much larger boats also. At the South Leschi moorage (below Leschi Park), there will be two 60-foot slips and two 62-foot slips. At the North Leschi moorage (north of the business community), there will be as many as 31 40- and 50-foot slips, plus one 60-foot slip, one 70-foot slip and one 80-foot slip.
There will also be over 1500 feet of space for transient and overnight moorage, and provision for up to 10 liveaboard vessels. Four pump-out stations (sewerage from boats) will be provided at the South Leschi Moorage, and two pump-out stations at the North Leschi Moorage.
The economics of this marina development requires larger boats to provide sufficient rental income to cover the smaller boats. Rents for the small boats would be capped at the current rate at the Leschi public moorages, plus an inflation factor. The rental rates for boats over 30-feet in length will be higher at the market rates (comparable to other local marinas).
Other public benefits listed in the lease are accessibility to the public during the park hours, creation of overwater and upland park spaces that did not exist, and a new accessible breakwater at the North Leschi Moorage. Marine Management will engage the community in programs and activities for the boating public and the community.
Public Safety Concerns
In recent years around the moorages, the number of people in the Lake—swimming, wading, drifting of rubber floats, and paddle boarding—have increased significantly. Speedboats are a danger. In 2014, there was a fatality and two serious injuries caused when an inebriated speedboat operator crashed into a sailboat near the North Leschi Moorage. It was nighttime, and the speedboat was homed at a different marina, but the conditions were similar to what is common. It’s generally difficult to see swimmers and some other recreationists, and drinking alcohol is common with the use of speedboats. There are currently more than a dozen speedboats moored at Leschi, and the number is expected to increase unless limitations are set.
Public Health Issues
In July, the Parks Department informed City Council that there are four vessels in the Leschi moorages that are being lived in full-time. Department officials could not account for how the sewerage is disposed, raising a “red flag” for our neighborhood and anyone who swims or wades in the Lake.
In fact, there are over 120 boats that have cabins with toilets moored in the public marinas in Leschi. Human waste must be disposed in a sanitary way, but there are no controls and sanitary disposal is not easy—the closest pump-out services are in Yarrow Bay, Kirkland, five miles away, or there is a mobile service available on the web. Sanitary disposal is on the honor system. Local government does not test the waters around or in the marinas for coliform.
The larger boats and liveaboards are the problem, because the longer people spend out in the Lake, the more they use the toilet facilities. Drinking and drug use affect the way people meet their responsibilities.
The new moorage improvements would provide convenient pump-out stations, but there is no water testing. Will our waters be safe?
Currently, public access is discouraged by the locked and gated moorages and demands of boaters for security. In Seattle, the city does not provide similar security for bicycles or motor scooters. Why are boats different? The new facility promises much improved public access, but the “devil is in the details.”
The Leasing of the Parking Lots and other
Park Land to Marina Management
The leased area under the new agreement includes the parking lots for both North and South Leschi Moorages, as well as the land between parking and the shore and the shore area of the south part of Leschi Park. The Park Department controls policies for use of those lands, however, is it wise to turn over legal control to a private entity?
Taking Care of the Small Guys—
Affordability for the Sailors and Paddlers
The new contract/lease designates a moorage fee set at $12/lineal feet for boats under 30-feet in length. The rate is subject to an annual cost-of-living increase, and approval of the Parks Department. Is this rate affordable to the “small timers”? Public park recreation must address social equity, or it is no longer “public recreation.”
Other Environmental Issues
Right now, speedboats are allowed in the public moorages. However, speedboats are causing erosion where the lake shores are naturalized. Volunteers at the Leschi String of Pearls shoreline street ends have noticed at least a foot of shore erosion in recent years, clearly caused by the wakes of speeding boats.
Hazardous waste disposal: paints, cleaning fluids, oil wastes? The new lease calls for a hazardous waste disposal site. Is that to be at the Lakewood Moorage (also covered by the lease) or at Leschi?
Public Involvement and Consultation
Let’s make sure that what the new lease suggests will be adhered to with a robust pattern of public involvement and meaningful influence of the future uses and benefits of this new public/private partnership.