Article

 February 24, 2016   Cara Kuhlman

Leschi_marina_01

The Leschi and Lakewood boat moorages on Lake Washington have drifted in limbo, marinas buoyed by a long boating history even as they weathered away. In recent years, a long-term solution for the marina became imperative for tenants, neighbors, and ultimately the City of Seattle who is responsible for the marinas on the public’s behalf.

In 2013, the Seattle Times reported, “the outermost dock at the city-owned Leschi marina is sinking.” Delayed repairs and an ongoing search that waivered between seeking private operators or an improved financial plan from the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation had taken its toll.

Joy Okazaki, a Corinthian Yacht Club of Seattle (CYC) member and South Leschi tenant for over 30 years, was appalled by the degradation of the marina. Steve Johnson, a Leschi resident and former marina tenant said in an email that the marinas had become “shaggy, private enclaves that had little value to most of the folks living in their neighborhoods.”

In addition to lacking maintenance, Okazaki and other boaters observed a 2011 capital project by Seattle Parks and Recreation to improve the breakwater at the South marina was poorly engineered and in fact accelerated damage to nearby docks.

In November 2015, the city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to “bring private financing to pay for improvements at both marinas, in addition to being responsible for operations, design, permitting, building and maintaining the marinas.” Some stakeholders voiced concerns about the privatization of the publicly held marinas while others believe private experience will be a boon to the area.

On February 8, Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Paul Wilkinson wrote a letter that named Foss Waterway Management (FWM) as the “successful proposer.” The letter also expresses the department’s confidence that FWM will accomplish the goals outline in the RFP process.

Many stakeholders, including marina tenants and members of CYC view the announcement as a significant step forward for the marinas and neighborhood.

In a recent email, Okazaki wrote the announcement is “a huge paradigm shift by the City, and exciting for boaters that enjoy boating on Lake Washington.”

Jerry Diercks, Commodore of CYC, is also thrilled. “CYC and the Lake Washington sailing community is going to be much better served than anything I could have dreamed of.”

A previous RFP process, in which FWM also submitted a proposal, resulted in significant tenant uproar. Many voiced concern about inclusion in the planning process. Ultimately Parks and Recreation chose to abandon that RFP and revisit the planning process.

In the 2015 RFP, the moorage Project Advisory Team (PAT) represented a broader group of stakeholders. The team developed overarching goals for the improvement and ongoing management of the facilities. As detailed in the Parks Department’s recent letter, these goals are:

  • Maintain public ownership of the moorages;
  • Provided, safe accessible, and affordable moorage for Seattle residents;
  • Protect shoreline habitat;
  • Improve public access and community benefit without compromising security;
  • Create quality facilities that are competitive in the marketplace;
  • Enhance the sailing heritage at Leschi;
  • Make moorages self-sustaining for on-going capital upkeep and maintenance; and
  • Ensure concessionaire quality with performance measures and regular auditing of the new concessionaire contract.

Foss Waterway Management has operated marinas in the Northwest for over twenty years and currently operates marinas owned by the City of Tacoma. In Seattle, FWM owns Elliot Bay Marina on the Puget Sound.

In the proposal, FMW writes, “our team envisions vibrant waterfront activities center at both Leschi and Lakewood where boaters and non-boaters can enjoy the waterfront. We see a place where people of all ages can develop boating skills and the community can reconnect with the lake.

The nearly 70-page proposal continues to detail FWM’s plans including replacing dry storage floats, adding guest moorage, and improving public access to kayaking and paddle boarding. FWM also plans to establish a community advisory team to continue facilitating communication between all stakeholders.

“I’m excited to see that Seattle Parks will have such a high caliber partner taking care of this important public asset,” Okazaki writes. She sees FWM’s track record with the Puget Sound marinas and tenant engagement as essential experience for future improvements.

Johnson is also optimistic, writing that he hopes “that the Foss management and a new level of attention at Parks can find ways to make the marinas an active resource to their neighborhoods.”

The at-length discussions of Leschi and Lakewood explored the marinas’ histories, weaknesses, and ultimately, their potential. However, the process to get Leschi and Lakewood out of limbo is not yet done. Next, the City of Seattle and FWM will negotiate a contract that in turn must be approved by the City Council. Only then can the redevelopment discussion go forward through communities engaging all stakeholders.

Okazaki is excited for what the future holds, she writes “This dialogue with moorage tenants, the Leschi residents and businesses, and boating programs will inform the future development of the marina and will require participation by interested parties to assure access for boating and non-boating alike!”

Questions about the moorages? Contact Peggy Tosdal at peggy.tosdal@seattle.gov or 206-708-4619

Questions about the RFP? Contact Paul Wilkinson at paul.wilkinson@seattle.gov or 206-615-0514

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Cara Kuhlman is a Seattle-based writer and sailor who is always eager to share a good story, especially over a beer. After growing up in the San Francisco Bay area she migrated north first to the University of Oregon, then to Seattle and sailed all along the way.