The Lakewood and Leschi moorage situation (see Wave Writer, June) is heating up. The Seattle Parks Department’s Request For Proposal was answered with two proposals; one by the Foss Waterway Management Group (developers of Elliott Bay Marina in Seattle and several marinas in the City of Tacoma) and the other by Schober and Associates, the existing concessionaire.
Now that the proposals are on the table, the Lakewood and Leschi communities and the moorage customers themselves are taking more of an interest. At a meeting on July 15th at the Lakewood Community Center approximately 75 people were on hand to express and hear frustration, dismay and concern over both proposals and the apparent lack of transparency in the process used for putting out the RFP.
Lakewood residents concerns were mostly directed at what was felt to be poor outreach by the Parks Department and a lack of following procedure
The proposals are now publicly available. The Foss Waterway Management proposal outlines a reconfiguration of South Leschi to accommodate
larger vessels at the loss of smaller vessel slips. Uplands improvements, massive dock upgrades, and pumpout facilities are also part of the plan. Small boat floats and smaller vessels would be based at North Leschi. In the Lakewood part of Foss’s plan, new docks, guest moorage and a restaurant are just a few of the ideas in the proposal. The attention to detail and the track record of Foss with municipal partnerships make it a very positive and formidable proposal.
Schober and Associates, who has managed the marina’s for many years, offers an alternative that specifies few dramatic changes to marina setup, but focuses instead on maintaining the character of the respective moorages and funneling the moorage fees back into marina maintenance which would be a nice change from their current practices.
Many questions could be asked about the proposals, but there was nobody on hand to provide answers.
Reportedly on advice of attorneys and/or the Seattle Parks Department, neither of the RFP respondents was on hand to answer any questions or respond to any concerns. Because of that, the meeting’s tone meandered away from the merits of the proposals and the concerns of the public and toward how to delay the process to allow the communities more say. There was some discussion of hiring lawyers to facilitate an injunction on the process.
The idea of funding improvements by city bond was also raised.
One area of concern for Lakewood residents is how changes to the marina will impact the many events held in that neighborhood and the amount of traffic and usage Andrews Bay has.
While some general reservations were expressed about the public-private partnership approach, a large number of specific concerns were raised ranging from parking to where will the existing moorage customers turn if there are not enough slips. Many of these issues might have been addressed had the meeting included the proposal respondents and the Parks Department.
Seattle City Council members Sally Clark and Bruce Harrell came to the meeting and both expressed concern about the process and offered their help in bringing all parties together. Harrell was particularly forthcoming, apologizing on behalf the city and saying, “It shouldn’t be that hard for you to be heard!” He added, “There should have been a lot more work up front on this.”
Two days following the meeting Sally Clark sent out an email stating “I met with the Superintendent of Parks yesterday and I am confident you will not see a completed deal rolled out. They are operating with a sense of purpose and urgency related to the south Leschi moorage, but they also spoke to the high priority of maintaining the small, community culture of both marinas. I relayed to them the fears I heard in the Monday meeting at Lakewood-Seward Park CC. We’ll be talking more as they move toward the August public meeting. They will continue to seek community members to serve on the RFP evaluation panel, too. If neither response meets our goals and business needs, the department does not have to accept either. That’s what I know at the moment. The bottom line is you will not see a fait accompli rolled out. I think we have a long way to go in this process.”
While City Council is an essential part of the process, the question remains how quickly decisions can be made and a new program implemented. In the meantime the docks continue to decay, and some are unlikely to last the summer, much less the coming winter.
Corinthian Yacht Club, whose members built the original docks and later donated them to the city, was represented by several moorage customers. The active, 50-year-old racing program depends on the moorage that is rapidly disappearing courtesy of Mother Nature and the lack of maintenance by the current marina management. “Our concern is that the docks will become unusable and that our racing program might not survive a season or two with no racing,” said one sailor. “We’re trying to support the city and its process,” said another. “But we also have concerns.”
A program, manned by CYC volunteers working with the Parks Department, is trialling a low-cost, stop-gap repair method to extend the life of the docks, even if only for a few weeks or months. If successful, the method could be expanded to the entire South Leschi facility.
A public meeting is scheduled for August 14 at the Mount Baker Sailing and Rowing Center.
Northwest Yachting will be following this issue closely, as we did in 2007 and in the June issue.
This issue is dear to my heart. My previous pieces are here and here. Now that the bids from Schober and Associates and the Foss Waterway Group are public, things are speeding up dramatically. The pressure on the Parks Department is increasing and now that politicians are involved there’s no telling where it will go.
The public, the sailboat racers, the communities, and the existing and potential moorage customers all have valid interests.
The solution could be public or private or somewhere in between, but it must be soon. I’d like to think that Leschi and Lakewood could both benefit from an exchange of ideas and good faith discussion. Proposals, after all, are meant to be discussed and refined. I just wish this conversation was years ago.
Hopefully through this process, Seattle finally recognizes the value of its waterfront and puts in place safeguards to never allow this to happen again. The Seattle waterfront is a resource to be treasured and utilized, not exploited for city coffers.
If you have an interest in this issue, now is the time to become involved. Please feel free to comment here, but let’s keep the tone productive and civil. -KH