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New Houseboats in Seattle are Not Permitted!

February 18, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 



Seattle Department of Planning and Development proposed the new Shoreline Master Plan to the Seattle City Council in January 2013. This proposal was accepted and approved by the full council to be submitted to Department of Ecology.

The Review process for Department of Ecology can take 6Houseboats months to a year to review the hundreds of pages of proposed changes to Seattle Shoreline management areas.

As a part of this proposal:

NO NEW HOUSEBOAT STYLE VESSELS are permitted in the Seattle Shoreline Management areas as a liveaboard vessels.

New houseboats (includes rectangular shaped houseboat style vessels) of any kind or manufacture are banned as liveaboard houseboats in the SMP areas.  If you have a houseboat under construction, if you are looking at the cheaper houseboats in the Olympia, Portland or Vancouver areas – we strongly recommend that you do not bring them into Lake Union, the Ship Canal, or the Duamish river marina, Shilshoe or  Elliot Bay. You may receive a Notice of Violation and will be required to remove it from the SMP areas.  We urge Brokers to advise buyers they cannot use NEW Houseboats as liveaboards, that they may not be legal for living aboard and encouraging this could be a disservice to your buyers. Buyer’s should check with DPD before making the investment as a liveaboard in the Seattle waters.

Existing Houseboat Vessels in the SMP areas continue to be the subject of controversy with DPD.  DOE (Department of Ecology) has stated that they did not task the city of Seattle to remove houseboats. DOE tasked DPD with addressing “Overwater Use”, rather than a particular style of vessel.

With the thousands of trawlers, yacht style and sailboat liveaboards the miniscule number of existing houseboats likely make up less than 1% of the greywater that goes into the water. It is important to note that houseboats are not designed to be able to pump Sewage into the waters, while pointy bow yachts, trawlers and sailboats are frequently designed to allow this. We do not believe a responsible person would pump sewage in our waters.

There have been comments made that make it seem like Grey water is the issue (water from showers, sinks, and washers).  However, greywater is NOT addressed in the SMP other than through Best Management Practices (BMP’s). These BMP’s apply to ALL vessels regardless of shape. With houseboat style vessels comprising a very small percentage of liveaboards, the contribution of grey water from houseboats is miniscule when compared to all liveaboard vessels.

We applaud Department of Ecology for contributing $20,000 to Seattle to hold Stakeholder Group meetings with a Facilitator beginning March 2013 that have been tasked with the following goal:

Develop and consider alternatives for an orderly process to establish the status of residences on the water that are not identified as legal floating homes or legal house barges and are not clearly identified as vessels. For the purposes of this memo, these structures will be referred to as “on water residences”.

The Stakeholder group is comprised of the following people;

  • Kevin Bagley, Lake Union Liveaboard Association
  • Joseph Bogaard, Save Our Wild Salmon
  • John Chaney, Lake Union Liveaboard Association
  • Patrick Dunham, Lake Union Liveaboard Association
  • Barb Engram, Lake Union Liveaboard Association
  • Margie Freeman, Marina owner
  • Al Hughes, Washington Liveaboard Association
  • Gail Luhn, Shilshole Liveaboard Association
  • John Waterhouse, Naval architect
  • Chris Wilkie, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance

Based on comments made by City Council members, we caution against bringing a new houseboat (or an existing houseboat that is currently located outside Seattle waters) on to Seattle Waters.

No new Floating home sites will be permitted in the SMP (primarily Lake Union and Portage Bay).  There is a new floating home site with a few unsold slips and a few floating homes under construction at Wards Cove and these are permitted. Replacement of a floating home is permitted, but no new home sites where none existed.

House Barges approved (registered) in 1990 – 1995 (and one in 2000) totaling 34 are approved and will remain on the lake without issues. DPD stated throughout the process that only a couple barges had complied with the 1990 rule imposed “All overboard discharges of grey water must be contained and pumped out (exceptions allowed based on hardship)”, however in the discovery process we found that the city had documentation that all barges except two were in fact in compliance or had been granted exceptions.

The definition of floating homes, house barges, and vessels can be found at:


In 1990 the city of Seattle also created rule for barges that many barge owners today are not aware of. Recently, very happy buyer’s of a house barge updated their new home by changing a ladder that accessed the upper deck and converting it to a safer staircase and made their upper deck space safer by adding rails and a platform to protect the rooftop deck.  They were told that they needed the original DCLU seal replaced which was misplaced during the remodel. They then contacted DPD to get it replaced, and were told “we don’t issue the decals any longer, but could you send us a photo so we can update our files?”  After sending the photo, the city said “…it appears you have added an expansion” which is not allowed for house barges as they are non-conforming uses and may not expand their exterior dimensions.”  The owners of the barge received the following along with a NOV (Notice of Violation) from DPD.

I regret to inform you that the 3rd story deck on your house barge is in violation of the Shoreline Code and must be removed. If you do not bring the house barge into compliance, you could be fined.

When we last spoke, you requested information on the specific Shoreline laws that would apply to registered house barges. The link provided below is a link to the Seattle Municipal Code:

http://clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/~public/code1.htm, Enter 23.60.090 where it says “Code Section Number” and hit “Submit Query.” Please go to subsection G, #5, which says: “House barges permitted under this section shall be regulated as a nonconforming use and shall be subject to the standards of Section 23.60.122.” Following the link to 23.60.122, subsection B.  The deck on your house barge would be considered an expansion not subject to the exception.

If you are considering remodeling your house barge, you read the regulations regarding “non-conforming uses” shown above.

Kevin and Linda Bagley are the founders, former president & secretary of LULA (Lake Union Liveaboard Association) and have been very involved in protecting the rights of houseboat / barge owners in the SMP. We will continue to be involved in LULA and encourage anyone that wants to protect the houseboats, barges and liveaboards to join LULA at www.lakeunionliveaboard.com.

If you own a House Barge or Houseboat vessel and are considering selling or buying, you need a specialist in the process. We would love to help in any way we can, so give Linda a call at (206) 419-0065.


If you have ANY questions about Floating Homes, House Barges, and Houseboat vessels, please give us a call. We have lots of resources and information we can provide.

And if you are considering a Land Lubber purchase, give us a call for that too!  We sell residential real estate throughout the Puget Sound region.

eco sea cottage

Lake Union Beat features Houseboat vs. Floating Homes

February 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Lake Union Beat features  Houseboats vs. Floating Homes article by Special Agents Realty broker, Kevin Bagley in their premier issue.

Lake Union Beat - Special Agents Houseboat Ad

Lake Union Houseboats full page ad

We are very excited to announce that Special Agents Realty has 2 prominent positions in the premier issue of the Lake Union Beat.

The  Lake Union Beat is the brainchild of Peter Charles Hansen and focuses on Life in the Heart of Seattle. The premier issue is 12 pages, but they are hoping to double the size of the paper by their second issue. With articles focusing on topics and issues related to Lake Union living, the nearby neighborhoods and businesses, this topical paper is sure to be a big hit.

Lake Union Beat and Houseboat Article

Special Agents Realty Article

In the premier issue, the article “Houseboat vs. Floating Home; Which is better? A houseboat, or a floating home? For that matter, what’s the difference?” was created by yours truly and was featured on our Special Agents Realty blog. This article details the technical differences and points out advantages and disadvantages to both houseboats and floating homes.

In addition to the article on Houseboats and Floating Homes, the entire 11 x 17 back page of the newspaper features 3 of Special Agents Realty Houseboat & House barge listings in the Seattle, Lake Union area. These houseboats are the most affordable way to experience waterfront you can put your toes in. Plus, they have the advantage of being located near great Seattle Neighborhoods like Fremont, Wallingford, Westlake, and the University district.

We are truly excited for Peter Charles Hansen and the Lake Union Beat newspaper and look forward to reading about the Heart of Seattle and Lake Union living.  Best of Luck to Peter Charles!!!

Pick up a copy and show it to your friends. Also, spread the word on the great neighborhood publication that is fun, topical, and of great interest to those living on and around Lake Union.

eco sea cottage

Moods of the Lake 2

January 31, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Moods of the Lake 2

Living in a houseboat allows you to feel the water, and you learn after a while that the lake has moods. Sometimes it is happy, sometimes it is sad, sometimes angry, sometimes mysterious, but it seems to me, always beautiful.

The Lake Showing Off

Show Off

When I shot this picture this morning, I was struggling with what mood the lake was in.  This view only lasted a couple of minutes and it reminded me of a Peacock, spreading its tail feathers. So the mood I presumptuously assigned to the lake was Showing Off. Alright, that may not be a mood – maybe prideful?  What do you think?

In any case, Lake Union in Seattle can invoke a variety of feelings and presents astonishing beauty for a small, urban lake. There is an amazing variety to the views and even the amount of wildlife surprises us. There is a vast amount of activity, both man made and natural. We never dreamed that living in a houseboat could be this awe inspiring, surprising, and just down right fun. Every day is a vacation.

I would love to hear your comments… What mood do you think the lake was in?

Stay tuned for more “Moods of the Lake.”

Curious about houseboats and floating homes? Want to learn more? Visit us a www.SpecialAgentsRealty.com, email us at K@SpecialAgents.net or give us a call at (206) 419-0065.

eco sea cottage

Moods of the Lake

January 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Moods of the Lake

Living in a houseboat allows you to feel the water, and you learn after a while that the lake has moods. Sometimes it is happy, sometimes it is sad, sometimes angry, sometimes mysterious, but it seems to me, always beautiful.

Fog on Lake Union


This morning, the lake woke up in a mysterious mood. The water had not even a ripple, and the light diffused by the fog created an eerily beautiful tapestry to be taken in quietly. We savor each day we live on the lake and appreciate all of its moods, even if on occasion they keep us up at night. Did I mention that the lake is sometimes angry?

Is the lake for everyone? No, but for those willing to sacrifice space, brave the occasional storm, periodically adjust their lines, living on a houseboat can be an amazing lifestyle. Stay tuned as I post more Moods of the Lake.

eco sea cottage

ECO-Friendly, ECO-Nomical, ECO-Fun Houseboats

January 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

ECO Sea CottageSpecial Agents Realty is proud to announce a brand new line of ECO-Friendly, ECOnomical houseboats available for delivery throughout the US and Canada. These beautiful houseboats are designed for living and for life on the water, with large windows, spacious areas and comfort not found on other houseboats.

These water friendly designs will allow you to experience life on the water without the high cost of “Waterfront” living. Imagine waterfront that you can put your toes in. Hop in your Kayak and tour the lake, or even jump in and take a swim. View the wildlife and ever-changing scenery of water living. Living ON the water is an experience that goes beyond waterfront living.

What do you get with an ECO Sea Cottage?

  • Vaulted ceilings in Living and Master Bedroom
  • Large Master with sliding doors to deck
  • Optional Built in Murphy bed
  • 4’ High Sleeping/Storage Loft
  • Full size Stove/Oven
  • Built in Microwave
  • Full size 6’ Fridge/Freezer
  • Full size Dishwasher
  • Pantry will pullout shelves
  • Stack Washer-Dryer
  • 42” HDTV!!!
  • Gas Fireplace
  • Infloor radiant heat in Bathroom
  • Solid surface countertops
  • Spacious covered front deck
  • Hardwood flooring
  • Built in Closet organizer
  • Lots of storage
  • 200 gallon fresh water
  • 150 gallon black water
  • 3 – 7 Gallon Propane tanks
  • Forced Air heating
  • Oversized shower
  • Durable Hardi-plank siding
  • Optional Copper colored metal roofing
  • Completely Customizable
  • 7’ tilt up ceiling available for Loft / Sleeping area
  • 2nd story versions available

These new houseboats are going to Rock the houseboat market. Being priced starting at $175,000 for the Model shown here, these are the most affordable houseboats, feature for feature, you can buy.

This model can be viewed on Lake Union in Seattle at 2401 N. Northlake Way. Please schedule an appointment for showing throughSpecial Agents Realty (206) 915-3766 or (888) 540-8858 or email us at K@SpecialAgents.net.

~ Live the life you’ve always dreamed of ~

eco sea cottage

ECO Houseboats

December 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Experience Houseboat living…
Like never before in this fantastic, economical and eco-friendly brand new houseboat. Designed for living and for life on the water, with large windows, spacious areas and comfort not found on other houseboats, the Ranch ECO-Sea Cottage will allow you to experience life on the water without the high cost of “Waterfront” living. Each ECO-Sea Cottage is special ordered with delivery in approximately 12-16 weeks. Give us a call to get started changing your life. These Houseboats are built to order and can be shipped anywhere in the US or Canada. With prices ranging from $110,000 to $275,000, these houseboats provide a level of affordable waterfront living you cannot find anywhere.

Call us at (206) 419-0065 or email us to learn more.

RANCH Model Shown is priced at $175,000!


Special Agents Realty