Jun

18

There’s a unique and fun attraction in the Seattle area known as Ride the Ducks. The Duck rides have a long history as an essential tourist attraction, cruising past the city of Seattle and through the Lake Union waterfront community. The company describes its rides as a “party that floats,” coming with an eccentric captain who provides narration about the scenery as part of the tour. During the summer, the business really picks up, with more than 150 entrances and exits of Lake Union over the course of a 10-hour day. Now, the Duck boats are looking to dock at a new home that’s just 100 feet away from the houseboats in Lake Union.

A Disruption to the Community
Eastlake residents clearly respect and appreciate the role of the Ride the Ducks attraction, but they have recently expressed concerns over the appearance of a ramp that’s so close to their houseboats and waterfront property. Brian Tracey, the owner of Ride the Ducks, has met with the neighbors on at least two occasions to assuage their concerns about both the noise, safety, and pollution of a new Lake Union access point nearby. They have some valid worries, as the World War II-era boats run on diesel and would be active for many hours every day.

An Interesting Rebuttal
At the same time, Brian Tracey and his Ride the Ducks offer another side to the story. The particular area under consideration is actually an abandoned dock that could benefit from some new construction. Interestingly, the area was already zoned for maritime industrial use, so it’s not without precedent for the site to be home to a structure like a public boat ramp. In addition, the efforts could beautify the area, such as the overgrown street edge that’s already there. The other major concern is that the water traffic would get continually backed up without the additional point of access.

What Happens Next with the Ducks
Both sides of the debate have good points. On the one hand, Lake Union’s floating homes, houseboats, and waterfront houses are a beautiful and unique feature of the Seattle area. Many of these waterfront real estate owners paid a premium for the privilege of having a serene place to live, and it could be damaging to their way of life to have a constant stream of Duck boats streaming in and out of the nearby boat ramp. On the other hand, Ride the Ducks is a key attraction with a tradition of its own, and there didn’t appear to be anything illegal in how Brian Tracey purchased the property or intends to use it. The matter is before the Department of Planning and Development, with the Parks Board of Commissioners having voted back in February to oppose the entry ramp. The case is continuing to develop, but it’s a striking example of how scarce and special waterfront land is in the Seattle area.

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Jun

3

Waterfront property in Seattle is one of the most attractive features of the area. Who else but waterfront homeowners have the chance to skip a horrendous commute and get to work by water taxi? Who else gets a gorgeous lake view that’s right outside the window? Who else has the luxury of being accessible to fireboats in the event of a fire? Yet despite all of these advantages, one persistent difficulty facing the waterfront real estate owner is the possibility of a flood. That’s why recent discussions and decisions about flood insurance policies are important to understand.

Extension of National Flood Insurance Program
Last July, the National Association of Realtors hailed the federal government’s decision to extend the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP. The NFIP, originally created in 1968, was a response to the need for some kind of national flood insurance, as typical homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover flooding, hurricanes, tropical storms, or heavy rains. The extension is positive because it will continue its function as a means for people with waterfront property to remain insured in the event of a flood. However, the most recent extension came with some changes that current or future owners of waterfront houses should know.

Changes to the NFIP
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is responsible for responding to disasters like floods. Unfortunately, officials from FEMA recently explained that there will be increases in premiums and rate structures in order to help the agency get on more solid financial ground. Because of a high number of catastrophic storms in the recent past, FEMA has a debt load of $24 billion to overcome. One change will be on “severe repetitive loss properties,” which are the ones in the most dangerous position of having repeated loss due to flooding. About 600,000 current owners of a primary residence won’t see increases until their policy lapses or they sell to someone else. These are the properties with subsidies. About 80 percent of flood policies aren’t subsidized, so they won’t see any changes aside from routine rate increases each year.

What the Changes Mean to You
These changes are hardly a cause for alarm. Unless your home is located within a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) area, you’ll continue to have a highly affordable flood insurance rate. In fact, half of all flood policy claims are found in just five metropolitan areas, which are New Orleans, Houston, Tampa, Miami, and New York. That means your likelihood of a flooding problem in a waterfront home off of Lake Washington or Puget Sound is probably quite low. Even so, it’s important to note that these changes are coming and react accordingly. As a buyer, you should focus on waterfront real estate located outside of any FIRMs. Current owners should take stock of what their situation is, keeping in mind that most changes will be phased in gradually starting in 2014. Sellers simply need to remember to disclose information about these changes to any buyers.

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May

6

    Elegant living room with stunning puget sound views in Seattle area home for sale.

Water views from Seattle area home for sale.

Getting around Seattle is one of the biggest concerns for a lot of local residents. Traffic can get pretty congested along the major thoroughfares. Many commuters would probably relish the prospect of being able to skip all of that traffic on the road and arrive at work or home almost immediately, but that is obviously not something that’s possible for most Seattle drivers. Fortunately for some lucky Seattleites, however, it just so happens that there is an enticing transportation option for residents in West Seattle. While those living on the east side generally have to rely on either the toll-bridge Interstate 520 or non-toll I-90 to get downtown, West Seattle residents are able to cut across Elliot Bay on the King County Water Taxi.

Getting to Seattle
The big benefit for West Seattle residents who want to get to Seattle is that they can get downtown across the water using the King County Water Taxi. This useful service features a direct route from Seacrest Park in West Seattle over to Pier 50 on the downtown Seattle waterfront. The time it takes to cross is only about 10 minutes, and it’s open to people with bicycles for no extra charge. This unique situation is available to West Seattle residents in Puget Sound homes, and it’s one of simplicity and luxury. When passengers in the water taxi arrive at Pier 50 downtown, they can disembark and walk around the streets without having to worry about the cost or inconvenience of parking.

West Seattle Waterfront Real Estate
The waterfront coastline of West Seattle runs along the mouth of Elliot Bay and features gorgeous beaches and a satisfying mix of private property and public parks. Real estate consists of attractive condos and contemporary homes as well as mature homes. While the area of West Seattle itself is an enjoyable expanse in its own right, full of cafes and shops, many residents with a waterfront home in West Seattle have to go to work downtown. Others like the greater variety of shopping or entertainment options downtown. Either way, one of the main attractions of living in West Seattle is the amazing waterfront property, a view of Puget Sound, and the area’s proximity to the heart of Seattle.

Commute from the Waterfront
With so many reasons to travel to downtown Seattle, it’s fortunate that there’s a quick commute option in the King County Water Taxi, but the presence of Puget Sound and Elliot Bay is a double-edged sword. If it were land there instead, residents would have a direct route for driving. Instead, the water taxi service represents the only straight shot from West Seattle to downtown Seattle. Otherwise, residents have to go around using the West Seattle Bridge, which can result in a commute of 45 minutes to an hour during peak traffic hours. On the plus side, West Seattle and its residents in waterfront houses are geographically quite close to downtown, so there are a lot of viable commuting options, and the King County Water Taxi really makes it a great place to settle.

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Dec

1

The Environmental Science Center is a deserving local shoreline education organization (I was previously on its Board of Directors), and they are having more of their popular Moonlight Beach Walks this winter. They are fun, entertaining, and unique. Here’s the scoop from ESC:

Don’t miss the Environmental Science Center’s Moonlight Beach Walk this Saturday, December 4th, from 7:30-9:30pm at Seahurst Beach in Burien.

Imagine you are on the shoreline at a lovely low tide. Rocks that are covered all year lie exposed to view while the sea denizens remain happily cold and wet in the dark. All around you, people waving flashlights are intently studying the amazing and abundant sea life as local naturalists help you discover the wonders of your Puget Sound shoreline.

BUNDLE UP AGAINST THE WEATHER AND BE SURE TO BRING: Bright flashlight with good batteries, warm hat and dry gloves, and wading boots (you’ll be in ankle deep water).

For more information, contact Programs@EnvScienceCenter.org or call 206-248-4266.

Environmental Science Center logo

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