Still fighting for Seattle Waterfront Vacation Homes

Although the law has gone into effect that bans waterfront homes and homes within 200 feet of water from operating as vacation rentals (aka short term rentals or STRs), my husband and I are still trying to get this unintended consequence corrected.

In my last post, I shared that we were going to reach out to the Washington State Department of Ecology as advised by a representative for City of Seattle Councilmember Mike O’Brien to see if an exception could be made.  Rob had a great conversation with a Ms. Blair who acts as the Regional Shoreline Planning & Permitting staff for the Seattle region. She agreed on the phone that there is no increased impact on the shoreline with STRs vs long term rentals. She also mentioned that Seattle was currently involved in the Shoreline Master Program Periodic Review which could be great timing for a variance to be approved. She pointed out that Whatcom County has been given conditional approval by the state to consider STR use as a “Residential” use code specifically for shoreline management zones. We were obviously pretty excited to hear this!

My husband, Rob then had a conversation with Policy Analyst, Aly Penucci. She seemed happy to hear that Whatcom County has already set the ground work if Seattle decides to take the same steps. She recommended that we reach out to the City of Seattle Councilmembers in order to have them take this issue up.

We first reached out to Councilmember Herbold’s office (as she represents West Seattle) and was referred to someone on her staff. We sent him a very detailed email and have tried leaving voicemails. We have yet to receive a response.  Despite this lack of response, we sent out another round of emails to catch the Councilmembers up to date on what we have learned with Whatcom County allowing short term rentals by working with the Department of Ecology. Again, the only response has been from the office of Council Mike O’Brien. Essentially, we’re being told that they would like another Councilmember to take up this issue and they will support it.

We know in this day, there are a lot of very important and critical issues going on. Our city is dealing with a affordable housing, homeless and opiod crisis, along with all the other issues that follow.  The new licensing fees that are being assessed to Seattle Short Term Rental properties are in part, going towards affordable housing. People we have talked to at the City of Seattle have admitted to having no idea as to how many homes will no longer be able to operate as a short term rental and therefore, they have NO idea how much funds they will be losing when folks like us are not able to operate as a STR and therefore contribute to the affordable housing funds. In addition, many who own and operate vacation homes depend on the income and employ others, such as housekeepers, who also depend on this income. West Seattle does not have real lodging beyond short term rentals and this regulation just wiped out many of the prime properties.

We have also reached out to HomeAway/VRBO, which is the platform we have used, to try to make them aware of this. So far, it’s been challenging at best. They are aware of having to acquire the new license but not the waterfront (or 200 feet within water) issues.

Others who own and operate waterfront vacation homes in Seattle will not learn about this until either they apply for their STR operators license and are rejected (city is saying this will take several weeks to start the process) or unless the call the City to confirm their zoning.

If you or your family member lives in Seattle and have stayed in our vacation rental or any Seattle waterfront-water view vacation rental, I ask that you please contact the Seattle City Councilmembers and tell them your story and what staying in the Bungalow meant to you.  The more voices they hear will hopefully help this cause.

Thank you for your support!

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