After long community process crafts compromise Westlake bikeway plan, ‘superyacht’ marina sues anyway

Rather than engage in the Westlake bikeway community process, this superyacht marina has sued anyway.

Rather than engage in the Westlake bikeway community process, this superyacht marina has sued anyway.

Concerned residents hold signs during a bike ride in support of the bikeway. The process was not always easy, but people stuck it out and made it work

Concerned community members hold signs during a bike ride in support of the bikeway. The community process was not always easy, but people stuck it out and made it work

For more than a year, a group of Westlake residents, business owners, industry leaders and community members — including people who walk, bike and drive — have been meeting regularly to work with designers and the city to craft a design plan for a safe Westlake bikeway that considers everyone’s needs.

The meetings and public process were sometimes difficult, with people seeing things very differently. But folks worked through the plans inch by inch and parking stall by parking stall. In the end, nobody got everything they wanted, but that’s exactly how compromise works. You can see their extensive meeting notes here.

So it came as awful news that Nautical Landing, a self-described “superyacht” marina and dealer, has filed a lawsuit anyway, undercutting all that community work and threatening to delay the project for at least a year. Their lawsuit is a slap in the face to Mayor Ed Murray — who helped bring people into the design committee rather than the courts — and to everyone who dedicated their time and energy to this process, which was created because community members made the awesome decision to drop their late 2013 lawsuit against the Bike Master Plan and work things out instead.

The Nautical Landing lawsuit has no legitimate beefs with the project (read the complaint in this PDF). It basically argues that the city has “prejudiced” the superyacht marina by not completing environmental review for 1.2 miles of bike lanes in a city-owned parking lot. It’s just a delay tactic by a company that clearly has the money to burn and would rather just pay to get their way than work it out with everyone else through the community design process.

A trial date has been set for June 2016.

Nautical Landing is going back on the deal established in early 2014: If the city crafts the design details with community input and guidance, they won’t sue. Well, even though the final design is full of compromises and preserves nearly all the parking, they sued anyway. Though a superyacht moored on their docks could be worth as much as $160 million, Nautical Landing’s word apparently isn’t worth anything.

The community design process was a huge success

Parking in the final design

Parking in the final design

The biggest concerns people raised during the public outreach phase were about parking. Initial plans showed that most segments would displace between 5 and 35 percent of parking spaces, but a couple could see 50 percent. But after a long, hard process working through different parking lot design changes and squeezing in spaces where possible, final plans will preserve 90 percent of the parking along the corridor, far more spaces than are used today (see this PDF presentation from a recent meeting of the Design Advisory Committee for more details).

From a recent presentation to the Community Design Advisory Committee ("DAC")

Slide from a recent presentation to the Community Design Advisory Committee (“DAC”)

The process also identified ways to adjust the parking rules to make sure businesses have a more dependable supply of short-term parking available. Previously, the all-day unlimited parking spots were being used by center city commuters trying to get around paying for a spot at work. By putting time limits on some spots, residential parking permit requirements on others and turning the most in-demand spots into paid spaces, the city has made the lot more focused on Lake Union Park, residential and business access.

Preserving parking was not this blog’s priority, but it was important to other community members and I am happy that people were able to get together and work it out. What started as a tense public fight (with lawsuits starting to fly) developed into a community design for a better Westlake for everyone. This is how our city should work.

According to a recent presentation to the Design Advisory Committee, here are some other ways the community guided the design:

  • Clearly marked, formal pedestrian crossings
  • Maximized parking with smaller stalls, angled parking and one-way circulation
  • Add speed humps and stop signs to calm parking area and discourage bicycle use
  • Improve ADA accessibility from parking area to businesses
  • Improve mixing zone at north end
  • Preserve Railroad Park
  • Add signal at Driveway 2

And, finally the design process also got the city to commit to reviews of how the design is working one month, six months and one year after construction. So if there are problems, the city will go back and make adjustments.

2015_0601_DACMeeting11_Presentation_web-monitor

Drop this lawsuit

Nautical Landing should drop their lawsuit. I’m not sure what battle they think they’re fighting, but they had all the chances in the world to get involved with this project and guide the design with everyone else.

You shouldn’t get to just pull out your pocket book and pay to silence everyone else. We have a funded and community-led design for a better Westlake that is shovel-ready, with construction scheduled to start in the fall. If all goes through on schedule Westlake will be a safer, more active and more positive place for everyone by next spring.

If Nautical Landing succeeds in delaying construction and putting grant money earmarked for this project at risk, their selfishness will hurt their community and their city. If Nautical Landing wants to be a good neighbor, they must drop this lawsuit.

Here are the people who dedicated their time to help craft the design. Whether you bike, live or work on Westlake, we all owe them a big thank you:

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 11.29.04 AMUPDATE: I heard back from SDOT Spokesperson Rick Sheridan about the case. Unfortunately, he could only say, “As a matter of policy, the City does not comment on ongoing legal actions.”

UPDATE x2: Cascade Bicycle Club says in a press release they are “disappointed” in the lawsuit: “Nautical Landings’ lawsuit puts grant funding for this project at risk, delays the hard work of the DAC at achieving compromise and delays necessary safety improvements for the thousands of people who want to safely bike downtown.”

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59 Responses to After long community process crafts compromise Westlake bikeway plan, ‘superyacht’ marina sues anyway

  1. Southeasterner says:

    God forbid a billionaire might have to walk across a bike path or his valet may take an extra 2 minutes retrieving his Rolls. Ohh the humanity!

    I don’t know why the masses continue to make it so difficult to be rich in America. Why don’t poor people just get jobs as CEOs, are they lazy? Maybe Seattle could ban anyone with a household income under $1 million?

    • Law Abider says:

      Don’t forget that the Nautical Landing is using a public ROW to access their facilities, which exist pretty much 100% on a publicly owned natural resource. They own what’s called a submerged parcel, which are oddities created in 1907 to fund the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, assuming Lake Union was going to be lowered to create a canal to the Sound (thanks to the locks this wasn’t the case): http://www.lakeunionmail.com/submergedparcels.html

      So Lake Union has a unique problem that people can actually own parts of the lake, including in Nautical Landing’s case. Additionally, if my knowledge of Washington State law is correct, any docks on public water (read: pretty much any body of water in the state) are considered public property and anyone can access and use the docks, provided they don’t enter the adjacent land property (if it is in fact private property, which in Westlake’s case, it is City owned property).

      Now IANAL, but somebody should look into the legality of the public accessing a submerged parcel, whether it conforms to the rest of state law, or if the owner of the parcel has a legal right to prevent access. If it is within our citizen’s rights to access a submerged parcel in a publicly owned natural resource, we should stage a occupation of the dock, preventing billionaires from mooring their boat, until they drop the lawsuit. My guess is they would drop it quick.

  2. JB says:

    Let’s go picket Nautical Landing. I’ll spend a few hours out there waving a sign.

    • Richard says:

      or a bike picket, just set up a loop circulating people through the area in question?

      • Peri Hartman says:

        Actually, I think this is a good idea. If enough people encumber access to their business, the press will come and people all over the city will know what’s going on. My guess is most people will side with “us”.

        I’ll join if someone wants to lead this effort.

  3. Capitol Hillian says:

    Kayak flotilla blockade? Everyone around here now has some practice.

    Vigilante pollution monitoring to report any drops of oil that leak from the superyachts? http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/nonpoint/CleanBoating/laws.html

    • jay says:

      Since in their petition Nautical Landing was very concerned about lake union being listed as an “impaired water body … and with designated critical areas”, I’m sure they would welcome any oversight into their own activities.
      To be fair, since they undoubtedly had to go through the environmental impact thing for their workshop facilities I can understand them wanting the city to do the same.
      But there is very little “construction” involved in putting in solar powered parking kiosks, I say make every single parking space metered, four hour (or less) limit, 12 or 16 hours a day, 6 days a week, and then just walk away from the whole thing (or ride away on Dexter).

      Their lawyer is cute, he starts out defining WCT: ” the proposed Westlake Cycle track (“WCT”)”, but later in the document he sprinkles in WTC.
      Never forget! cyclist ~ terrorist (and lawyer ~ [blocked by forum filters])
      Probably not actually deliberate, but in my opinion if he can’t be bothered to proof read his document, the court shouldn’t bother to read it at all.

  4. Using environmental law to stop a bikeway project, yay. :-/

    And under the “statement of fact” section of the complaint, the litigant claims “the WCT (Westlake Cycle Track) will create unsafe conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists, and commercial business traffic”; good grief.

    • Josh says:

      Unfortunately, it appears to me that may be true — SDOT has stated their intent not to comply with FHWA’s new guidance on separated bicycle infrastructure, and previously said they were going below the minimum speeds recommended by AASHTO, WSDOT, and CROW for routes with this level of traffic, despite the City Council’s clear language in adopting the 2014 BMP Update requiring facilities to meet or exceed national, state, and local standards and guidance.

      The decision to compromise the safety of trail users for the preservation of parking may well give this lawsuit more teeth than it otherwise would have.

      • Kirk says:

        That’s kind of what I was thinking. The plans for this project seemed like too much of a compromise, with the result appearing to be a failure for transportational bicycle riders. But I had my hopes up. Now it is just going to be another Missing Link saga.

      • JB says:

        Honestly, if the businesses on Westlake won’t negotiate in good faith with the city and cycling community, then SDOT should just go back to the drawing board and design a first-rate bicycle facility without worrying about preserving parking spaces. That would be the appropriate response to this nonsense.

      • @JB: After some joker in San Francisco pulled the same environmental review stunt in a 2009 lawsuit, the All Powerful Bike Lobby convinced the California Assembly to pass a law exempting bike projects from state environmental review. Problem solved!

      • Adam says:

        This is the first I’ve heard of the CA bill that Richard Masoner spoke of, so I went in search of it and found Assembly Bill No. 417, for anyone else who may be interested.

        I’d certainly like to see bicycle projects exempt from SEPA so we can put an end to this madness.

  5. biliruben says:

    “Are you a good rich or a bad rich?”

    I’m guessing these folks are in the same category as the doofus up here in Lake City who, after stealing (legally), our beach that had been public for 82 years and provided the only lake access for a 6 mile stretch, said to a TV interviewer, something along the lines of “If people want access to the lake, they should just buy a house on the lake like I did.”

    Brains are not a requirement for wealth.

  6. Mark in Kenmore says:

    Yacht club sues to stop bike lane from being built? This sounds like cartoon villainy.

  7. Kirk says:

    Tom, I’m sorry, but nobody owes Warren Aakervik of Ballard Oil a big thank you. He is firmly anti-bike and a member of the NIMBY obstructionist group Ballard Business Appellants suing to obstruct the Burke Gilman Trail’s Missing Link. He is on record with the Freight Advisory Board as repeatedly requesting from SDOT that bicycles be banned from any truck route.

    • Southeasterner says:

      Seriously. Talk about a wolf in sheep’s clothing, I have no doubt we will find out there is a direct link between Warren’s participation in the review panel and this lawsuit. He probably served on the group just for the opportunity to find a loop-hole he could exploit and send the project to its grave alongside the BGT.

    • Damon May says:

      Sometimes, people do terrible things one day and good things the next. But I’d like a little more information about Aakervik’s role here; in the context of Seattle cycling and this blog, “give Warren Aakervik a big thank-you” is sort of like “bring a bouquet of roses to school for your bully”.

  8. Mike says:

    The best part of all this? On their website they proudly claim “Over fifty miles of biking trails within minutes of the marina.”

  9. Josh says:

    The City is under no obligation to make public right-of-way available for parking.

    The suit cites many potential violations by the City, some of which appear at first glance to be potentially-valid violations of environmental laws related to construction.

    To cooperate fully with the lawsuit, the City should close the parking spaces that are planned to be affected by construction

    Grant funding often requires proof of progress to keep the funds. Closing the parking spaces would be the start of work on the ground. With the spaces closed to parking, the City could temporarily stripe a bike route, paint only, no construction, the full width of the affected parking spaces.

    The City should then stop work, and post prominent signs indicating that the spaces will remain closed pending resolution of complaints from Nautical Landing.

    • Ryan says:

      How do I vote for you for city council?

    • RTK says:

      This was my first thought as a response if an obstructionist is merely using money to stall. The alternative would be to take away all parking restrictions. Let the campers and vans that cluster in industrial regions and adjacent to parks set up here and let them know they are welcome to stay. I am all for compromise, but the entire process now feels like a big game to people with deep pockets.

    • Capitol Hillian says:

      Should have read all the comments before submitting mine. This is exactly right. The city should take as much parking as is needed to make a decent paint and bollard facility without regard to the parking impacts. Time to stop letting yacht and oil businesses hurt people to sustain their greed.

  10. Julian says:

    I just called Nautical Landing, to ask what was going on. A man answered the phone, sounding a bit flustered, saying that they were about to put out a press release. He admitted that they were part of the “Stakeholders” group but made the decision to sue anyway because of recent (past several weeks, he says) city decisions to change the parking in front of their business. Hand-waving about big fuel trucks needing to park, how the proposed system would be unsafe, blah blah blah.

    Hard to tell if they plan to see it through or have learned from the original “Stakeholders” that suing is the way to :be heard” by the city. I like Josh’s suggestions for some city hardball, and a close look at this business’s compliance with environmental regs.

    I didn’t get to ask him about the irony of a megamotoryacht business using SEPA tactics to block a bike trail and fretting in their lawsuit about the delicate shoreline habitat of Lake Union …

    • Ben L says:

      Props to you for actually calling and thanks for the update!

      • SashaBikes says:

        Seconded! Such a simple act, but maybe that’s how this city will improve – through small, simple acts that show there are MANY people who do care about this issue, asking them to explain and justify their viewpoint.

  11. Kirk says:

    The City should take this opportunity to relocate the bicycle facility to the western edge of the parking lot, away from the sensitive water areas and fragile businesses, and design a fully signalized state of the art bicycle arterial. This is arguably the most crucial route for transportational cycling in Seattle. Any loss of parking in order to accomplish this is acceptable.

    • Josh says:

      Siglanization would be great, but given the bicycle traffic volumes, it seems like meeting minimum width should be a higher priority. As designed, given the volumes, it’s going to be hazardous just from people on bikes interacting with other people on bikes, let alone pedestrians and motorists.

      • Kirk says:

        Make the WCT 12′ wide in each direction. Time the signals to be at something like 15 mph into the city in the morning and out of the city in the evening. Limit the access to the parking lot to one entrance and exit on each end of the lot, maybe one additional entrance in the center. Add turn lanes on Westlake. And don’t worry about the parking, it’s city land that needs to be used for moving people, not storage of private automobiles.

      • RTK says:

        I like the idea of immediately removing some of the entrances and exits to increase safety. I’m sure the mega yachts folks would agree since they are so concerned about safety.

    • J says:

      The problem with putting the trail on the west side is that cyclists are now in contention with drivers who don’t look when whipping around the corner into the parking lot. If you move the trail, then that will be an issue at every single driveway. I know, I experience that every damn day.

      I think the plans for the west side proposal included landscaping between the trail and the road, making the situation worse as it restricts sightlines so cyclists and drivers can’t see each other. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, especially when people feel “safe” riding the trail and aren’t thinking about or stopping at the dangerous intersections.

      All the options suck, really. We should just build an elevated cycle track to avoid all these problems. That would be awesome.

      • Kirk says:

        Jay, fully signalized. This means that the only time an automobile would be able to turn into the parking lot was when they had a green light, and the bike path would have a red light. Also, the entrances should be limited to a few, one on each end and one in the middle. And no landscaping at intersections!!!

        This really is a golden opportunity for Scott Kubly and SDOT to finally get it right. If they don’t make this route safe for transportational bicyclists, they will just have to remake it in the future, again. Remember, this is already their second chance. The Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop bike path/sidewalk hasn’t really worked out too well.

      • Peri Hartman says:

        I’m not sure that signalling is a sufficient solution. I’ve tried the bikeway on 2nd a few times and find it unsafe over about 15mph. Even though the sight lines are good and there are signals, how do you know a driver isn’t going to suddenly turn just when you arrive at the intersection?

        Personally, I think buffered bike lanes are better where you can move into the traffic lane when passing a car approaching an intersection or waiting at a driveway. In the configuration on 2nd, you’re locked in and have very little room to move out of harms way.

      • J. says:

        Signals won’t protect cyclists from cars making right turns. I didn’t realize that the landscaping would be clear at corners under the west side plan. That’s good.

        I think most on-street biking is unsafe over 15 mph. You need time to react.

      • Kirk says:

        This would not be an on street bike facility, but would carve out a bike trail from the parking lot. It would be nothing like the Second Avenue Protected Bike Lane; the signals there are very poorly designed. SDOT knows how to fix them (move them to be over and in front of each lane), they just don’t have the will.

        Make Westlake fully signalized, with well designed turn lanes. Make the stop line for each turn lane well behind the actual turn to discourage right turn rollers, and make it very square and narrow. It can be done.

      • Peri Hartman says:

        Actually, yes, moving the stop line back would make a huge difference. Even if it were only 10′ back, that’s enough that a person cycling could see the motion of someone preparing to turn and have time to react. I didn’t think of this. Thanks!

        SDOT – make this change on 2nd ave!

      • Elevated? No way. The impact of a ground-based bike highway is unbearable as it is. The last thing we need is to see all those sweaty people from our foredecks.

        Better alternative: bike tunnel. Dig it from MOHAI to the Fremont Bridge. This will be a great way to keep unsightly cycle traffic below ground without endangering our fragile parking and yachting environment along Lake Union.

  12. Matthew Snyder says:

    I am totally shocked to not find Josh Brower’s name on this court filing.

    I am not totally shocked by this development, though. It’s moments like these that I wish Seattle’s bicycle advocacy culture had a more radical wing.

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  16. Alkibkr says:

    Would it make any difference if a ton of civilly worded anti-lawsuit comments were submitted to the company? http://nautical-landing.com/contact/

    • Peri Hartman says:

      I did:

      To management: I am happy that your business is contributing to Seattle’s economy and that you are able to benefit from this unique urban commercial lakefront setting.

      At the same time, realize that there are more and more bicyclists traveling the Westlake corridor each day and the current situation is unsafe for both the riders and everyone else.

      As you know, the options for improving the situation have been extensively studied and many compromises made to begin work on rebalancing the use of the corridor. The bikeway will be built.

      It is unfortunate that your company has brought suit to delay the project. This suit will cost your business money and cost the city and tax payers money and delay the project. But the bikeway will be built in the end.

      Drop the suit and put your energy and money into something more productive!

      Thanks,
      Peri Hartman

      • Dave says:

        Add to the list:

        Hi there,

        You’re probably getting a fair few contacts from folks about your lawsuit to delay the Westlake cycle track. I’m sure you throughly thought out your position before filing the lawsuit, but I’d urge you to continue to reevaluate the PR impacts of your suit.

        Unlike the Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel Co and Ballard Oil, it is at least plausible that your customers will be publicity shy. It is likely that your lawsuit will bring a spotlight onto not only your business and environmental compliance, but also onto those individuals who choose to moor their yachts with you.

        Sure, some folks don’t care when they are portrayed as patronizing a business that will be viewed as increasingly obstructionist and anti-community, but some others will not desire such media attention as might plausibly follow.

        Anyway, something to weight alongside the desire for easy fuel truck access.

        Cheers,
        Dave

  17. Demian says:

    Seriously, this warrants some big time protests!

  18. SGG says:

    I plan on boycotting Nautical Landing from now on. Never again will they get my business.

  19. DavidHamm says:

    Thanks Peri for providing a nice, civil example.
    I for one will send them something similar.

  20. Capitol Hillian says:

    Since this is a big city owned parking lot that needs to be made safe, why don’t we simply remove sufficient parking to stripe an extra-wide two way bike lanes until the final design can be implemented. It would significantly impact parking and put some heat on the businesses to oppose this lawsuit and improve safety for everyone.

  21. AJ says:

    Not all that surprised. Nautical Landing even with everyone’s best intentions and planning will be one of the businesses most impacted. For one they are located at the narrowest point of the corridor and despite the best efforts of everyone involved, there just isn’t a whole lot of land at that point for everyone to share.

    The plan at that point should have narrowed the sidewalk to help make room.

    Since there business is not one that benefits from cycle traffic, they will be the least effected by protest.

    SDOT did give them the opening to the lawsuit by shortcutting the environmental review and not following their own rules.

  22. thoughtfully says:

    twitter is a great place to blow up your voice your opinions about nautical landing

    https://twitter.com/nlmarinaseattle

  23. sam says:

    Along with emailing the company, why not look up who the yachts are currently registered to and contact them.

    Just going off of photos from their website (no idea of these yachts are still moored there) and simple google searches:

    – the large blue yacht, Deadalus, is owned by Boeing.
    – “Ice Bear” is owned by a Berkshire Hathaway board member

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