Marination delay at Seacrest: ‘Issue … between 2 government agencies’

March 30, 2012 at 5:05 pm | In West Seattle news, West Seattle restaurants | 36 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“Understanding the situation, we’ll do our best to review the application as quickly as possible.”

So says city Department of Planning and Development spokesperson Bryan Stevens, regarding the extra review that suddenly pushed back the plan for Marination to take over and remodel Seacrest Boathouse.

“The situation at Seacrest is still moving forward,” Marination co-owner Roz Edison told us by phone. “It’s not quite moving at the pace at which we’d like.”

We reported the snag eight days ago, when the city Parks Department, which owns the boathouse, announced it, saying DPD had unexpectedly insisted a “conditional-use permit” would be needed too. The day after that announcement, we spoke to Roz from Marination, then sought DPD comment (which took 2 1/2 business days) before putting together this followup.

First, the backstory: Parks sought proposals for the Seacrest concession last fall, and chose Marination over Alki Crab and Fish, which had been the longtime concessionaire. An appeals process reaffirmed the decision. Marination was scheduled to take over the space about two weeks ago and start remodeling work; ACF moved out early, after the first weekend of the month (it’s now consolidated with its owners’ other establishment, Admiral Pub).

And then Parks discovered that DPD wanted an additional permit – saying that the space wasn’t officially a restaurant, and would need to be reviewed as such.

“We went to submit our DPD intake stuff,” Roz recalled, “and they said, ‘oh, by the way, this is not a restaurant, and you need a change of use permit.’ We said, ‘It’s been a restaurant for 10 years.’ They said, ‘no.’ So we put it in the hands of Parks.”

As it turned out, Marination had not finalized a lease agreement when this sudden snag arose, so it truly is “in the hands of Parks.” In Marination’s view, Roz says, “this is an issue that really should be resolved between two government agencies.”

DPD’s explanation in response to our inquiry continued:

Unfortunately, the restaurant use in the existing building never obtained a permit when it first opened. We have a complaint-based enforcement team, and the issue was never brought to our attention until now. Also, this stretch of shoreline is designated a Conservancy Management area, which is focused on shoreline recreation and water-related uses. This designation is typical of park land adjacent to the water. However, certain commercial businesses can be allowed through a shoreline conditional use approval, which requires a public permit process. We support small business and encourage due diligence as early as possible, so potential safety improvements or processes can be taken into account.

The business owner can apply for the shoreline permit and the construction permit at the same time, so once the shoreline permit is approved the construction work can get started immediately. Understanding the situation, we’ll do our best to review the application as quickly as possible.

How the issue never came up before now – not till the previous tenant had moved out – mystifies Marination. Says Roz, “There was a mechanical hood permit issued for this place ten years ago, a commercial kitchen hood permit for a commercial kitchen, approved by DPD. Somehow that particular permit did not trigger doublechecking … (and) the next year, City Council did what they would do for our lease, voted whether to allow a restaurant concessionaire to be there.”

Checking city archives online, we found this City Council resolution from 2002, which indeed reads in Section A-1 (regarding Alki Crab and Fish’s then-contract):

The Concessionaire shall be entitled to operate a business at said location subject to the terms of this Agreement, which shall consist of the renting of fishing boats and outboard motors, the renting of fishing tackle and related equipment; operation of a full service restaurant and seafood market and/or delicatessen food service …

And yet, here’s the sudden hurdle for Marination’s otherwise concession-winning proposal. Roz continued, “Fast-forward nine years, we are being asked to go through the whole change of use … even with a little accelerated review time, it is still pushing us back, it’s probably going to be late summer, if we’re lucky, so we will miss the summer … we’re really bummed about that.”

And she wonders regarding the mandate to pursue a separate permit, “…what good it’s serving. We’d be able to pay rent to the city, the community would have access to the boathouse, we’re not sure what the public good is, coming out of this.”

However, she says they remain “excited about serving West Seattle; we’re still committed, we’re not backing away from the project, (even though) it is costing us quite a bit of money for the delay. We’ll be excited to open, no matter when we do.”

In the meantime, while there is no restaurant in the boathouse, Alki Kayak Tours will continue to operate at Seacrest, with its watercraft and other recreational rentals – plus, as owner Greg Whittaker told us earlier this month, beverages.

36 Comments

  1. What a bunch of idiots (the government agencies involved). Sheesh! The place is a restaurant for 10 years but not supposed to be? Something’s fishy! Sounds like a bit of revenge to me.

    Comment by onceachef — 5:15 pm March 30, 2012 #

  2. That’s just piggy.

    Comment by Tbone — 5:41 pm March 30, 2012 #

  3. Hilarious!
    AF&C should be backcharged for any upgrades DPD requires. Operating 10 years without a proper permit – ignorance is bliss.

    Comment by Walnut — 6:04 pm March 30, 2012 #

  4. So anyone ever having to deal with DPD knows just how true to form this really is. I was just adding an addition to our house and needed three separate trips to DPD (then DCLU) and one sit-down with a permitter – plus they harassed the hell out of our contractors with endless “do this this way” personal touches. The department is truly out of control – even more so than SDOT.

    Comment by chas redmond — 6:27 pm March 30, 2012 #

  5. Someone at DPD does not like Marination? There was a 10 year owld valid permit and just because they sell tacos instead of fish and cips that becomes invalid?

    Comment by Holy crap — 6:43 pm March 30, 2012 #

  6. It never ceases to amaze me that even with endless examples (like this one) of gov. agencies being totally inept, people still seem to want the gov. involved in more and more aspects of our lives. Seems logical to me!

    I agree, what public good is there in this whole situation? This is a perfect example of not seeing the forest for the trees. Just let them run their business!

    Comment by Tuesday — 7:22 pm March 30, 2012 #

  7. And of course, we can see this coming… ACF either sued or fined for illegally operating a restaurant for 10 years. It’s amazing that anyone can operate a business in Seattle anymore.

    Comment by Twobottles — 7:46 pm March 30, 2012 #

  8. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of dealing with DPD, you completely understand how this situation could arise. The people at DPD seem to make up the rules as they go along. You get different sets of requirements from different people, and the right hand never knows what the left hand is doing.

    Comment by apey — 8:09 pm March 30, 2012 #

  9. IDIOTS!!!!!!!!We must keep busy (goverment agencies)

    Comment by denise — 8:29 pm March 30, 2012 #

  10. Marination..walk away. U don’t want toc, but walk away. There r other locations.

    Comment by alkikmac — 10:53 pm March 30, 2012 #

  11. Having had the incredible misfortune of having to work with DPD on building projects – green, well intentioned projects at that – I can tell you that this the most incompetent, petty, dimwitted group of individuals I’ve encountered in 35 years of being in business. And I’m a fairly liberal guy – I can only imagine what an anti-government type would say.
    They’re also a ‘revenue driven’ department, meaning that staff salaries are paid by the fees they can squeeze out of businesses like Marination. And with so few construction projects going on these days, they squeeze and squeeze and squeeze some more. I can guarantee you that every builder, tradesman, and business person that has to deal with them has horror stories that would curl the toes of an old school Soviet party chief.
    Last year, one of their lead ‘permit specialists’ was even fired after the City ethics department was tipped off that he was also illegally ‘working’ for private developers, putting their projects on the fast track while burying others in the back rooms of bureaucratic hell. DPD’s reaction? A shrug. And of course, no charges were ever filed.
    This is an organization that kills real jobs and increases the cost of housing here for the sole purpose of protecting their own little fiefdom. And there’s not a damn thing that people like Marination can do about it. Sure, you can appeal their often arbitrary and capricious decisions but that just puts your project another three or six months behind. So basically you’re forced to grin and suck up to them in order keep things moving – or else. Public oversight is one thing, and very important, but I don’t think even Kafka could dream this group up. If you’ve ever wondered why the various builders organizations donate so heavily to the Republican party, now you know.

    Comment by brin — 11:20 pm March 30, 2012 #

  12. I agree, Brin. Kafka.

    Comment by Neighborly — 12:06 am March 31, 2012 #

  13. I think it’s time to … GET JESSE, http://www.king5.com/news/get-jesse DO IT!

    Comment by Mike — 12:32 am March 31, 2012 #

  14. Folks, calm down, this is Seattle.

    Comment by Admiral935 — 1:17 am March 31, 2012 #

  15. We’re from the government. We’re here to help you. It took two days for them to cook up a comment to this story. How long will it take for them to issue a permit? Sheesh.

    Comment by Jennifer — 5:59 am March 31, 2012 #

  16. Why???? Do they keep their job? Who do they report to?? This is not ok even if it is Seattle. I thought Seattle was “better” than this. Well, I used to think this. SAD for us.

    Comment by denise — 8:10 am March 31, 2012 #

  17. Welcome to lesson one in ” owning your own small business in Seattle”…

    Comment by heidi — 9:29 am March 31, 2012 #

  18. The key quote from DPD is this: “We have a complaint-based enforcement team, and the issue was never brought to our attention until now.”

    Translation: someone with knowledge of the permitting process is using DPD to hit Marination, presumably out of anger at the change in concessionaire. This is proxy warfare between the complainant and Marination, DPD’s bureaucratic inflexibility is just the means to an end.

    Comment by Someone has it out for Marination — 9:37 am March 31, 2012 #

  19. Wsb: please just copy and paste the comments from the last story on this issue to here. We are saying the same thing.

    Comment by Alex — 9:50 am March 31, 2012 #

  20. This feels like a bit of poetic justice to me.

    Comment by monroe1200 — 10:29 am March 31, 2012 #

  21. Mr. Mayor: show us some leadership for once and get this project moving. To lose the summer season is unconscionable—to the new tenants and for the public that once enjoyed a nice meal or a beer at the former restaurant.

    Comment by Bill Brewer — 10:31 am March 31, 2012 #

  22. “We’re from the government – We’re not happy until you’re not happy”!!

    Comment by flynlo — 10:33 am March 31, 2012 #

  23. Sounds like karma is biting them back.

    Comment by Chord — 10:41 am March 31, 2012 #

  24. Bureaucracy: It’s not just for breakfast any more.

    “It is the duty of citizens from time to time to kick the government hard. To remind it that it is a dog and a servant, not a wolf and a master.”
    - Anonymous

    Comment by Jim P. — 11:50 am March 31, 2012 #

  25. Karma? Give me a break. Marination has done nothing wrong or underhanded here.

    Comment by redfoxx — 11:59 am March 31, 2012 #

  26. Seriously, don’t attack Marination for going through a normal application process for winning the bid. It’s not poetic justice, it’s not karma, it’s a case of too much power in the hands of a government entity. Time to vote in some people willing to do what it takes to support a growing business community in Seattle. (Sadly, I never see this kind of candidate on the ballot.) Want more jobs? Stop making it ridiculously difficult for businesses to function in the city.

    Comment by Tuesday — 12:58 pm March 31, 2012 #

  27. 100% agree with “Tuesday”

    Comment by Mike — 3:00 pm March 31, 2012 #

  28. Typical DPD behavior.
    City of Seattle needs to go to rehab…

    Comment by Gobierno — 5:05 pm March 31, 2012 #

  29. Maybe we could develop the site into a kafkaesque theme park, like where you get not food until you ask for but when you ask for it you have to stand in an endless line. Or you sign a contract and then the city canges the rules so you have to sign a new contract, where they change the rules again. Or where the mayor begs for jobs and his departments boycott him.
    What, already done?

    Comment by Holy crap — 5:05 pm March 31, 2012 #

  30. Tuesday, if I remember correctly, Mallahan was dismissed outright for his business background.

    Comment by CandrewB — 5:45 pm March 31, 2012 #

  31. Is shutting down the water taxi in the works, too? It’s sure going to look desolate down there. It’s already a ghost town dock. Ah, a new park, maybe? Couldn’t the city just bring back AFC and call the whole thing a wash?

    Comment by Bill — 7:51 am April 1, 2012 #

  32. No, the water taxi is not shutting down. Just hired an administrator, in fact, as reported here Friday: http://westseattleblog.com/2012/03/new-water-taxi-boss-king-county-ferry-district-administrator-hired

    Comment by WSB — 7:57 am April 1, 2012 #

  33. I think Marination should turn around and Sue the City for breach – sue for the lost profits that this “Bureaucracy” is creating. Marination stands to loose significant capital by not being able to move forward. They were sold a bill of goods with the whole RFP process. Since the whole bid was based on the operation of a restaurant, the fact that the permits don’t exist boarders on fraud…A nice big lawsuit might move the 2 sides to settle this quickly – or give the silly government what it deserves – a good, expensive, tongue lashing by the courts…

    Comment by genessee hill — 9:16 pm April 1, 2012 #

  34. As property owner, Parks should be aware of what its tenants are doing with the property. This screw-up is not DPD’s fault. DPD reviews development PROPOSALS and responds to complaints. Since property use is not a life-or-death issue, DPD does not go around policing properties without JUST CAUSE. Angry people, get a grip and quit being so utterly PEEVISH.

    Comment by Not blind — 10:33 am April 2, 2012 #

  35. Its Marination’s choice to “deal with the devil”. If they had chosen any other private property they would probably be selling food out of something that doesn’t have 4 wheels by now, or certainly before they will be able to at Seacrest.

    Sounds like a downside to the benefits of having stronger laws and enforcement to protect our environment. Changing use, owners, contract all have the potential to disrupt grandfathered-in exceptions or general over-looking by places like Seattle Parks/DPD

    Comment by GP — 12:15 pm April 2, 2012 #

  36. To Sally Bagshaw and the revenue hounds – wasn’t this the justification for choosing Marination – this will be a blow. Remember what happened to the Alki Market when they stayed closed through a summer.

    Comment by MISTER — 8:24 am April 3, 2012 #

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