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.