Skip to main content
Twitter YouTube Print E-mail a friend this page Share this page

Shoreline Master Program

What is a Shoreline Master Program

Shoreline Master Programs are local land use policies and regulations that guide the use of Washington shorelines. SMPs apply to both public and private uses. They protect natural resources for future generations, provide for public access to the shorelines, and plan for water-dependent uses. SMPs implement the 1971 Washington State Shoreline Management Act. Kirkland's SMP applies to land within 200 feet of Lake Washington's ordinary high water mark and within wetlands connected to Juanita Bay and Yarrow Bay.

In Process - Kirkland Shoreline Master Program Update

Kirkland Is undertaking a periodic review of our SMP, as required by the Shoreline Management Act (SMA). The SMA requires that each SMP be reviewed and revised if needed to stay up-to-date with changes in laws and rules, Comprehensive Plan policies and development regulations, and changed circumstances, new information and improved data. A separate webpage is dedicated to this update, including key documents, timelines and various opportunities for public involvement. There you will find the latest information on the progress of the SMP periodic review update. 


How do Shoreline regulations apply to land use and development?

Shoreline regulations apply to any change in land use or development activity that occurs within the shoreline jurisdiction. Development regulated by the SMP includes:
- New or expanded structures, such as houses, sheds and decks;
- Land development and alteration, such as clearing, grading, dredging or filling; and
- Other activities along the shorelines, including restoration (e.g. riparian planting, bank stabilization), trail construction, and public access.

How does the SMP affect existing uses and development

SMP regulations are not retroactive. SMP regulations apply to new development and uses. Existing uses and developments legally established may be repaired, maintained and operated. The SMP applies to proposals for expansion or alteration of existing uses and structures. 

Structures and uses that were legally established in the past may become legally nonconforming due to new shoreline rules that are adopted over time. Current SMP regulations allow these previously built structures and established uses to continue as they are presently operating. 

What is public access to shorelines? When is it required?

Public access is a preferred use per the SMA. Public access can include physical access (e.g., trail) and/or visual access (e.g., view corridors). Public access standards apply to new development, not existing development. Generally, new public access is only required for private uses of certain sizes (e.g., large subdivisions, multifamily projects, etc.) and for public uses. Public access requirements do not allow for trespass on private property.

What is No Net Loss?

The SMP Guidelines establish the standard of no net loss. No net loss means that over time, the Citywide existing condition of shoreline ecological functions should remain the same as when the SMP is implemented. Simply stated, the no net loss standard is designed to avoid or minimize impacts resulting from new shoreline development. The City must achieve this standard through both the SMP planning process and by appropriately regulating individual developments as they are proposed in the future. Any amendments to the SMP that may occur through the periodic update process would need to comply with the no net loss standard.

Kirkland Shoreline Regulations - Highlights

  • Shoreline setback standards tailored to various areas of the City based on existing construction and differences in parcel depth (KZC Section 83.180)
  • Options and alternatives provided in several of the regulations.  Examples are:
    • Alternative single-family pier design options if approved by permitting Federal and State agencies (KZC Section 83.180)
    • Demonstration of need not required for a bulkhead to protect against erosion for an existing home located 10 feet or closer to the lake (KZC Section 83.300)
    • Setback reduction option if certain shoreline improvements are made (KZC Section 83.380)
    • Alternative native planting option (KZC Section 83.400)
  • Thresholds for major vs. minor repair of piers (KZC Section 83.270 - 83.290) and bulkheads (KZC Section 83.300)
  • A decision tree of options for shoreline stabilization measures based on building setback, bulkhead height, lake depth at bulkhead, nearshore slope, and upland slope (KZC Plate 43)
  • Projects exempt from the State Substantial Development Permit (SDP) must be submitted to the City for review of compliance with the SMP and issuance of an exemption form (KZC Section 141.40)
  • Replacement of hard shoreline stabilization with soft shoreline stabilization or natural shoreline exempt from an SDP (KZC Section 141.40)

Benefits of and Ideas on Creating a Green Shoreline


Selecting Northwest Native Plants for Shorelines

View resourcesexternal link icon to aid learning about northwest native plants.

Planning & Building Department
123 5th Avenue, Kirkland WA 98033

General Inquiries:
Building Questions
Building_Services@kirklandwa.gov
Planning Questions
PlanningInfo@kirklandwa.gov
T. 425.587.3600 | F. 425.587.3232