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Shoreline Master Program Periodic Update


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Project Update

At the February 4th Council Meeting, the City Council deliberated on several amendment items and directed staff to provide additional background on three items; pier Length,  the Administrative Approval Option, and Non-Conforming Overwater Structures.  At the upcoming March 3rd Council Meeting, the three items will be discussed, and a draft ordinance will be before the Council for consideration.  The staff memo and draft ordinance are available on the City Council website for the March 3rd meeting.

At the request of the Kirkland City Council during the November 6th Council Meeting, staff held a third Community Meeting for the Public to learn about the proposed amendments and identify concerns with the SMP Periodic Updates and current SMP Codes and Policies. The meeting was held on December 17th at Kirkland City Hall and was attended by 26 shoreline property owners, staff, and the City's consulting shoreline and fisheries biologists from The Watershed Company.

The meeting covered two main topic areas; 1) amendment review, and 2) comments and concerns from public. Staff reviewed nine code amendments that came out of the Planning Commission and Houghton Community Council deliberation and final recommendation, which were preliminarily approved by the Washington State Department of Ecology. The shoreline property owners voiced concerns regarding both the proposed amendments and the existing policies within the SMP. Please check out the presentation (PDF 8MB) from staff and review the November 6th Council Meeting memo and proposed Ordinances (O-4700 and O-4701) for additional background.

The final proposal with required changes from the Department of Ecology is scheduled to be heard by the Kirkland City Council at the November 6, 2019 Council Meeting  for final consideration and local adoption.

The Planning Commission and Houghton Community Council held two joint public hearings on April 25 and July 25, 2019 to consider the proposed amendments and take public comment. The April 25th hearing also included the Department of Ecology. The Planning Commission and Houghton Community Council have now made their recommendations to adopt the draft amendments, with some changes. 

The proposed amendments, all public comments, and City responses have been sent to the Department of Ecology for their review. Ecology will review amendments for consistency with state laws and rules. After Ecology review, the amendments may be revised further as appropriate. After local adoption by the Kirkland City Council and Houghton Community Council, the SMP amendments will be formally submitted to Ecology for final action per WAC 13-26-104 and WAC 173-26-110. Ecology may either approve the program as adopted or may recommend changes necessary for approval.

The draft amendments are available for review in the box at the right.

City staff held an open house before the April hearing and two additional public informational meetings. Meeting #1 was for stakeholders to learn more about proposed amendments to the Shoreline Master Program (SMP) and provide comments on the amendments on May 21st. View the the City (PDF 928kb) and Ecology (PDF 907kb) Power Point presentations, meeting notes (onetwo and three), summary of comments received from participants (PDF 80kb) and the Q & A prepared to respond to these comments. Meeting #2 on June 18th focused on questions and concerns oriented to single-family shoreline development. View the power point presentation (PDF 914kb), meeting notes (PDF 1.0MB) and the summary of comments (76kb) received from participants.

The staff memoranda prepared for the April 25 and July 25 joint Kirkland Planning Commission, Houghton Community Council public hearings on the proposed amendments to the Shoreline Master Program (SMP) are available on the Planning Commission web page. They contain background information and links to previous meeting memoranda as well.

What is a periodic update of the Shoreline Master Program?  

Kirkland completed a comprehensive update of its Shoreline Master Program in 2010, with Washington State Department of Ecology approval.  State law requires jurisdictions to review and update their SMPs every eight years in accordance with the Shoreline Management Act, RCW 90.58.080 (4) and its current guidelines and legislative rules.  The City of Kirkland is undertaking a periodic review of our SMP.  The City is aiming to complete the update in the fall of 2019 for approval by the Washington State Department of Ecology. 


This periodic update will focus on:

  • Reviewing relevant legislative updates since the 2010 SMP update and incorporating any applicable amendments; 
  • Ensuring consistency with the Kirkland Comprehensive Plan;
  • Reviewing a list of SMP code amendments compiled since adoption in 2010 and incorporating clarifications, interpretations, and changes to address issues that have come up with shoreline projects; and 
  • Providing consistent critical area regulations within and outside the shoreline jurisdiction, by integrating Zoning Code Chapter 90 regulations adopted in 2016 and bringing them up to date with evolving best available science.

This periodic update will not:

  • Re-evaluate the ecological baseline that was established as part of the the 2010 SMP update;
  • Extensively assess no net loss criteria other than to ensure that proposed amendments do not result in degradation of the baseline condition; or
  • Change shoreline jurisdiction or environment designations


A “gap analysis” (PDF 137kb) will identify areas where the SMP is out of compliance with the SMA, the Comprehensive Plan and development regulations, and address issues that have come up with shoreline projects since adoption. The gap analysis (PDF 96kb) will also identify where the wetland and stream regulations could be amended for consistency with recent science or for clarity, before being incorporated into the SMP.  Staff and our consultant drafted revised SMP and Wetland Stream regulations based on the gap analysis and posted them to this website prior to study sessions in in front of the Planning Commission and Houghton Community Council in February.  The second draft was posted before the joint City/Ecology public hearing in April. A final draft of all amendments for the public hearing in July is now available for review. The City will also share the drafts with interested representatives from agencies, tribes, and neighboring jurisdictions. 

Consultant’s role in the update process: The City has hired The Watershed Company, a Kirkland-based environmental consulting firm with extensive experience working with other jurisdictions in the region, to provide advice on the amendments and assist with the technical analysis.  Technical work that The Watershed Company assisted with includes: determining consistency of the proposed SMP amendments with the Shoreline Management Act and the Growth Management Act, helping draft amendments to the SMP and to the wetland and stream regulations, and ensuring that any proposed changes are grounded in science and help balance the various competing objectives of the SMP, including environmental protection, and allowing multiple uses of the shoreline. All technical work by The Watershed Company has been reviewed by the City prior to integration into the proposed SMP amendments.

Technical Background Information: Scientific studies and literature review that were used in Kirkland's 2010 and 2011 SMP Comprehensive update can be viewed by following this link.

Regulatory Impacts to Single Family Private Property: Proposed amendments affecting single family waterfront property are primarily minor policy changes or clarifications of existing practices.  They are intended to improve understanding and administration of current regulations that guide development along the shoreline.  Many of the amendments will make it easier for single-family property owners to manage their shoreline, including amendments that reduce development buffers for certain types of wetlands, and provide incentives to replace hard shoreline structures – such as bulkheads – with more natural shoreline features.

Summary of proposed amendments:

  • Delete stream and wetland regulations from the SMP by referencing adopted Zoning regulations
  • Clarify text and incorporate two Zoning Code Interpretations - one addressing boat canopies and the other addressing pier bumpers, that have been in effect since 2012.
  • Revise the times when the public may access public shoreline trails and access points on private property. Revise the hours of accessibility in spring and summer to end at 10 minutes after sunset rather than at dusk, which is a recognizable and verifiable time.
  • Revise the minimum water depth requirement and residential pier length standards. Prevent navigation hazards and ensure consistency with Comprehensive Plan policy, while protecting aquatic habitat.
  • Eliminate depth standards for floats and ells attached to piers, and instead limit single family pier length to up to 10% more than the average of the adjacent neighboring piers or 150 feet (whichever is less) but allow 150 feet length where necessary to prevent the boat from sitting on the lake bed.
  • Delete the administrative approval option that allows less depth and/or wider and larger pier than the zoning code currently permits if federal and state agencies approve the deviation, so that local pier regulations prevail.
  • Allow two rather than one boat lift.
  • Add a setback reduction incentive for removal of 50% of a bulkhead. Incentivize replacing hard bulkheads with soft shoreline stabilization measures and restoring the shoreline to a more natural state.
  • Provide an option for reduced wetland buffers for certain wetlands, per Ecology best available science.
  • Change wetland ratings and corresponding buffer widths for moderate and low habitat scores in accordance with best available science.
  • Clarify the intent to limit wetland and wetland buffer modifications to those identified in specific sections of the wetland code.
  • Investigate designating the bald eagle as a species of local importance, since they have been delisted from federal and state protection.

 Project Schedule:

View the project work program (PDF 119kb)

Public outreach to Date: 

  • February 9, 2019 1,395 postcards sent to all property owners within shoreline jurisdiction and emailed to stakeholders, and provided press releases notifying of proposed amendments providing link to website, and providing courtesy notice of February study sessions.
  • Public notice signs with flyer posted at 4 Waterfront Parks (Houghton Beach, Marina, Juanita Beach, Denny)
  • February 25, 2019 Houghton Community Council Study Session
  • February 28, 2019 Planning Commission Study Session
  • March 5, 2019 City Council Briefing
  • March 20, 2019 notice sent to 1,395 property owners within shoreline jurisdiction and emailed to stakeholders and ListServ subscribers and pushed out in press releases providing notice of 30-day joint public comment period/open house and public hearing
  • April 25, 2019 Open House
  • April 25, 2019 Joint PC/HCC Public Hearing with State Department of Ecology
  • May 21, 2019 Public Meeting with City and Ecology staff
  • June 12, 2019 Small Group Meeting
  • June 18, 2019 Public Meeting with city and Ecology Staff
  • July 11, 2019 notice sent to 1396 property owners within shoreline jurisdiction and emailed to stakeholders, parties of record, and ListServ subscribers and pushed out in press releases providing notice of the July 25th public hearing.
  • July 25, 2019 Second Joint PC/HCC Public Hearing

Public Comment:

Comments will continue to be welcomed up to local adoption by the Kirkland City Council, tentatively scheduled for October or November 2019. Formal written comments should be directed to Christian Geitz at Comments will be forwarded to the City Council for their consideration. 

For more information:

You may view the official file (Permit # CAM19-00026) at the Planning and Building Department or contact project planner, Christian Geitz at (425)-587-3246, or  Please refer to File CAM19-00026.  More information is also available at the main Shoreline Master Program web page.

Subscribe to the project ListServ to receive email announcements.


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