Edmonds waterfront ‘missing link’ back in the courts

Signage alerts walkers to not trespass on the Ebb Tide private beach (Photo by Larry Vogel)

Lawyers for the Association of Apartment Owners of the Edmonds Ebb Tide on Friday filed the anticipated appeal to reverse last year’s decision to allow the City of Edmonds to construct an elevated pedestrian walkway on its existing easement across the Ebb Tide’s private beach.

The appeal was filed with the Washington State Court of Appeals Division 1.

This walkway would remove the “missing link” from the waterfront promenade, thereby providing a continuous pedestrian route from Marina Beach to Brackett’s Landing North.

 

The issue boils down to how to interpret the 1983 easement agreement between the City of Edmonds and the Ebb Tide. The city maintains that the easement allows construction of the proposed walkway, the Ebb Tide maintains that it does not, and both sides have turned to the courts for a decision.

In 2017, the city proposed a plan for an elevated walkway across its easement, and asked the court for a declaratory judgment that would clear the way to move forward with this project.  This was followed by years of court filings by the Ebb Tide and the City of Edmonds, during which lawyers for both sides invested thousands of hours presenting to the court their rationale for interpreting the easement language in their favor.

After five years of legal haggling, on Oct. 16, 2022, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Millie M. Judge ruled in the city’s favor, opening the way for Edmonds to move forward with construction of an elevated walkway to connect the north and south sections of the Waterfront Promenade.

In response, on Nov. 17, 2022 attorneys for the Ebb Tide filed a notice of appeal to the Washington State Court of Appeals Division 1. Friday’s formal filing follows through on this (see the full document here).

See the complete history of the issue, including proposed construction drawings and links to relevant court filings, in our earlier story here.

— By Larry Vogel

  1. There is a reason I drive to richmond or mukilteo. Going to visit the Edmonds waterfront is a huge PITA most of the time, and the snobbiness of the local residents always discourage anything remotely fun. Richmond and mulkilteo are fun to visit. Edmonds beach is not. It’s a downer to visit except for the 1-2 yearly events that bring in crowds. Now dealing with snob water front residents? Enjoy figuring out who “owns” the access to land once it’s underwater.

    1. I’ve been walking the Edmonds waterfront from one end to the other 2 to 3 times each week for numerous years. I have no idea what you are talking about.

      1. I would love to see a walk way there. We have to walk through the sand to cross that park and it sucks to walk around the building when the tides are high. The residents need to look around and see other properties have the same thing going on.

      2. Can you believe the City of Edmonds, and some of the council, believe a bridge across on of the most pristene beaches of Edmonds is in the publics best interest…SHOCKING

    2. The beach in front of the Ebb Tide is private property of which we pay taxes. We have allowed people to cross over our beach as being “good neighbors”.
      Many times, people sit and enjoy our beach, out of the designated crossing area.
      All you people who feel entitled to this private property, would you be ok if the public came into your yard and sat in it and with their dogs (by the way, dogs are not permitted on the Edmonds beaches)?
      You have two options to go from Point A to Point B: the beach or on the sidewalk. No problem for years.

      1. I have walked that area for years….of course no one walks through your yard..but the beach? Yes, somehow your HOA has access to the waterline….but, a trail through giving you access
        to the beach but no one else except at tide level..should be a solution…. Are you cooperative or not? Remember..Edmonds is not Mt. Carmel….the two homes south are all cooperating…Ebtide could negotiate and be seen as a part of Edmonds ambiance…..

        1. Hi Samuel, feel free to suggest “Compromises” to me. We allow thousands of people to access our beach each year. We just dont believe a bridge belongs on our/your beach!

        2. Not sure I propose a “Bridge” one having already been built….Why can’t Ebb Tide folks get a tax waiver
          for the area from their retainer wall to the water? One does not need a “Construction project” to sully the tidal beach just for access when wave action often hits the retainer wall….I have walked the LaConner canal walk and that is an entirely different situation…..there was no beach there….
          Innovative ideas are needed for the public to pass all along that beach…and yes, some abuse that and bring dogs as well….perhaps some delineated stakes marking a way through with signage would suffice. And yes, there will always be scoffers and dog-draggers

      2. You should check out washington’s waterfront ownership laws, basically impossible to own that portion of the beach based on tide, activity, you don’t own it, and it’s certainly not akin to a yard. You want a private yard? Buy a house, you can’t own the beach. You’re wasting my taxpayer dollars with this silly appeal, we aren’t wasting yours.

  2. I will look forward to when this missing gap is fixed, and certainly hope that Ebb Tide is charged for every penny of the cities legal fees their frivolous lawsuits.

    Let’s fix that ugly gap, and move on.

    1. My walking group walks here regularly, and we’re perfectly fine just walking a section on the street and re-joining the waterfront walk by the senior center. People who live there have a right to a private beach, IMHO.

      1. The entire Edmonds waterfront is ADA compliant except for that portion. The gap is very hard for anyone with a stroller.

        From what I have seen, the residents of Ebb tide have been negotiating and acting in bad faith. I think that charging Ebb Tide for all of the city legal fees plus interest would be a good way to add consequences for their negative actions.

    2. The City of Edmonds sued the Ebb Tide. So
      you should be angry at the City for spending so much of taxpayer monies.
      It is hypocritical for the City to create regulations
      and provide personnel to protect and preserve its, “Marine Sanctuaries”. This concrete structure would destroy the habitat. I thought our priority was the environment?

  3. Ii support the people who own condos on the lowest floor. They spent a considerable amount of money to have the view they have and deal with flooding etc. I have been walking on the beach for 24 years and it isn’t a problem to walk on sand or go around. You will generally find me walking there most days of the week.
    Marta Card

  4. People walking along the waterfront and beach have a problem with walking on sand? Really! If you prefer concrete then Sunset Ave. is there with the same view.

  5. The elevated walkway the city is proposing is a concrete pier like structure that would be built 10 ft out onto the beach. Do we as the citizens of Edmonds want to pay 1-2 million dollars for 100 ft of an ugly concrete elevated walkway? We can well use the money for much more needed projects in Edmonds. Also driving 3 ft pilings 30 feet down into the sand would destroy the eco systems of the marine sanctuary beach.

    1. Exactly, I mean how out of place would a raised walkway look, so few natural stretches of beach left in the city center and we want to close this beach to build an elevated walkway, in my opinion this is a very bad idea. Also don’t forget someone will have to open and close it for pedestrians during major storms, king tides, etc. No we do not want pay for a 100ft ugly concrete walkway. Print a few signs pointing out how to get around the gap or use the millions of dollars to build sidewalks along 8th Ave South so I can quit playing dodge the walkers everyday all day.

      1. I like the pier area that Olympia has built and the City of La Conner. It’s great for walking and not out of cement. Bellevue has also built a nice walking pier over the lake.

      2. Piers and cement and constructed infrastructure infringe upon natural beach access, and high wave action, and would be an insult to the property owners whose view matters just as much as the folks up hill from the BNSF tracks who ceiling capped building heights….. Do not ram this magnificent obsession with
        infrastructure that will insult property owners and remove natural environmental views down their throats.
        The Sunset Ave. is an example of tinkering with resident disrespect.

  6. Not everyone is able to walk in the sand, having a pedestrian walkway allows for walkers, wheelchairs, strollers and others with mobility issues.

  7. Edmonds is a patrician town on many dimensions. The missing link is one. No outdoor cafes another. Money and the revenue brought to the city is the only determinant in the decisions. Unless there is clear legal support for filling the missing link, Edmond’s most prominent citizens will determine the outcome.

  8. In the state of Washington when you buy beachfront property you own the beach and it would destroy the the ecosystem of the beach driving pilings and putting a concrete walkway it’s already been proven that the little fishies the hatchlings for salmon need protection next to the water ways rip rap not bulkheads are
    best

  9. I feel no sympathy for Ebb Tide residents who might lose their precious “private” beach. I have never once seen a resident come out of the condos to utilize the beach itself; it seems like they just don’t want to see us plebeians out their windows. They simply want things their way and will fight for it, even if it doesn’t make a material difference in their lives. I hope they enjoy paying higher condo fees to cover all of the legal fees they’re no doubt racking up fighting this.

    What really needs to happen is for the state legislature to make all beaches public, but out dear politicians will never do that to their rich friends.

    The truth is that 99.99% of Edmonds residents do not live in Ebb Tide, so why are we restricting public access to a heavily-traveled beach just to please those 0.01%? Why was this even allowed in the first place?

    The issue of what the walkway will be is another issue–I think a freestanding raised walkway is not the best idea, but I don’t know what else would work ADA-wise.

    1. What a great idea! Just as in Oregon, all beaches were made public by the government. Such a wonderful place to vacation and uninterrupted beach access.

  10. “The truth is that 99.99% of Edmonds residents do not live in Ebb Tide, so why are we restricting public access to a heavily-traveled beach just to please those 0.01%? Why was this even allowed in the first place?” I believe that this statement from Ryan sums up this issue perfectly.

    1. This is exactly how our city public officials think both past and present. Edmonds is never quite good enough as it is, we just have to make it a little grander. Never mind our needs, it’s our wants that need attention. 99.99% of Edmonds residents don’t live at my house ether. That doesn’t mean I want all of them tramping thru a city sponsored walkway across my front yard blocking me from direct access to the rest of my front yard. If the shoe was on the other foot, there would be much protest and cries of foul behavior on the part of the city.

    2. Ron, assuming this is you, what difference legally does it make if only .01 % of Edmonds residents live in the Ebb Tide? State law is clear that if you own beachfront in Puget Sound you own to the low mean tide level of the beach. Private property period. You are property taxed accordingly. If the City wants a right of way it can institute Condemnation proceedings and pay fair market value.

      1. Yes Mark. Undoubtedly the Ebb Tide owners are due appropriate compensation for any of their property included in a deal with the city.

      2. Mark, Exactly. The people at the Ebb Tide simply want to keep what they paid for or at least get fair compensation for it, if it’s taken away.

        Ron, asks, “why was this allowed in the first place?” It was allowed because ideas of rightful ownership of “the beach” were different then. When the Nelson Apt.s (original name) were built (click on and read the owner’s appeal Brief) private ownership of “the beach” was a given. There were several boat houses on the beach with rail trams across “the beach” for launching small boats. These trams were built on private, not public, property but public trespass was pretty much a given and normally not enforced much.

        Times have changed and ideas about the the public owning “the beach” have changed. The Nelson Apt.s (now Ebb Tide) started the whole concept of height limits and public rights to views in our town.

  11. Recent research has found evidence for how big a Tsunami is likely to be in northern Puget Sound for a major vertical slip of the earthquake fault on the ocean coast. It is around 30 feet of wave height. If this occurs at high tide, Ebb Tide and many, many more water front locations will be swept away with deadly effect. Fortunately we have robust Tsunami warning systems that may warn people enough they can escape up to above 5th Avenue.

    We should be considering not allowing people to build properties in a Tsunami zone. (Now I am gonna hear some grousing!!!)

  12. Right. I say we move the Port and the Waterfront Center up to the 99 Corridor; just to be on the safe side with these pesky Tsunami’s we will be having soon. We failed to prevent potential disasters with the Connector; so we don’t want to be wrong twice.

  13. Thanks, I think I read this when it first published.

    Reading it again, I guess the only thing the city could have done better was just outright acquire the whole beach in 1983.

    In my opinion, the city should utilize eminent domain to acquire the entire beachfront from Ebb Tide. If the condo owners want to push the matter, Edmonds can and should push back. We should not let a small group of privileged condo residents dictate how one of the most popular public spaces in Edmonds will be used.

    1. The city sued the condo owners; not the other way around. The game is to make the owners look like the bad guy while our shifty city leaders try to steal their property instead of paying for it like they should. Using eminent domain would make the city look like the bad guy; but the right thing to do under the circumstances that exist today. Last time I looked America was all about private property ownership and individual freedom; not government ownership of everything, including all the beaches.

      1. Good points Clint. I looked into the history of tidelands ownership a few years ago (unrelated to this property). What I recall learning is that when Washington was granted statehood (1889) the federal government turned over ownership of all tidelands to the state. Kind of a per of becoming a state. Until the late 1940’s or 50’s the state saw the sale of these tidelands as a revenue generator and in most areas if you wanted to purchase tidelands adjacent to your property, you could. And many people did. The state later actually extended the tide land deeds to Low Low Water instead of Mean Low Tide in some cases (meaning the ownership rights went further out). So, the state made a business decision in the past. Seems they (we) need to live with it or find a way to agreeably purchase the land rights back. (Not knowing if this is the case on the Edmonds waterfront of course – just some general info I learned.)

        1. Or we can use eminent domain to force their hand in selling it to the city. It’s clear that the residents and condo board don’t want to negotiate in good faith and are only trying to tie things up in court at the taxpayers’ expense, so let’s just skip to what’s probably going to happen anyway if we really want our beach back.

          I found differing numbers for the total units, but assuming the highest number of units I saw at 21, and assuming 6 people live in each (not even remotely realistic), the people in that single building make up less than The residents of that condo building make up less than .3% of the total population of Edmonds, and probably more like 0.1% in reality. Why are we worried about these peoples’ “rights” to what should clearly be public property? Pay them for the land, but don’t let them draw this out any longer.

      2. Sure, America at large is obsessed with private property ownership (which isn’t a real concept, in reality the federal government owns every square foot of land within our borders aside from First Nations Reservations; you just buy the rights to use the land for your house, your business, the natural resources, etc. The land still belongs to the federal government.) but that doesn’t mean we have to perpetuate that notion forever. We can change things if we want to, it’s just a matter of Old Thought vs. new.

  14. Thanks for the kind and thoughtful reply Darrell. When I came on the scene here in 1959 as a 13 year old geek; the waterfront was an entirely different place from now. It was pretty much a place for business’ to make money which used “the beach” however they chose; and I suspect their ownership of it was just assumed, if not actually part of the actual legal deed. With the exception of a few modest cottages or beach cabins; housing and official City or Port public recreation facilities did not exist. When the Nelson family proposed a serious (very high rise) apartment building business on their beach property all Hell broke loose in town. I was a 14 year old geek then, and attended City Hall protests with my Dad.

  15. The roughly 4,000 legal hours spent on the Ebb Tide matter (so far) is an example of how far Edmonds City Government is willing to go against its own citizens over an easement dispute. What else could Edmonds taxpayers have gotten in exchange for those 4,000 legal hours? For example, could those hours have been used to rewrite our City Code, something needed for over 20 years?

    Furthermore, all 4,000 legal hours have been spent prior to the city disclosing exactly how this walkway will be constructed. Is Edmonds City Government going to need to go after more of the Ebb Tide’s private property to facilitate construction? If so, will City Council vote to authorize that type of legal action? Will Council do so despite the uncertainty of how many legal hours and City Staff hours such a future legal effort would require?

    If the elevated walkway is constructed, whose burden will it be to keep the public from trespassing on private beach to the west of the proposed elevated walkway?

    Can a city government take steps that cause property owners to be blocked from direct access to part of their private property?

  16. Above is a link to the entire file for the appeal. You can go to the link and see a bunch of information about the proposed structure to comply with the easement. The link below may help and on pages 76,77 and 78 you will see the proposed design.

    Microsoft Word – Final Brief Revision (003) (dpa730eaqha29.cloudfront.net)

    Look at page 77. You will see that the actual walking surface is 48 inches wide and then it goes up 12 inches and then goes horizontal 3 ft on either side of the walking surface. No hand or guard rails for they would exceed the height in the easement.

    Other numbers to consider. A typical baby stroller is 27-32 inches wide. A typical wheelchair is similar in width. Even the smallest ones could not pass on the 48-inch-wide surface. A north bound and south bound chair or stroller would have to have some sort of one at a time process. Two men would also have trouble passing without touching shoulders.

    Other areas of the existing walkway have far more width capacity. This “missing link” part suffers from a missing width in the current design.

    1. Since we can’t have railings and it appears it is almost too narrow for people to pass each other; we can put a little stop and go light at both ends of the thing and have an attendant on duty at all times to escort people, and be sure they don’t fall off as they navigate it. The attendant will also be available to immediately shut the thing down when the tides and wind make it impassible as the sea level rises and the Ebb Tide gets flooded in the process (they already have pumps to keep the lowest level dry when necessary). Great plans and forward thinking as usual Edmonds City. Sort of reminds me of plunking an art fountain in the middle of Main Street.

  17. A reader pointed out that the link in my post above does not open. To get to that information go to the opening article and toward the bottom you will see this: (see the full document here). Click on that link and then go to pages 76,77,78 to see the drawings that support the comments made above.

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