Letter to the editor: Ebb Tide — thousands of legal hours and counting


The State Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments concerning an access easement dispute on Wednesday, July 19. Owners of the Edmonds Ebb Tide disagree with the City of Edmonds’ assertion that the purpose of a 1983 access easement is to allow for a pile-supported walkway that is usable year-round.

The city says it has envisioned a continuous waterfront walkway since the 1960s. The 154-foot-long desired walkway has been branded the “Missing Link” by city officials.

If this was envisioned in the 1960s, why didn’t the city negotiate an access easement in 1983 that was crystal clear as to what the city’s rights were?  Why have Edmonds taxpayers been made to pay for roughly 4,000 city attorney legal hours since the city decided to argue this is a justiciable controversy?

Edmonds City Council is the branch of the city government with the authority to approve litigation efforts. Should that approval be a one-time event?  Does the Ebb Tide access easement matter inform us that the city council should be required to approve the continuance of litigation efforts at certain milestones?

For example: Would it be wise for the city council to reapprove litigation efforts after each 500 hours billed by the Edmonds city attorney?

I hope the city council considers this. Could those thousands of legal hours have been used better elsewhere?

Ken Reidy

  1. Yes to all that Ken said. Even if raised on piers the easement is for 10 ft. The design shown earlier has a walkway of 4ft and to 2 side horizontal ledges raised above the 48-inch walkway. Two wheelchairs or two strollers cannot pass. Would that mean some sort of one-way traffic for wheelchairs and strollers or a new design?

  2. There’s got to be a better and far less costly way to build a pathway that completes the “link” in front of Ebb Tide. The walk across the beach easement is already feasible at most tides, and is only blocked at high tide. It seems crazy to contemplate a bridge on piers just for the convenience of beach walkers at high tide. Has the City considered neighborly alternatives? Is the mega million dollar bridge just a bullying tactic to try to force a settlement? Who knows, the powers that be are pursuing this to the end, right or wrong.

    All the taxes spent on legal fees to sue our neighbors could have paid for a lot of sidewalks in the neighborhoods.

  3. Once again, the City of Edmonds is pushing its own agenda, and not listening to its citizens. We much more need repaired and safely walkable sidewalks. We need cameras to identify and fine speeders and a new noise level ordnance for excessive auto, truck and motorcycle noise pollution in town.
    Money for legal fees is again a reminder why the current administration is the wrong one for Edmonds.
    Lets elect new citizen representatives to our next administration who are grounded and function on behalf of us, not their own self serving interests.

  4. Thanks Darrol, John and Dennis. I think a strong argument can be made that there is much wrong with what has taken place since 2017 and much uncertainty looking forward.

    As a taxpayer of Edmonds, I apologize to the Ebb Tide owners. Our city government used significant taxpayer money to fund the City Attorney to initiate multi-year litigation against fellow property owners who did nothing wrong. The Ebb Tide owners have faced this ordeal related to something they dedicated to the city in exchange for $1.

    I wonder if the city would spend 4,000 legal hours and counting pursuing litigation against somebody who had done something wrong. I know city officials are willing to not address their own conduct such as not having the required public hearing for Ordinance 4210.

    Should the Court of Appeals rule in favor of the city, I suspect this is far from over. For example:

    Does the city have adequate rights to construct a pile-supported walkway?

    Will new litigation be necessary for the city to pursue a temporary construction easement?

    If the walkway is constructed, how will the city get people to not trespass on Ebb Tide’s private beach and only use the walkway?

    1. Since when does anyone else or any entity have a right to a “private beach”? The beach belongs to us all. I’m tired of the Ebb Tide holding us all hostage. Put a reasonable walkway in that we can all enjoy, on OUR beach. Folks with walkers, wheechairs, strollers…cannot enjoy their own beach!

  5. This boils down to Public Trust Doctrine in Washington State. The State Supreme Court has affirmed that private tide land owners can restrict access when the tide is out. Therefore an easement is required to allow access for a third party when the tide is out. They can not restrict vessel movement over the water when the tide is in. For example I can take my kayak across private tide lands when covered by water.

    City of Edmonds is attempting to build a structure across private tide lands owned by the Ebb Tide. This has never been attempted and is uncharted legal territory. Legal question at hand, does the easement grant the City the right to construct structures on private property?

    1. Thanks Jay for adding helpful information to this discussion.

      There was a fascinating case a year or two ago that involved Friends of Guemes Islands Shorelines [FOGIS], a community nonprofit suing property owner Kevin Duncan for the right to walk across his tidal shoreline property.

      Unfortunately, (from memory) I think the case never reached a final conclusion because the property owner sold the property and a new case wasn’t filed against the new property owner.

  6. Thanks for your comments, Patricia.

    Private ownership of beach and tidelands has always been legal in Washington State. The beach belongs to the owners of the Ebb Tide. It is not our beach.

    All the city has is a 10-foot wide, 154-foot-long Access Easement. This was granted to the City of Edmonds by the property owners for consideration of $1 back in 1983.

    The city filed a lis pendens over six years ago casting a pall over the Ebb Tide’s property rights. I find that disturbing.

    This litigation is about the scope of the Access Easement and what the city is allowed to do within that 10-foot wide space.

    If the Court of Appeals rules in favor of the city and if the city can secure further temporary access for construction purposes, the pile supported walkway will be the only way for the public to cross that 154 foot length of property without trespassing.

    I think the Ebb Tide access easement matter teaches us that the city council should be required to approve the continuance of litigation efforts at certain milestones. I suspect the dollar cost for those 4,000 hours exceeds $1 Million and climbing.

  7. The Ebb Tide HOA has an amazing opportunity to be thoughtful citizens and contribute to the waterfront enjoyment of the entire community. It is time to work out a mutually acceptable plan for a walkway across their property? Neither the City nor Ebb Tide can afford more expenses for ongoing litigation. I’m certain that as the issue became more adversarial both sides drew lines in the sand (literally and figuratively) refusing to budge but it’s not too late for compromise. Basically that beachfront should be open to all and whatever legal restrictions occurred in the past were flawed. Come on, Folks, it’s time to reach agreement and restore a beachfront walkway as it always should have been.

  8. Thanks Eric for posting the link to the informative article. Washington State has long allowed for private ownership of land down to the low water mark.

    The City of Edmonds website has an excellent GIS map which shows how far out property boundaries extend. Snohomish County also offers its helpful SCOPI Map.

    There is much private ownership of beach and tidelands within Edmonds city limits.

    Those who want beachfront to be open to all can request our state legislators to consider new laws, assuming such new laws would be allowed under our State Constitution.

    I thank the Ebb Tide owners for granting the city an easement back in 1983 so the public could cross their land. I feel bad that their kind act opened the door to great difficulties years later.

    1. As far as I’m concerned, the “missing link” is our elected city officials past and present who have conspired to make this a big multi million dollar mountain instead of the mole hill it should be. Just route the trail around the building that should never have been allowed and quit wasting the tax payers’ and current owners’ money. Some good city government finally; PLEASE!

  9. Where do the current mayoral candidates and city council candidates stand on the taking of private citizens land and costing the taxpayers and the land owners hundreds of thousand dollars? There is an eminent domain process in this state, but the city must not have met those standards in this case. With the current elections upon us, the citizens deserve a straight yes or no answer from each candidate on the taking of the private Ebb Tide property. Candidates, please respond on how you stand on the taking of private land owners rights.

  10. Fred, great ask. This will get interesting, since we have five past city mayors, some of whom were part of this vision for “the missing link,” ganging up against the one mayoral candidate who has already come out publicly suggesting this might not be the best way for us to be spending our scarce resources.

    Think about that. These five past mayors are promoting, with maximum sums of cash donations in two cases that they even leveraged up with their wives donating the max. too, and supporting highly illogical rhetoric in all cases, that a relative newcomer and total novice in municipal government has superior credentials to someone with thirteen years experience on council and a background in banking regulation. They must think we are all really dumb. Not sure how they sleep at night; doing such a number on their former fellow dedicated public servant.

  11. Clint, I’m still waiting for the candidate you support and all the other candidates to respond.
    My question is not about who or whom has donated to any campaigns. Let’s move forward and get straight answers for the people who say they want to represent us. It’s pretty simple just a yes or no question. As a taxpayer I expect answers from elected official and people wanting be elected officials. The taxpayers need accountability about the city spending our tax dollars and protecting our property rights. Any candidate can sent their answer to me through MEN.

  12. Fred, I totally respect and support your position on this, but do question why you are asking for private answers in a public venue. Just go to their websites and ask them to respond, if you just want a private answer. I can guarantee you my candidate will respond either publicly or privately because she already has publicly. My point is, if we’d had “NEEDS” always first mayors all along, we wouldn’t be in this predicament to begin with. The “missing link” is so obviously a private property issue and a total WANT, not a need, so why are we at this point? It’s because we have too often had mayors and council persons with bad economic judgement and that needs to end sooner than later.

  13. Clint
    I want all the current candidates to speak publicly on the property rights land issue. Who knows it my be your land next or mine that the city council and mayor want to take part of or all.
    These candidates that get elected are public servants! So if they want to work for the people answer the question in public, the voters deserve truth and honesty. We the people all want to hear the same answer, whether you agree or disagree with the answer.

  14. Fred,
    Exactly and well put my friend. More substance and less camaraderie and endorsements by association that don’t mean much in reality.

  15. Thanks for making this request, Fred. I hope all current candidates will respond.

    I encourage people to appreciate that the threat is real – that the City of Edmonds is willing to go to great lengths to impact your private property rights.

    City of Edmonds Ordinance 3729 documents that the city retained a 5-year long easement on my property specifically for a private developer’s private use.

    I appreciate you introducing the concept of eminent domain to this discussion. Public Need versus Public Want. Lots to consider when it comes to that topic.

    Oral Arguments take place this morning at 9:30 AM. I am fairly certain the hearing can be watched live at tvw.org.

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