Frequently Asked Questions

The staff of Seattle's Historic Preservation Program is pleased to work closely with citizens, residents, businesses, and property owners on their concerns and needs involving historic landmarks and districts. Based on years of contact and dialogue with the public, we have distilled the following answers to the most frequently asked questions.

General Questions

1. What is a historic landmark?

In Seattle, a building, object, or structure may be eligible to be listed as a historic landmark if it is more than 25 years old and the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board determines it fits one or more of these categories:It is the location of or is associated in a significant way with an historic event with a significant effect upon the community, city, state, or nationIt is associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the history of the city, state, or nationIt is associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural, political, or economic heritage of the community, city, state or nationIt embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, period, or a method of constructionIt is an outstanding work of a designer or builderBecause of its prominence of spatial location, contrasts of siting, age, or scale, it is an easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood or the city and contributes to the distinctive quality or identity of such neighborhood or city.Owners who think their property might meet these criteria can nominate the property as a landmark by contacting the Historic Preservation Program at (206) 684-0228. See the Official City of Seattle Landmarks for examples of the nearly 200 properties that have been nominated and designated as landmarks. Properties may also be eligible for listing by the State of Washington or in the National Register of Historic Places. (See What is the National Register of Historic Places?)

2. What is a preservation district?

The Seattle City Council designates a historic neighborhood as a preservation district at the request of the people who live and own businesses there or, in the case of the Pike Place Market, voters across the city. Working with the local community, the Council establishes guidelines and a special preservation review board of neighborhood representatives to protect significant architectural features and sometimes the use of buildings and structures in the district. Seattle has seven preservation districts, each with a special flavor and each with neighbors working together to protect the characteristics that make their community a unique place. These districts include the Ballard Avenue Landmark District, Columbia City Landmark District, Fort Lawton Landmark District, Harvard-Belmont Landmark District, International Special Review District, Pike Place Market Historical District, and Pioneer Square Preservation District. The seven districts are also listed in the National Register of Historic Places with slightly different boundaries. (See What is the National Register of Historic Places?)

3. What is the value of historic preservation?

One writer, Steven Tiesdell in Revitalizing Historic Urban Quarters, answers this question by describing seven key benefits that historic preservation offers.Aesthetic value - "Old buildings and towns are valued because they are intrinsically beautiful or because they have a scarcity value .In a world of rapid change, visible and tangible evidence of the past may also be valued for the sense of place and continuity it conveys."Architectural diversity - "The aesthetic appeal of an historic place may result from the combination or juxtaposition of many buildings rather than the individual merits of any particular building."Environmental diversity - "there is often a stimulating contrast between the human scale environment of a historic quarter [district] and the monumental scale of the more modern central business district."Functional diversity - "a diverse range of different types of space in buildings of varying ages, enables a mix of uses...Historic areas may offer lower rents that allow economically marginal but socially important activities to have a place in the city."Resource value - "Whether beautiful, historic or just plain practical, buildings may be better used than replaced the reuse of buildings constitutes the conservation of scarce resources, a reduction in the consumption of energy and materials in construction, and good resource management."Continuity of cultural memory / heritage value - "Visible evidence of the past can contribute educationally to the cultural identity and memory of a particular people or place, giving meaning to the present by interpreting the past."Economic and commercial value - "Historic buildings usually possess scarcity, [which] can present opportunities for tourism." Coupled with tax and other incentives the cost of utilizing them is often lower than for other alternatives.

4. What kinds of changes can be made to property located in a preservation district or listed as a landmark?

There are fewer restrictions than you might think since the goal is to manage change, not to eliminate it. Protection is provided by review and approval of modifications to the exteriors and, in some cases, the interiors of buildings. In other cases, building use is monitored. Review guidelines and the process of applying for a Certificate of Approval to make a change vary depending on the district or landmark. Consult the Historic Preservation Program at (206) 684-0228 or the Internet homepage for the preservation district where your property is located.

5. How do I get approval to make a change?

If you plan to make any change to the exterior of a structure in a preservation district or to a landmark, contact the Historic Preservation Program as early as possible so we can recommend next steps. In some cases, as in the Pike Place Market, changes to the interior also require approval. You may visit our offices or call (206) 684-0228 for additional questions. See Getting Approval to Alter a Historic Property for a description of the approval process.

6. How do I know which Seattle landmarks and districts are officially listed as historic?

See Official City of Seattle Landmarks and the map on the Historic Preservation homepage that shows where the districts are located.

7. How can I nominate a building for Seattle landmark status?

Anyone can nominate a building, structure, or object by submitting a completed nomination format to the Historic Preservation Program. The landmark designation process consists of nomination, designation, negotiation of a Controls and Incentives Agreement between the owner and the city, and adoption of an ordinance by the Seattle City Council. See What is the process for nominating a landmark? for details.

8. How is the City's historic preservation program administered?

The Historic Preservation Program, part of the Department of Neighborhoods, oversees historic preservation. Its primary objectives are to encourage the rehabilitation and reuse of historic properties for public and private use; to promote the recognition, protection and enhancement of landmark buildings, objects and sites of historic, architectural and cultural significance in Seattle; and to identify, protect, preserve and perpetuate the cultural, economic, historical and architectural qualities of historic landmarks and districts throughout the City.Division staff support the Landmarks Preservation Board and the boards and commissions tied to the seven preservation districts. They also assist in developing and implementing the City's historic preservation policies and programs. Karen Gordon, (206) 684-0381, is the Historic Preservation Officer and Director of the Historic Preservation Program.

9. Where can I learn the history of an old building?

A good place to start is the Puget Sound Regional Repository of the Washington State Archives, (206) 439-3785. The archives contains King County Property Tax Records ("PR"s) from the late 1930s to early 1940s, most with photographs the archivists will send to you for a small fee.The King County Cultural Resources Division has a useful guide to "Researching Historic Houses" which also applies to commercial buildings. Call (206) 296-7580 and ask for Technical Paper No. 5.The Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority offers a lecture series, "Preserving Your Old House," that includes tips on researching a house's history. The office will also mail printed information on the topic. Call (206) 622-6952 for details.If the property is listed as a Seattle landmark or is within a Seattle preservation district, contact the Historic Preservation Program at (206) 684-0228 for a copy of the landmark nomination form which includes much historical information.If the property is listed on the State or National Register of Historic Places, contact the State of Washington's Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation at (360) 586-3065 to order a copy of the nomination form.

10. What is the National Register of Historic Places?

The National Register of Historic Places is the authoritative guide used by federal, state, and local governments, private groups, and citizens to identify the nation's significant historic resources. While the actual register (or list) is maintained by the National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior, in Washington, D.C., the program is administered by the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) in each state. Many Seattle properties (including buildings, structures, sites, objects and districts) are listed in the National Register through a nomination process involving review by the State Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP) in Olympia and subsequent formal actions by the State Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the SHPO. Nominations are reviewed and recommended to the National Register based on firmly established criteria used to evaluate the property's significance in American history, architecture, engineering, archaeology and culture as well as its integrity in terms of location, design, setting, materials and workmanship. First authorized under the1935 Historic Sites Act, the National Register was expanded to the current program under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.Since the late 1960s, over 140 of Seattle's historic and cultural resources - including individual buildings, archeological sites, bridges, ships and seven preservation districts - have been listed in the National Register. In fact, the Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market preservation districts were among the first National Register districts in the nation to be listed. Investment tax credits, facade easements, and grants-in-aid are among the incentives for National Register properties. See What benefits do I receive for owning a Seattle landmark property or property in a preservation district?The Washington State Register of Historic Places was established in 1967 to recognize valuable buildings and sites which are considered to be significant to the State but do not qualify for listing in the National Register. (All National Register properties are automatically listed in the State register.) OAHP administers the State Register and coordinates historic preservation programs statewide.

11. What is Section 106 Review?

The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 created the current National Register of Historic Places program. NHPA also included provisions known as Section 106 Review that ensure that historic properties listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register are considered during Federal project planning and execution.In order to expedite this federal review process at the local level, the City of Seattle entered into a Programmatic Memorandum of Agreement with the State Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP) and the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Based on this agreement, the City's Historic Preservation Program has authority to evaluate project proposals and, in consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), make formal decisions related to Section 106 Review. This expedited review is limited to those projects that utilize federal funding and assistance available through the City's Department of Housing and Human Services.Section 106 Review involves determining whether a federally permitted, licensed, or funded project affects any historic resources and, if so, how to minimize that effect. This review is mandated by the NHPA and is the trade-off that a property owner or project proponent must make in order to take advantage of federal funding or assistance.

Step 1: Determination of Eligibility 
The proposed project site is reviewed according to established National Register criteria to determine if the specific property or any adjacent structure, site or district is listed or eligible for listing on the National Register. If the subject property is determined "not eligible" and if there are no adjacent properties determined eligible, Section 106 Review is complete and the project may proceed without additional design review.

Step 2: Determination of Effect 

If the subject property or any adjacent resource is already listed or determined "eligible" for listing in the National Register, then a formal Determination of Effect is made. The Determination of Effect is based on a detailed clarification of all proposed construction activities - both interior and exterior in the case of rehabilitation - and includes plans, specifications, and photographs related to the proposed project. The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation are the basis for this determination, as well as for the Part 2 Certification process for federal rehabilitation ITC (investment tax credit) projects. The Determination of Effect is reviewed for final approval by OAHP based on recommendations prepared by the Historic Preservation Program.Every effort is made at the local level to resolve any conservation or preservation issues and to mitigate any potential damaging impacts. When there is a failure to agree on appropriate conservation or preservation approaches, differences are resolved through consultation between all interested parties and the preparation of a Memorandum of Agreement between those parties, OAHP, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Altering Designated Landmarks

1. What kinds of changes can I make to property located in a preservation district or listed as a landmark?

There are fewer restrictions than you might think since the goal is to manage change, not to eliminate it. Protection is provided by review and approval of modifications to the exteriors and, in some cases, the interiors of buildings. In other cases, building use is monitored. Review guidelines and the process of applying for a Certificate of Approval to make a change vary depending on the district or landmark. Consult the Historic Preservation Program at (206) 684-0228 or the Internet homepage for the preservation district where your property is located.The following changes require a Certificate of Approval before work can begin, even if no permit from the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is required.

  • Any change to the exterior of any building or structure
  • Installation of any new sign or changes to existing signs
  • A change in the color the building or structure is painted
  • Any change in a public right-of-way or other public space, including parks and sidewalks - this may include sidewalk displays, street lights and so forth
  • New construction
  • Demolition of any building or structure
  • Changes to the interior that show from the street, changes to individual business spaces in the Pike Place Market, and changes to the interior of some landmark buildings
  • Site alterations in some cases
  • A proposed new business or service or an expansion of current use in some cases

2. How do I get approval to make a change?

Before you make any change to a structure or site in a preservation district or to a landmark, contact the Historic Preservation Program so we can recommend next steps. You can reach us at (206) 684-0228. Specific requirements vary by district, but in general the approval process consists of these steps:Step 1: Complete an application for a Certificate of Approval. Landmarks and preservation districts have separate application forms since requirements vary. The Historic Preservation Program will send you an application. See Instructions for Applying for a Certificate of Approval for additional information about the process.Step 2: Submit the original of the completed application, any other required information, and a check to cover the administrative fee. Mail or deliver it to the Historic Preservation Program.Step 3: The Historic Preservation Program Coordinator checks your application for completeness and compliance with guidelines. After your application is determined complete, the coordinator places it on the agenda for the next public meeting of the Board or Commission responsible for overseeing your property. In some cases, the coordinator will also schedule you to meet with a Design Review, Architectural Review or Use Review Committee. These committees meet prior to the full Board meeting and make a recommendation to the full Board.Step 4: At the full meeting of the Board, you present your application and the members vote on it. Based on the vote, your application is approved, approved with conditions, or denied. You are then issued a Certificate of Approval or a Letter of Denial.

3. Can I appeal the decision on my application for a Certificate of Approval?

Yes, there is an appeal process. Each board or commission has a specific appeal procedure that should be consulted. All appeals are made by the City of Seattle Hearing Examiner, 700 5th Ave, Suite 4000, PO Box 94729, Seattle, WA 98124-4729, (206) 684-0521. A $50 filing fee must accompany the appeal. The Hearing Examiner's decision is the final City review.

4. Must I get a Certificate of Approval before I get a permit from another city department?

Yes, you must obtain a Certificate of Approval before the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) will issue a building, sign, or master use permit or the Engineering Department will issue a street use permit.

5. How long does it take to get approval for a change?

Because the purpose of having citizen boards is to ensure neighborhood interests are represented, it is the Board, not staff, that determines if the proposed work is eligible for a Certificate of Approval. The approval process takes place at a regular Board meeting after the Historic Preservation Program Coordinator determines your application is complete. However, if you submit an incomplete application, the process depends on when you to submit all the information required for the Board to review your proposal in an informed manner.

6. What are the chances a change will be approved?

If your building is located inside a preservation district, review of the ordinance that established the District and the use and design guidelines developed to protect it are your best measure as to whether the change you want to make is appropriate. For a landmark, consult the designating ordinance or the Controls and Incentives Agreement for that property.

7. What happens if I make a change without a Certificate of Approval?

If unapproved work is in process, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) will issue a "stop work" order at the request of the Historic Preservation Program. The business or property owner then must submit an application for approval to the appropriate board or commission. If the change is not approved, the owner may be required to undo the change and repair any damage to the historic building at his or her own expense. If a change is not made as represented and approved, a Certificate of Approval can be revoked. Contact the Historic Preservation Program before you start any project by calling (206) 684-0228.

8. Why must I get a Certificate of Approval for a change that doesn't require a building permit?

Different City departments have jurisdiction over different aspects of development. The design changes you may want to make may not involve structural changes requiring review by the Department of Planning and Development. However, they will affect the appearance of the building, so must be reviewed under the District or landmark design standards that apply.

9. Why do I have to get a Certificate of Approval and a building permit?

The two reviews are separate processes. The application fee for a Certificate of Approval is very nominal, just $10.00 for use review. For exterior changes, it is $10.00 for the first $1,500 of construction costs and $10.00 for each additional $5,000 of construction costs up to a maximum fee of $1,000.

10. Why do I need approval to alter a newer building that's located in a preservation district?

The overall importance of a preservation district relies on the visual contribution of everything in the District. A newer building must meet design and use standards that ensure its compatibility with the rest of the District.

11. Can I get preliminary feedback on a project?

Staff at the Historic Preservation Program can provide feedback. Any of the preservation Boards or their subcommittees can grant preliminary approval. For large-scale projects, applicants are encouraged to meet with the Design or Architectural Review Committee to work through design issues on a phased basis.

For Individual Owners of Landmark Properties

1. What benefits do I receive for owning a Seattle landmark property or property in a preservation district?

Seattle offers a number of incentives to owners of landmark properties and properties within preservation districts. These include:

    • Special Tax Valuation for Historic Properties - In 1985 the Washington State Legislature passed a law allowing "special valuation" for certain historic properties. Prior to that time, owners who rehabilitated historic buildings were subject to increased property taxes once the improvements were made. Special valuation establishes a period of up to ten years during which rehabilitation costs approved by the local review board are subtracted so that taxes do not reflect substantial improvements made to the property. The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board is the local review board for the purposes of the law.
    A property eligible for tax relief, as defined by the Seattle City Council, must meet three criteria:
    • It is a designated landmarks subject to a designating ordinance by the Seattle City Council or it is a contributing building located within a Seattle preservation District or National Register District.
    • The property must have undergone an approved rehabilitation within the two years prior to the date of application.
    • Rehabilitation must be equal in cost to at least 25 percent of the assessed value of the building or structure, exclusive of land value, prior to rehabilitation. "Qualified rehabilitation expenditures" are expenses chargeable to the project and include improvements made to the building within its original perimeter, architectural and engineering fees, permit and development fees, loan interest, state sales tax, and other expenses incurred during the rehabilitation period. Not included are costs associated with acquisition of the property or the enlargement of the building. Expenditures are based on the I.R.S. definition of Qualified Rehabilitation Expenditure.
  • Interested property owners must file an application by October 1 with the King County Assessor's office after the rehabilitation work has been completed. The Assessor transmits the application to the Landmarks Preservation Board for review. The Board reviews and approves the application, confirming the cost of the rehabilitation and its compliance with previous Board approval. Once approved, the property owner signs an agreement with the Board for a ten-year period during which time the property must be maintained in good condition. The owner must obtain approval from the Board prior to making future improvements. If the property is sold, the new owner must sign the same agreement for the special valuation to remain in effect.
  • Building Code Relief - The Seattle Building Code, which is adopted by the City Council to accompany the Uniform Building Code, allows the Director of DPD to modify specific requirements of the building code for landmark buildings. This is significant because the building code requires that when there is a conflict between a general requirement and a specific one, the specific requirement is applicable. There are two additional incentives for owners of designated landmarks subject to a designating ordinance.
  • Zoning Code Relief - The Director of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) may authorize a use of a designated landmark not otherwise permitted in that zone. The Seattle City Council authorized this flexibility in order to encourage the preservation and use of historic buildings. An owner must file an application with DPD to be considered for a variance. Approval is subject to certain development standards that include approval by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board.
  • Zoning Code Provisions for Downtown Seattle Landmarks - A Transfer of Development Rights program is available for Seattle landmarks located in downtown, retail and mixed use areas. Such a landmark in a downtown residential zone is exempt from any restriction on commercial density so long as the building is restored and committed for long-term preservation and contains residential floor area equivalent to that occupied by housing as of June 1, 1974. The Code also identifies fifteen buildings in the retail core for which a bonus for a major retail store or performing arts will not be granted unless the building facade is preserved. Development on the site that results in the destruction of a designated Seattle landmark is not allowed to acquire additional development rights through a floor area bonus.

2. What are the benefits of owning property in a preservation district or listed in the National Register of Historic Places?

Listing in the National Register makes it is eligible for several economic benefits.When an owner donates a facade easement, that is, grants control of the property's facade to a nonprofit organization, the owner takes a charitable tax deduction based on the easement's appraised value and the nonprofit organization controls any changes made to the facade. Buildings listed in the National Register are eligible for certain types of grants-in-aid, information on which is available from the Washington State Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP) in Olympia at (360) 586-3065. The federal Tax Reform Act of 1986 permits owners and some lessees of buildings listed in the National Register to take a 20 percent income tax credit on some rehabilitation costs. Contact OAHP for details.

3. What should I tell tenants in my historic building?

Tell tenants they are in a designated landmark or preservation district which grants them special benefits because of its unique character, but requires certain responsibilities of business owners in order to maintain that special character. This Internet site contains several pages that will help your tenants understand their responsibilities, Answers to 11 Questions About Historic Preservation in Seattle, Getting Approval to Alter a Historic Property, Information for Owners of a Business in a Preservation District, and the homepage for the preservation district where your property is located.

4. What kinds of changes can be made to property located in a preservation district or listed as a landmark?There are fewer restrictions than you might think since the goal is to manage change, not to eliminate it. Protection is provided by review and approval of modifications to the exteriors and, in some cases, the interiors of buildings. In other cases, building use is monitored. Review guidelines and the process of applying for a Certificate of Approval to make a change vary depending on the district or landmark. Consult the Historic Preservation Division at (206) 684-0228 or the Internet homepage for the preservation district where your property is located.The following changes require a Certificate of Approval before work can begin, even if no permit from the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is required.

  • Any change to the exterior of any building or structure
  • Installation of any new sign or changes to existing signs
  • A change in the color the building or structure is painted
  • Any change in a public right-of-way or other public space, including parks and sidewalks - this may include sidewalk displays, street lights and so forth
  • New construction
  • Demolition of any building or structure
  • Changes to the interior that show from the street, changes to individual business spaces in the Pike Place Market, and changes to the interior of some landmark buildings
  • Site alterations in some cases
  • A proposed new business or service or an expansion of current use in some cases

5. How do I obtain a Certificate of Approval to make a change?

Before you make any change to a structure or site in a preservation district or to a landmark, contact the Historic Preservation Program so we can recommend next steps. You can reach us at (206) 684-0228. Specific requirements vary by district, but in general the approval process consists of these steps.

Step 1: 
Complete an application for a Certificate of Approval. Landmarks and preservation districts have separate application forms since requirements vary. The Historic Preservation Program will send you an application. See Instructions for Applying for a Certificate of Approval for additional information about the process.

Step 2: 
Submit the original of the completed application, any other required information, and a check to cover the administrative fee. Mail or deliver it to the Historic Preservation Program.Step 3: 
The Historic Preservation Program Coordinator checks your application for completeness and compliance with guidelines. After your application is determined complete, the coordinator places it on the agenda for the next public meeting of the Board or Commission responsible for overseeing your property. In some cases, the coordinator will also schedule you to meet with a Design Review, Architectural Review or Use Review Committee. These committees meet prior to the full Board meeting and make a recommendation to the full Board.

Step 4: 
At the full meeting of the Board, you present your application and the members vote on it. Based on the vote, your application is approved, approved with conditions, or denied. You are then issued a Certificate of Approval or a Letter of Denial.

6. What happens if I make a change without a Certificate of Approval?

If unapproved work is in process, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) will issue a "stop work" order at the request of the Historic Preservation Program. The business or property owner then must submit an application for approval to the appropriate board or commission. If the change is not approved, the owner may be required to undo the change and repair any damage to the historic building at his or her own expense. If a change is not made as represented and approved, a Certificate of Approval can be revoked. Contact the Historic Preservation Program before you start any project by calling (206) 684-0228.

For Businesses in Historic Districts

1. Why do I need to get approval to put up a sign?

Design guidelines help retain a District's historic flavor which attracts tourists and other customers. The Board for each Seattle preservation district that contains commercial buildings has adopted specific guidelines for signs. This helps ensure that the District retains the unique appeal that distinguishes it from other shopping districts or malls. Design guidelines also ensure that signs do not multiply and detract from the architectural features of the buildings and that individual signs neither damage a building when installed nor obscure visibility into street level restaurants or retail establishments.

2. What kind of sign can I use to advertise my business?

Requirements vary by District, but in all cases signs must be compatible with the building on which they are installed. Although it may seem that a bigger or brighter sign is necessary to attract attention, that is not always the case. In fact, if all the businesses on a block put up showy signs, it becomes difficult for a customer to see any one sign because of the resulting visual clutter.See the Internet homepage for the District where your business is located to learn more about specific requirements concerning a sign for your business.

  • Ballard Avenue Landmark District
  • Columbia City Landmark District
  • Fort Lawton Landmark District
  • Harvard-Belmont Landmark District
  • International Special Review District
  • Pike Place Market Historical District
  • Pioneer Square Preservation District

3. I am planning to repaint my storefront. Do I need approval?

If your planned repair work is "in-kind," meaning that the exact color will be repainted, you do not need approval since this type of project is considered to be routine maintenance and repair. However, if you plan to repaint a different color or make any other changes to your storefront, you need approval from the appropriate Board or Commission.

4. What kinds of changes can be made to property located in a preservation district or listed as a landmark?

There are fewer restrictions than you might think since the goal is to manage change, not to eliminate it. Protection is provided by review and approval of modifications to the exteriors and, in some cases, the interiors of buildings. In other cases, building use is monitored. Review guidelines and the process of applying for a Certificate of Approval to make a change vary depending on the district or landmark. Consult the Historic Preservation Program at (206) 684-0228 or the Internet homepage for the preservation district where your property is located.The following changes may require a Certificate of Approval before work can begin, even if no permit from the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is required.

  • Any change to the exterior of any building or structure
  • Installation of any new sign or changes to existing signs
  • A change in the color the building or structure is painted
  • Any change in a public right-of-way or other public space, including parks and sidewalks - this may include sidewalk displays, street lights and so forth
  • New construction
  • Demolition of any building or structure
  • Changes to the interior that show from the street, changes to individual business spaces in the Pike Place Market, and changes to the interior of some landmark buildings
  • Site alterations in some cases
  • A proposed new business or service or an expansion of current use in some cases

5. How do I obtain a Certificate of Approval to make a change?

Before you make any change to a structure or site in a preservation district or to a landmark, contact the Historic Preservation Program so we can recommend next steps. You can reach us at (206) 684-0228. Specific requirements vary by district, but in general the approval process consists of these steps.

Step 1: 
Complete an application for a Certificate of Approval. Landmarks and preservation districts have separate application forms since requirements vary. The Historic Preservation Program will send you an application. See Instructions for Applying for a Certificate of Approval for additional information about the process.

Step 2: 
Submit the original of the completed application, any other required information, and a check to cover the administrative fee. Mail or deliver it to the Historic Preservation Program.

Step 3: 
The Historic Preservation Program Coordinator checks your application for completeness and compliance with guidelines. After your application is determined complete, the coordinator places it on the agenda for the next public meeting of the Board or Commission responsible for overseeing your property. In some cases, the coordinator will also schedule you to meet with a Design Review, Architectural Review or Use Review Committee. These committees meet prior to the full Board meeting and make a recommendation to the full Board.

Step 4: 
At the full meeting of the Board, you present your application and the members vote on it. Based on the vote, your application is approved, approved with conditions, or denied. You are then issued a Certificate of Approval or a Letter of Denial.

6. What happens if I make a change without a Certificate of Approval?

If unapproved work is in process, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) will issue a "stop work" order at the request of the Historic Preservation Program. The business or property owner then must submit an application for approval to the appropriate board or commission. If the change is not approved, the owner may be required to undo the change and repair any damage to the historic building at his or her own expense. If a change is not made as represented and approved, a Certificate of Approval can be revoked. Contact the Historic Preservation Program before you start any project by calling (206) 684-0228.

CAM3000