Since 1973, Seattle has designated more than 450 individual sites, buildings, vehicles, vessels, and street clocks as landmarks subject to protection by city ordinance. This section contains a step-by-step guide to Seattle's landmark process; answers to frequently asked questions; Landmark Preservation Board minutes, schedule, and agendas; staff contacts; and instructions and a printable PDF form to apply for a "Certificate of Approval" to modify a designated landmark.
Rules an Regulations
2015 Landmarks Preservation Board Agendas and Minutes
April 10, 2015 | Agenda - Architectural Review Committee
May 1, 2015 | Agenda - Architectural Review Committee
May 20, 2015 | Agenda
May 29, 2015 | Agenda - Architectural Review Committee
June 3, 2015 | Agenda |
June 12, 2015 | Agenda - Architectural Review Committee
June 17, 2015 | Agenda |
June 26, 2015 | Agenda - Architectural Review Committee
July 1, 2015 | Agenda |
There are four steps to the landmarks designation process: nomination, designation, controls and incentives, and a designating ordinance:
A nomination for City of Seattle landmark status may be submitted by any person or group. A standard nomination application, available from the Historic Preservation Program, must be completed and reviewed by the City Historic Preservation Officer for adequacy. A nomination form and information packet may be obtained by requesting one from the Historic Preservation Office. Once the submitted nomination application has been determined to be adequate, the nomination will be scheduled for consideration by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board at a public meeting.At the public meeting, the Board may approve the nomination in whole or in part.
Another public meeting is scheduled for designation 30 to 60 days from the date of approval of the nomination. Once a building is nominated, any alterations to the features that were approved for nomination require a Certificate of Approval. If the Board does not approve a nomination, the proceedings terminate and the property cannot be considered for nomination for five years, except at the request of the owner.
2. Designation Standards
In order to be designated, the building, object, or site must be at least 25 years old and must meet at least one of the six criteria for designation outlined in the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (SMC 25.12.350):
a) It is the location of, or is associated in a significant way with, a historic event with a significant effect upon the community, City, state, or nation; or
b) It is associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the history of the City, state, or nation; or
c) It is associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural, political, or economic heritage of the community, City, state or nation; or
d) It embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction; or
e) It is an outstanding work of a designer or builder; or
f) Because 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 the City.In addition to meeting at least one of the above standards, the object, site, or improvement must also possess integrity or the ability to convey its significance.At the public meeting on designation, the Board will receive evidence and hear arguments as to whether the site, building or object meets the standards for designation. If the Board does not designate the property, the proceedings terminate and the property cannot be considered for designation for five years, except at the request of the owner.
3. Controls and Incentives Agreements
If the Board designates a property, a Controls and Incentives Agreement for the landmark is negotiated by the Board staff with the property owner. Once an agreement is reached and signed, it is forwarded to the Landmarks Preservation Board for approval at a public meeting. Controls define those features of the landmark to be preserved and outline the Certificate of Approval process for changes to those features. Incentives may include, but are not limited to, zoning variances, building code exceptions, and financial incentives.
4. Designating Ordinance
When an agreement on the Controls and Incentives has been reached with the property owner and approved by the Landmarks Preservation Board, a designating ordinance is forwarded to the Seattle City Council for approval. The property owner can appeal the Board's recommendation on Controls and Incentives to the Hearing Examiner. The City's Hearing Examiner may modify the Board's recommendation and forward a decision to the City Council for consideration. Either party may appeal the Hearing Examiner's recommendation to the City Council.The nomination, designation, and Controls and Incentives process and appeal procedures are described in detail in the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (SMC 25.12).
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.
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 measures 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.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.
Certificate of Approval Process
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:
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.
Certificate of Approval Appeals 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.
To apply for a Certificate of Approval, please follow the instructions on this form:
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