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Landmarks and Designation

Landmarks A-Z | Designation Process | Making Changes to a Landmark | City Ordinance | Rules and Regulations | Secretary of the Interior Standards | Public Notices | Current Nominations | Sample Nominations
Download PDF of Landmark Preservation brochure

Nomination and Designation Processes

There are four steps to the landmarks designation process: nomination, designation, controls and incentives, and a designating ordinance:

Nomination
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.(Download Nomination Form)

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.

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.

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.

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).

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