Seattle.gov Home Page
Seattle.gov This Department
Link to Department of Neighborhoods Home Page Link to Department of Neighborhoods Home Page Link to Department of Neighborhoods About Us Page Link to Department of Neighborhoods Contact Us Page
Bernie Agor Matsuno, Director
EventsGet InvolvedNewsResourcesCustomer Service Bureau
Historic Preservation
Landmarks and Designation
Historic Districts
Historic Resources Survey
Meeting Schedules, Agenda/Minutes
Preservation Incentives
Application Forms
FAQs
Southeast Seattle History Project
Contact Us
Neighborhood Matching Fund
Neighborhood District Coordinators
Outreach and Engagement
P-Patch Community Gardening Program
Major Institutions and Schools
Frequently Asked Questions
Businesses Located in Historic Preservation Districts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Neighborhoods Home | About Us | Contact Us | Events | Get Involved | News
Resources | Customer Service Bureau