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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

Making Changes to 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.

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:

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.

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.


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