Advocacy Alert: Support City of Seattle’s Historic Preservation Program

In his proposed 2011 City Budget, Mayor Mike McGinn proposes significant cuts to the Department of Neighborhoods’ Historic Preservation Program. Here’s an opportunity for all you preservation supporters out there to let Seattle City Council know that the program is important.

Proposed Cuts and Impacts

The Mayor’s budget proposes to eliminate one of two Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) Coordinator positions, specifically, the position that is responsible for coordinating the Board’s design review process for approximately 175 Landmarks and reviewing Landmark nominations for properties located in downtown Seattle, South Lake Union, and First Hill neighborhoods. In addition, funding for citywide surveys and inventories are proposed for elimination.

We understand that the City is facing a severe budget shortfall in 2011. However, by eliminating one of the LPB Coordinator positions, there will be significant, adverse effects on the Historic Preservation Program as a whole. The program relies on the volunteer nature of Boards and Commissions as well as neighborhood support. More than ever, it is important for the City to leverage this broad-based support to create stable, sustainable, and economically viable neighborhoods. Maintaining staff levels is critical for the continued betterment of the places that matter to us. Given the ordinance-mandated design review process for the more than 400 individual landmarks and seven historic districts, reducing staff levels will negatively impact property owners, developers, business owners, and the general public. The review of landmark nominations by the LPB will be reduced to a quarterly basis from the current twice-a-month meeting schedule. In addition, the current twice-a-month board/commission meetings for the International Special Review District, Pioneer Square Historical District, and Pike Place Market Historical District will be reduced to one meeting a month.

The loss of this position will cause severe negative impacts on development citywide:

  • Development projects will be greatly delayed if project proponents must wait for Landmark nomination and designation during the permitting process.
  • Certificates of Approval will be significantly delayed.
  • Master Use Permit and SEPA referrals will be delayed because the 14-day review period will be extended to 28 days or longer.

The loss of this position will cause severe negative impacts on owners of City Landmarks, business and property owners in designated historic districts, and the general public:

  • Limited outreach will be provided to the public.
  • Limited technical assistance will be provided to those preparing nominations.
  • Limited technical assistance will be provided to property owners and tenants in the Certificate of Approval process (no site visits to discuss proposed changes).

What You Can Do

  • Attend one of the two remaining City Council Budget Committee hearings on Wednesday, October 13 or Tuesday, October 26, and testify to the importance of restoring funding of the Downtown Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator position.
  • If you are unable to testify in person, please call or e-mail Seattle City Councilmembers and voice your support for preservation and ask them to restore funding of the Downtown Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator position.
  • Whether testifying in person, by phone or via email, please try to personalize your statement by saying why the Historic Preservation Program is important to you and why it’s important to restore funding to the program so that we all continue to benefit from the high quality of staffing and service the program provides. Most likely you’ll feel the negative impacts outlined above. City Council needs to hear how this will happen.