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Historic Seattle’s Preservation Blog

Archive for the ‘Advocacy Update’ Category

Advocacy Alert and Update – December

Support P.J. Sullivan House Landmark Nomination        

There’s a significant historic property being considered for landmark nomination by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board on Wednesday, December 20, 2017.

The P.J. Sullivan House (1632 15th Avenue at E. Olive Street) on Capitol Hill was built in ca. 1898 for Patrick J. and Joanna Sullivan. P.J. Sullivan was the proprietor of Queen City Boiler Works before becoming engaged in real estate development. The house was designed in the Queen Anne style by the prominent architecture firm of Josenhans and Allan, credited for designing notable works such as the Marion Building at 818 2nd Avenue; the Cawsey C. C. House at 325 West Kinnear Place West; as well as Lewis, Clark, and Parrington Halls on the University of Washington campus.

Download the landmark nomination application here.

Historic Seattle will be supporting the landmark nomination of the Sullivan House and we urge you to do the same. Despite some changes to the exterior, we believe the house retains its integrity and ability to convey significance. This is an architecturally significant property that embodies the distinctive characteristics of the Queen Anne style. The house was originally built as a single-family residence but was converted to a five-unit apartment building. The 7,200 sf lot on which the house sits is zoned LR3 (Lowrise 3)—very desirable for redevelopment. Historic Seattle is monitoring the property which was listed for sale recently at $2.2M. Its current status is pending. Its future is uncertain but if you’re interested in saving the property, please consider connecting with the seller through the listing agent.

To support the landmark nomination, please submit your written comments via e-mail to Erin Doherty, Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator, at erin.doherty@seattle.gov, before 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 19th or attend the public meeting on December 20th at 3:30 p.m. and provide comments. The meeting will be held in Seattle City Hall (600 4th Avenue, Floor L2) in the Boards & Commissions Room L2-80.

Photo: historic view of Sullivan House; source: real estate listing for 1632 15th Ave)

 

Save the Reactor Update: It’s Not Over Until it’s Over

This summer, we shared the good news that the State Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that University of Washington (UW) is subject to the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO). This was a huge victory for preservation advocates and the City of Seattle. The Court held that the University of Washington is a state agency that must comply with the local development regulations adopted pursuant to the Growth Management Act (GMA).

Well, it’s not over until it’s over.

In September, the UW filed a petition to the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) claiming that the City of Seattle did not properly adopt the LPO pursuant to the GMA. Historic Seattle, Docomomo WEWA, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation were not named in the petition, but the three preservation organizations intervened in the petition to support the City of Seattle and to continue to be champions for historic preservation. The City and the three organizations filed separate motions to dismiss in October.

On October 31 (trick-or-treat!), the GMHB dismissed the case, finding that the UW, as a state agency, did not obtain the Governor’s consent to petition the GMHB for review, as required by the Revised Code of Washington; and that the UW’s petition was untimely on its face because its challenge of the LPO is about a quarter of a century too late—the appeal period is 60 days.

We were thrilled to see the case dismissed but knew that the GMHB’s dismissal of the case could be appealed to King County Superior Court. UW had 30 days (from October 31) to appeal. That date recently passed and there was no appeal by the UW.

Finally.

Preservation organizations Historic Seattle, Docomomo WEWA, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation have an open dialogue with the University about preservation on campus. We are hopeful for the future of the historic University of Washington campus.

Victory for Preservation in Supreme Court!

Screenshot of State Supreme Court oral arguments, October 6, 2017.

Screenshot of TVW video of State Supreme Court oral arguments, June 6, 2017.

An almost decade-long fight to protect historic resources at the University of Washington has culminated in a State Supreme Court ruling in favor of preservation advocates in the case—University of Washington vs. City of Seattle, Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. On July 20, the State Supreme Court of Washington issued its opinion—a precedent-setting unanimous decision—holding that the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO) applies to property owned by the University of Washington (UW). The Court ruled that the University of Washington is a state agency that must comply with local development regulations adopted pursuant to the Growth Management Act (GMA). The Court also held that the University is a property owner as defined by the LPO, overturning the trial court’s too narrow and technical decision that the UW is not an owner.

Oral arguments before the State Supreme Court took place on June 6 at the Temple of Justice in Olympia. If you really want to geek out on legal stuff, you can watch the proceeding on TVW here (about 45 minutes).

The importance of the State Supreme Court’s opinion in this case cannot be overstated. Read the entire opinion here and the article by the Seattle Times here.

In the week since the opinion was issued, Historic Seattle, Docomomo WEWA, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation have learned more about what this all means and what might be ahead. It’s our understanding that all state agencies (including state universities) must comply with local development regulations adopted pursuant to GMA. This is HUGE.

In the weeks and months ahead, we hope to meet with the City and the UW to discuss what this new world order will mean in the future. The UW recently released its 2018 Campus Master Plan. Will it be updated to reflect that the University is now subject to the LPO? Will the historic resource survey and inventory of the campus (soon to be completed) be updated to include language about local landmark or district eligibility? Will the University change its internal review of historic resources and transform it into a more public process, taking into account the very public landmark nomination and designation review process? These are just some of the questions we have.

The Supreme Court win won’t bring back the Nuclear Reactor Building (may it rest in peace), but it can help save other properties owned by UW in the future and may serve as an important precedent for future cases regarding historic properties across the state.

Historic Seattle thanks our attorney David Bricklin, partner organizations Docomomo WEWA and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Assistant City Attorneys Roger Wynne and Patrick Downs, and the Seattle Historic Preservation Program staff for their hard work to secure this collaborative victory for preservation. We appreciate the support of the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Futurewise, and the Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys who all submitted amicus briefs. We give a shout out to Abby Inpanbutr. Back in 2008, she was a graduate student in architecture at the UW. She alerted our three preservation groups about the threatened status of the Nuclear Reactor Building. Little did we know at the time that our advocacy efforts would be an almost ten-year fight. And finally, we offer a big thanks to our generous donors who have help to fund this effort!

Wait, there’s more! On October 6, in a ceremony in New York City, Historic Seattle, Docomomo WEWA, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation will be honored with a Docomomo US Modernism Award of Excellence in Advocacy for our Save the Reactor efforts. We wish the Nuclear Reactor Building had not been demolished, but its destruction was not in vain.

A version of this article was first published in the Docomomo US e-newsletter on July 20, 2017.

Photo: Advocates at a HeartBomb event celebrating the Nuclear Reactor Building, February 2015. The National Register-listed building was demolished by the UW in summer 2016. Photo by John Shea.

Preservation Advocacy News

University of Washington vs City of Seattle, et al.

On June 6, oral arguments were heard at the Washington State Supreme Court on the precedent-setting case between UW and City of Seattle, Historic Seattle, Docomomo WEWA, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

The fundamental issue is whether a public university is subject to a municipality’s preservation ordinance.

UW claims it is exempt from Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. Several justices questioned why UW complies with other City regulations (such as the Critical Areas ordinance) but not the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. Knute Berger of Crosscut discusses the key issues in this article.

Grab your popcorn and watch the 45-minute proceeding on TV Washington.

Save the Reactor Wins Modernism Award!

Speaking of the UW…The Save the Reactor campaign was awarded DOCOMOMO US’s “Advocacy Award of Excellence” as part of its 2017 Modernism in America Awards. The awards recognize the highest level of preservation efforts for preserving and documenting modern architecture, and sharing it with the public. This collaborative advocacy effort was commended for going well beyond most efforts and for its impact on the future.

City Released Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Mandatory Housing Affordability Implementation

Last month, the Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development released a DEIS for the Mayor’s Housing and Affordability and Livability’s Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) policy. The DEIS evaluates three alternatives for implementing zoning changes proposed under the MHA policy, and includes a section addressing historic resources. The DEIS does not include downtown, South Lake Union, Uptown, or the University District, where MHA is already proposed or in effect.

MHA will require new development to provide affordable housing on-site or contribute to a City fund for affordable housing. To implement MHA, the City would grant additional development capacity to allow for construction of more market-rate housing and commercial space. The proposed upzones will impact Seattle’s urban villages and other commercial and multifamily residential zones across the city.

Historic Seattle will be submitting public comments on the proposed alternatives and potential impacts on historic properties. We encourage you to submit comments. The public comment period has been extended to August 7. Click here to find out how to submit comments.

In our opinion, what’s being proposed will have a potentially significant adverse impact on historic preservation. We strongly believe that the City can achieve a balance that will ensure that how we grow is sustainable and resilient while retaining urban character and sense of place. If Seattle continues its tear-down mentality, the city will lose what makes it a vibrant, livable place for all who call it home.

Coliseum/KeyArena and Bressi Garage Nominated as Seattle Landmarks

At its June 21 meeting, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board approved two separate nomination applications encompassing the Bressi Garage (Pottery Northwest) and kiln shed, and the Coliseum (KeyArena) site including the exterior of the Coliseum and its extant historic structural elements; the exterior of the NASA Building; and the exterior of the Blue Spruce Apartment Building. The West Court Building was not included in the nomination. Historic Seattle and the Queen Anne Historical Society attended the meeting to speak in support of the nominations. Designation for the two properties will be considered at the August 2 Board meeting.

Like the Space Needle and Pacific Science Center, the Coliseum meets all six designation criteria based on its historic, cultural, and architectural merit. Knute Berger, in a Crosscut article, sums up the building’s significance: “Its distinctive look (that hyperbolic paraboloid roof suggestive of a Salish rain hat) makes it a literal recognizable landmark; it’s a highly significant work by architect Paul Thiry, father of Northwest modernism; it is associated with the historic Seattle World’s Fair; and its original cable roof structure was innovative and, though replaced in the mid-1990s, the form of the roof is intact.”

Earlier in June, Mayor Murray announced that Oak View Group (OVG) was chosen as the preferred partner in negotiations with the City to renovate the Coliseum/KeyArena. The other bidder, Seattle Partners/Anschutz Entertainment Group, pulled out of the bidding process. OVG plans to use Federal Historic Tax Credits for this project, and hopes to have the arena renovated by October 2020. Historic Seattle is encouraged that the building’s future stewardship may be secured.

Upcoming Event: King County Modern / Church of the Redeemer Tour – Thursday, July 13

Church of the Redeemer, Kenmore (photo: King County Historic Preservation Program)

Church of the Redeemer, Kenmore (photo: King County Historic Preservation Program)

The King County Historic Preservation Program hosts a presentation on the historic context of modern residential architecture in the county. Susan Boyle, AIA, a principal at BOLA Architecture + Planning, and Docomomo WEWA Board member, will present findings from her research into the Modern era heritage of the county on Thursday, July 13. The event takes place in Kenmore at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, designed by Roland Terry.

Docomomo WEWA is co-sponsoring a tour of the church as part of our Modern Sacred Spaces series. Location: Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 6210 NE 181st Street, Kenmore, WA 98028. The event starts at 7:00 pm and will end by 8:30 pm. Parking is available on the south side of the main church building. This is event is free and open to the public.

Sidebar photo: lobby of the Temple of Justice, Olympia – parties gather after oral arguments were presented to the State Supreme Court

Two New West Seattle Landmarks!

West Seattle Junction’s Crescent-Hamm and Campbell Buildings Designated

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Campbell Building / photo: Sarah Martin

The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) has voted unanimously to designate two of West Seattle Junction’s iconic commercial buildings: Crescent-Hamm Building (4302 SW Alaska Street/4559 California Avenue SW) and Campbell Building (4554 California Avenue SW). The Hamm designation vote was on February 15th, followed by the Campbell designation on April 5th. These two prominent anchor buildings, occupying the northeast and northwest corners of California and Alaska, are the first official City Landmarks in the heart of the Junction.

Historic preservation consultants Sarah Martin and Flo Lentz prepared both nominations on behalf of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society (SWSHS) as part of its “We Love the Junction” campaign. The Johnson Partnership, who represented the building owners, made presentations to the Board for both properties. Their presentation for the Hamm building focused on the changes to the historic fabric and the issue of integrity. For the Campbell Building, they were there to clarify the owners’ support of the exterior designation, but not interior.

Members of the “We Love the Junction” Task Force along with other community members attended both hearings to speak in favor of their designations. Peder Nelson, SWSHS board vice-president and co-chair of the task force, said he represented “hundreds of people in West Seattle” including Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and former Seattle Council member Tom Rasmussen.

Crescent-Hamm Building

Crescent-Hamm Building / photo: Sarah Martin

Crystal Dean, a task force member, described the Hamm Building (home to Easy Street Records) as a “jewel…the Junction’s north star,” adding that the “Hamm and Campbell Buildings are to West Seattle what Pike Place Market is to downtown.” Board comments were overwhelmingly positive as well. Steven Treffers said the building “truly does embody the two-part commercial block” and remains very intact.

The Board’s deliberation for the Campbell Building  (main tenant Cupcake Royale) looked at four of the designation standards: Criteria B, C, D, and F. Treffers expressed his gratitude to the consultants, as well as the outpouring of community support. He voiced his support of Criterion B due to its strong ties with real estate developer William T. Campbell, saying it was the first of his commercial buildings and the one that he held onto the longest.

Board member Deb Barker praised the Calvo family, owners of the Campbell Building since 1943, for their “loving care over the years,” saying that the two-story brick structure stands as the “cornerstone of the crossroads.”

Nelson said their group is “thrilled by these designations” which marks a high point in their campaign. In March 2016, they released the results of their two-year historical survey, What Makes the West Seattle Junction Special?, funded by 4Culture. The joint collaborative effort – which included the West Seattle Junction Association, Southwest District Council, Junction Neighborhood Organization (JuNO), and ArtsWest – led to the launch of the “We Love the Junction” campaign.

The next step is for the City to work with both owners in negotiating a Controls and Incentives Agreement for the landmarks. Only the exterior of both buildings were designated.

Congratulations to the Southwest Seattle Historical Society and “We Love the Junction” Task Force for their pro-active efforts in protecting the community’s history. A leader in these efforts has been SWSHS Executive Director Clay Eals. The organization just announced that Clay will be stepping down from his post in July. He’ll go out on a high note. Learn more about Clay and his work with the SWSHS and the organization’s search for a new Executive Director.

Upper left photo in sidebar: “We Love the Junction” Task Force members / credit: SWSHS

Mama’s Mexican Restaurant Building Nominated

mamas_building_posterOn Wednesday, December 7, 2016, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted unanimously to nominate the iconic Mama’s Mexican Kitchen building at 2234 Second Avenue (in Belltown) as a Seattle Landmark. The nomination was submitted by the property owner/developer, who has plans to redevelop the property. Preservation advocates call these types of nominations “anti-nominations,” in which the owner tries to make the case that the property does not meet the designation standards of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, and/or does not possess integrity or the ability to convey significance.

The developer’s attorney, Jack McCullough, started out by arguing that it was a “run-of-the-mill” structure that didn’t deserve to be protected. David Peterson from NK Architects, who prepared the landmark nomination, highlighted the building’s supposedly poor condition and physical alterations – including the 1950s aluminum storefront on the center bay, signage over the transom windows, and other infill along the north facade – that compromised the overall integrity. Referencing the neighborhood historic context statement, he stated that the Mama’s building was a “simple, utilitarian” structure and not significant enough to meet Standard D of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, (a property “embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction.”)

Historic Seattle joined representatives from various community groups – including Friends of Historic Belltown, Belltown Community Council, and Project Belltown – to offer public comments in support of the nomination. Friends of Historic Belltown noted that “Belltown doesn’t have many fancy buildings, but rather that the community’s history is with working buildings for ‘the common man,’ and that the Mama’s building embodied that history.”

David Levinson, a Belltown Community Council member and longtime resident, described how the restaurant served as a community gathering place for decades, including Belltown’s labor union members who met there regularly.

The Board demonstrated support for moving the nomination forward to the designation phase, noting that the building may meet several standards and still remains largely intact. Deb Barker said that the portions that haven’t been altered (NE and E alley façades) make it “crystal clear” what the building was. Julianne Patterson stated that the alley facade has “almost perfect integrity,” and she mentioned the idea of “intangible heritage” and how the building is tied to its association with Mama’s Restaurant, even though the restaurant is no longer there.

Friends of Historic Belltown say they “feel a bit bad for the developers, who had been working with the community to design a proposed development that fit in with the neighborhood,” adding that they did not take into consideration the building’s historic value before purchasing the property. “It’s like buying property with a wetland and eagle’s nest on it — you can’t simply bulldoze it just because you didn’t know those features have public values that are protected by law.”

A designation hearing for the Mama’s building will be scheduled in January or February 2017. Friends of Historic Belltown are “elated that the Board saw things the same way we do” and are “looking forward to the next round — the Mama’s Superbowl – to establish our second Landmarked building on ‘the block.’” The Wayne Apartments, built in 1890 and located adjacent (south) of Mama’s, was recently designated a Seattle landmark.

 

Images: Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board votes to nominate the Mama’s Mexican Kitchen Building, photo: Steve Hall; “Preserve the Mama’s Building” poster, Friends of Historic Belltown

Nuclear Reactor Bldg Demolished

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Nuclear Reactor Building (1961 – 2016)

Brutal ending for a building once celebrated. University of Washington erases its own history by demolishing the Nuclear Reactor Building. 

On Tuesday, July 19, 2016, the Nuclear Reactor Building was unceremoniously and quietly (as quietly as one can bulldoze a structurally sound concrete building) demolished by the University of Washington. The destruction of this historically and architecturally significant building ends a years-long effort by preservation advocates to save an important piece of UW history and architecture.

What would you do if, at the age of 55, someone told you that you are going to be executed because you are no longer useful and do not contribute to society? That you are taking up space and will be replaced by something shinier and newer. Sure, you had your day in the sun during the Atomic Age. You were the latest thing in nuclear engineering technology and appreciated for your contributions to science and research. You were also unique because unlike similar structures at other university campuses, you didn’t hide underground or behind windowless walls. You stood proud and strong and seemed indestructible. You were an architectural, engineering, and artistic marvel designed by a stellar team of talented University professors and alumni. On a campus defined by its Gothic Revival style architecture and Olmsted Brothers legacy of campus planning and landscape design, you set yourself apart with your Brutalist features. But then things changed…

By the 1970s and 1980s, nuclear energy was not valued, but feared. You were decommissioned in 1988, and by 1992, your owner, the University of Washington, closed the Nuclear Engineering Program. You sat vacant and unused, but your land became valuable. Then in 2008, the attention was back on you. Your head was on the chopping block. The University applied for a demolition permit from the City of Seattle. One of those big white land use notification signs was placed in an inconspicuous spot in the back, not very visible to passersby. Except one student noticed it. An advocacy movement began. Students and some faculty and staff believed you were significant and could be adaptively reused. The University had no immediate plans for your site other than to get rid of you and replace with a landscaped plaza. This would clear the way for future development.

nrb 2_john stamets_blogPreservation advocates around the state were alerted. Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation teamed up to support the efforts of the students. You were even listed on the Trust’s Most Endangered Properties list in 2008. That same student successfully got you listed on the Washington Heritage Register in 2008 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. The UW objected to the listing of course. You made the press—local and national media covered your story and plight to be appreciated and used again. You welcomed adaptive reuse with open arms. And you believed there was room for a new building if it was sited and designed well. But you continued to be ignored by the very same entity that created you. You became a polarizing figure. Like some of your Brutalist siblings you were called “ugly” and “cold.” Some called for your destruction saying you were “getting in the way of progress.” Social media has made it too easy to hide behind anonymous comments. But you persevered. The vitriol directed at you was hurtful but you had thick concrete skin. These insults emboldened you and your supporters.

The recession bought you some time, an eight-year stay of execution. The University backed off on its plans for demolition in 2011 but we knew those plans were just on the backburner until the economy improved and the desire for your site trumped all other factors. Sure enough, in 2014, plans for your demolition and use of your site came back in full force. You would be replaced by the technology darling of today, computer science and engineering.

Advocates galvanized again. You were once again listed on the Washington Trust’s Most Endangered Properties list in 2015. This time around, the advocacy efforts stepped up. The Save the Reactor effort was born. Knowing full well that the University’s own environmental review process would only yield conclusions supporting your demolition, Docomomo WEWA submitted a Seattle Landmark nomination application and the University promptly filed a lawsuit against the City and Docomomo WEWA in late 2015. Historic Seattle and the Trust joined in the lawsuit.

Unfortunately, an April 2016 decision by a King County Superior Court judge ruled in the UW’s favor, clearing the way for your demise. Although you are now gone, you will not be forgotten. Your death will not be in vain. Advocacy efforts continue, focusing on the long game as we look to protect the integrity of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. This advocacy effort is bigger than you. There are broader implications and impacts related to the entire campus and to any property the University owns—the ultimate question to be decided is whether the University of Washington (and potentially other state institutions of higher learning) is subject to local regulations. Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation have joined the City of Seattle in an appeal of the trial court’s decision to the State Court of Appeals.

And that student who sounded the alarm about your endangered status back in 2008? She graduated from the University of Washington with a Master in Architecture degree. Her master’s thesis topic was on your adaptive reuse potential. When asked for her thoughts about the demolition, Abby Inpanbutr had this to say:

To me the Nuclear Reactor Building was a special case. It was not just an important example of Northwest Modernism, an elegantly designed building by important architects from this place, but it also represented an idealistic point of view we are no longer familiar with today. The building was designed and built with such optimism for the future of the world and the potential of design and engineering. This shined through even when the building sat empty. The Nuclear Reactor Building could have been reinstated as a crown jewel on the campus, there was so much potential. I am very sorry this opportunity has been lost.

A “wake” to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of the Nuclear Reactor Building (aka More Hall Annex) will be held at the site at the University of Washington on Tuesday, August 9, 2016, at 5:30 pm. Please wear all black attire. We’ll go to a local pub afterwards. Save the Reactor advocates Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation hope you join us!

In lieu of flowers, we encourage you to share stories and memories of the Nuclear Reactor Building at the wake, on the Save the Reactor Facebook page or email us at info@savethereactor.org.

Read Knute Berger’s obituary of the Nuclear Reactor Building in Crosscut.com.

Nuclear Reactor Building (AKA More Hall Annex)
University of Washington, Seattle
Built: 1961
Demolished: 2016

Designed by The Architect Artist Group (TAAG):
Wendell Lovett, architect
Daniel Streissguth, architect
Gene Zema, architect
Gerard Torrence, structural engineer
Spencer Moseley, artist

Photo credits: Demolition (Docomomo WEWA); “It’s Brutal” graphic (Save the Reactor); the Nuclear Reactor Building in 2008 (John Stamets for Docomomo WEWA)

Demo Permit Issued: UW to Destroy Historic Building

Update (July 19, 2016): The University of Washington has demolished the Nuclear Reactor Building. We’ll post the full story and images soon. 

Original blog post:

Yesterday, July 12, the City of Seattle issued a demolition permit for the National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor Building.

Here’s what has been happening before the permit was issued:

The historic and architecturally significant structure has not been looking too good recently. The University of Washington (UW) erected a chain link fence around the site in May to prepare for demolition. On June 20, the University began deconstructing the building—WITHOUT a demolition permit. The UW submitted a demolition application in early May but evidently just could not wait to start destroying this significant structure.

Complaints were filed and the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections issued a stop work order and notice of violation. The UW claimed that it was abating the lead in the caulking of the windows (original character-defining features). We do not doubt there will be hazardous materials abatement that will need to be performed in preparation for the demolition, but the building has sat vacant for years and posed no threat. Windows on the two primary facades were removed, leaving massive openings into the building. It took the University almost a week to board up the openings, a requirement of the City.

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What’s Really Going On?

Save the Reactor (Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and supporters) has been monitoring the process and has been communicating with the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) about the process and code requirements for the University’s demolition application and master use permit application for the new construction. What we discovered was a failure in the City’s own system of review including not following its own Land Use Code correctly. Here’s what we heard from a senior level planner when asked to explain its process and code requirements: “It is certainly true that SDCI has not always correctly applied the Land Use Code Section I cited in my earlier email to you. With this current demolition project we have had the chance to carefully examine how the code applies. I can only reconfirm we are confident the exercise of our substantive SEPA authority in a case like this (another agency has completed procedural SEPA and the application to us does not include a Land Use Code – identified Type II MUP) is not a decision subject to public notice or appeal to the Hearing Examiner. Even though this departs from our practice in the past, we feel we have no option but to proceed in a code compliant way.”

We are not making this up. We asked SDCI if it has a complete accounting of every case in which the Land Use Code section has been incorrectly applied. We are waiting for a response. We believe citizens of Seattle expect the City to correctly apply its own codes.

Adding to the confusion is we believe SDCI may have directed the University to place a large white notice of proposed land use action sign last week but that will be taken down soon as well because evidently that was also a mistake. Essentially, the City is not requiring the University of Washington to post public notice of the proposed new construction project, demolition of the Nuclear Reactor Building, and removal of at least 44 trees. No public comment will be taken.

While the City may be following the Land Use Code, it doesn’t mean it makes any sense or should not be reformed.

It’s always been clear that the University wanted to scrape the Nuclear Reactor Building site for its new Computer Science and Engineering II project and all the information in the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) supports that conclusion and not the other alternatives. Yes, the University did everything it needed to do to comply with SEPA but it’s more about checking boxes than an objective review of alternatives that are feasible.

There were many comments submitted for the draft SEIS (including those from Historic Seattle, Docomomo WEWA and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation), but like any EIS process the comments were just noted or we got referred to a page in the SEIS that the lead agency (UW) felt it had adequately addressed the issue.

How Did We Get Here?

After the disappointing Superior Court decision was issued in favor of the University (because of a ridiculous technicality), Save the Reactor reviewed options. We encouraged the City of Seattle to appeal the decision to the State Court of Appeals and asked the City to seek a stay of demolition. The City chose to appeal but did not seek a stay. We assume this was for political reasons mostly. And the City is more focused on the larger jurisdictional issues of City and University. But for Save the Reactor and other supporters, this advocacy has been about BOTH the Nuclear Reactor Building and the larger issues. We joined the City of Seattle in its appeal to the State Court of Appeals. We also looked into seeking a stay of demolition but after much discussion with our attorney, we decided not to pursue a stay because of the possibility of having to post an appeal bond backed up by collateral. Docomomo WEWA has no real property to use as collateral but Historic Seattle and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation both own significant historic properties. If the stay was granted and we lose the appeal, then we could be liable to the University who could claim damages from delay of demolition and construction of its new project. This is a risk that Save the Reactor could not take. The UW has an annual operating budget of almost $6 billion. Save the Reactor has a combined operating budget of less than $3.5 million. We’re somewhat outmatched when it comes to resources.

As a public institution the University of Washington needs to be a good neighbor within the city. For years, we have maintained that there are alternatives to demolishing the National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor Building and there is at least one alternative site for its proposed Computer Science and Engineering II building. Of course, this case is not just about the Nuclear Reactor Building. There are broader implications and impacts related to the entire campus and to any property the University owns. The University need not be so afraid of external efforts to recognize and honor its history and legacy. We have always advocated for a creative design solution that presents a win-win for the UW and advocates, but this position has been consistently ignored by the University.

What’s Next?

We anticipate going before the State Court of Appeals this fall, with a decision in early 2017. This appeal is about the long game–protecting other University owned historic resources through landmark designation. It’s too late now for the Nuclear Reactor Building. The University’s plans are to demolish the Nuclear Reactor Building after completing SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) mitigation and obtaining a demolition permit. The UW’s self-imposed “mitigation” for demolition is documenting the exterior to HABS Level 1 standards and producing a 3-D virtual tour of the interior. That’s it. In our view, there’s no mitigation for demolition because once a resource is destroyed, it’s gone forever. The University intends to clear the site—the building and over forty trees—as soon as possible. We do know the University would like to start construction in January 2017 if it obtains the required permits in time for that start date. We do know there is no administrative appeal to the City Hearing Examiner for the demolition permit and master use permit, but the City’s decisions on whether to grant or deny the permits can be appealed to King County Superior Court through a land use petition. All three Save the Reactor organizations have standing in this situation and can appeal. However, we would still need to seek a stay or injunction to stop the demolition. And we would be back where we were before.

Save the Reactor plans to gather together to say goodbye to the Nuclear Reactor Building. Stay tuned for details…

Photos: Docomomo WEWA

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Docomomo US e-news (June 27, 2016) and in the Save the Reactor blog (July 8, 2016).

UW Wins on a Technicality

From Save the Reactor:

On April 14, 2016, King County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Parisien issued an order granting the University of Washington its motion for summary judgment in its lawsuit against defendants City of Seattle and Docomomo WEWA, and intervenors Historic Seattle and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

We are obviously disappointed in Judge Suzanne Parisien’s decision which did not rule on all the substantive issues of the case. Instead, her Memorandum of Opinion states that the University is not an “owner” as defined in the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, and as such, did not bother to rule on the other issues. This “technicality” is somewhat farfetched because in what other scenario would the UW say it’s not an “owner”? The University clearly owns the Seattle campus. It voluntarily submitted a landmark nomination for Husky Stadium (which was not nominated by the Landmarks Preservation Board). The UW complies with the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance when it seeks Landmarks Preservation Board approval for work on its buildings at Sand Point Naval Air Station Historic District. And UW Tacoma is located in a designated local historic district. Is the UW not an owner in those cases?

As a public institution the University of Washington needs to be a good neighbor within the city. There are alternatives to demolishing the National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor Building and there is at least one alternative site for its proposed Computer Science and Engineering II building. Of course, this case is not just about the Nuclear Reactor Building. There are broader implications and impacts related to the entire campus and to any property the University owns.

The University need not be so afraid of external efforts to recognize and honor its heritage and legacy.

We are reviewing our options at point. Just know that our advocacy efforts will continue.

Read the judge’s Memorandum of Opinion here

Recent media coverage on this issue:

The Seattle Times

Crosscut.com

 

Photo: Oral arguments in King County Superior Court, April 1, 2016; source: Eugenia Woo

UW Lawsuit: Nuclear Reactor Bldg

On April 1 (no joke!) the UW’s lawsuit over the landmark nomination for the Nuclear Reactor Building goes before King County Superior Court for a hearing. We’ve been blogging about this for a few months now, but the time has finally come. This issue of whether the University of Washington is subject to the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance will be decided (or at least at the Superior Court level). Read about this issue more in depth on the Save the Reactor website (the post gets into some of the arguments put forth by the parties involved).

The hearing is open to the public (for observation only; no public testimony) and will take place at 10:00 am in Judge Suzanne Parisien’s courtroom (W-764) in the King County Courthouse (516 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA  98104). Counsel for all three parties will present oral arguments. The hearing should last about one hour and twenty minutes.

Crosscut’s Knute Berger and the Seattle Times just published articles about this dispute.

“UW flips city bird over historic preservation,” Crosscut.com

“UW suing Seattle over control of historic campus buildings,” Seattle Times

Alki Homestead to be Restored

An Advocacy Win for “Homestead Coalition”

advocacy_homestead_jean sherrardThe preservation of the Alki Homestead in West Seattle has been a sustained advocacy effort for Historic Seattle since 2009. Originally known as the Fir Lodge, the Homestead is one of West Seattle’s most beloved landmarks. The 1904 log building has been vacant for over six years, after a 2009 fire caused significant damage and forced the closure of the Alki Homestead Restaurant.

A coalition including Historic Seattle, Southwest Seattle Historical Society, 4Culture, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation has persistently advocated to save the building.

On Friday, March 13, the landmark property changed hands. Tom Lin, owner since 2005, sold the property to Mercer Island builder/investor Dennis Schilling, who plans to rehabilitate the landmark structure and construct a new six-unit apartment building on the adjacent parking lot. Mr. Schilling forged an agreement with the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, which holds an easement on the Alki Homestead parking lot and operates the Log House Museum one-half block to the south.

On Saturday, March 14, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society and Schilling put on a press conference to formally announce the news of the Homestead’s future. For details about the press conference and links to local and national media coverage, check out the Society’s post on its website.

Photos: Alki Homestead (2012), Historic Seattle; “This Place Matters” photo event (2010), Jean Sherrard