Preservation in Progress

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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

UW Draft Campus Plan

The University of Washington (UW) recently issued its 2018 Draft Seattle Campus Master Plan (CMP) and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the plan. The CMP provides the framework for UW’s future development within the Major Institution Overlay (MIO) of the Seattle campus. The DEIS is intended to identify and assess possible impacts of development.

You can review the CMP and DEIS online:

Historic Seattle submitted comments and we encourage you to do so, too. Download a pdf of Historic Seattle’s comment letter.

As supporters of Historic Seattle, we value your advocacy efforts. Today, we are asking for your support. Contact UW and voice your support of historic preservation at the UW—not in opposition of or at the expense of additional growth, but in concert with appropriate new construction that does not erode the historic buildings and landscapes of the University’s Seattle campus. Public comment for both the CMP and the DEIS are due November 21, 2016.

Historically, the UW has had one of the most impressive and beautiful university campuses in the United States. Guided by its late 19th and early 20th century plans and executed designs, the campus’s character-defining features, spaces, and buildings reflect an evolution of development and growth through many decades. The significant historic resources on campus include not only the older buildings but also the collection of post-WWII resources.

To fully reflect its history, the UW must carefully consider the value of its historic and cultural resources from all eras, not just the older buildings related to its early roots. The draft campus plan continues the UW’s disregard of most of its post-WWII historic resources. This past summer, the UW demolished the National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor Building. The draft 2018 Plan indicates the UW’s intent to demolish more significant mid-century modern resources such as McMahon Hall and Haggett Hall dorms, designed by the prominent firm of Kirk Wallace & McKinley Associates and determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places by the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP).

The potential loss of more historic resources is troubling. Equally distressing is the University’s own contradictory statements that, on the one hand, tout “stewardship of historic and cultural resources” as a guiding principle, and on the other hand, give itself an “out” with its bold declaration that any structure that is more than 25 years old or historic can be demolished “if authorized by the UW Board of Regents.”

Furthermore, the CMP states that the UW is not subject to the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, following a recent King County Superior Court ruling in its favor. However, the draft Plan does not reveal the fact that there is pending litigation in the State Court of Appeals that will rule on this very issue.

Please stand in support of historic preservation by submitting your comments by November 21 to Julie Blakeslee, Environmental and Land Use Planner, Capital Planning and Development, via email at or

Image: Illustrative Plan of Campus at Full Build-out, University of Washington Draft Campus Master Plan (85 sites for development or redevelopment)


Seattle 2035 Draft Comp Plan

Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has extended the public comment period on the Draft Comprehensive Plan, known as Seattle 2035, through Friday, November 20, 2015. The Draft Plan identifies proposed goals and policies that will provide a roadmap for the city’s growth over the next 20 years.

The city is hosting a series of community open houses to talk about the proposed changes and allow opportunities to ask questions or share your thoughts.

Historic Seattle urges you to get engaged and have your voice be heard! Your feedback will help DPD evaluate strategies for a city that grows according to the plan’s four core values: race and social equity, environmental stewardship, economic opportunity and security, and community.

The city’s most vibrant urban neighborhoods are those with a high concentration of historic buildings and mixed-scale development. The Comp Plan should value stewardship of historic properties as an important priority along with clean water, natural resources, open space, environmental stewardship, and social equity. It should lay out a path that leverages our historic and cultural resources in achieving healthy, complete communities.

Historic Seattle submitted its public comments outlining recommendations for strengthening the Historic Preservation component. Download Historic Seattle’s letter here.

Here are the key points related to historic preservation:

The Cultural Resource Element is being replaced with an Arts & Culture Element (page 135), where the Historic Preservation component now resides. The Historic Preservation component has been distilled down to one broad goal (page 140), and the language on several of the policies has been weakened.

Recommendations to better integrate historic preservation into the new Comp Plan include:

  • Expanding the Historic Preservation goals
  • Strengthening the Historic Preservation policies
  • Strengthening and expanding the proposed survey/inventory policy
  • Connecting the Historic Preservation component with other Comp Plan elements

Submit written comments by November 20, 2015 to:


City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development
Attn: Seattle 2035
700 5th Avenue, Suite 2000, PO Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124-4019

Thank you for advocating for the city’s Comp Plan update! If you’d like to get involved with this advocacy effort, please contact Brooke Best, Preservation Advocacy Coordinator, Historic Seattle, at or 206.622.6952, ext 226.

Top left image: Composite image by Clayton Kauzlaric, combining Google Earth view and 1891 bird’s eye view by lithographer E.S. Glover.

Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan



Submit Your Comments to the City

Help Historic Seattle and other preservation advocates by weighing in on the City’s Comprehensive Plan update!

The City of Seattle recently released their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the city’s Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan) update, known as Seattle 2035. The Comp Plan will serve as our roadmap to achieving the future vision we want over the next 20 years, while preserving and improving our neighborhoods. Seattle 2035 covers things like land use, transportation, housing, environment, neighborhood planning, economic development, and urban design.

You can visit the online open house to explore the elements of the DEIS.

The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is seeking public input on Seattle 2035. The public comment period will run until June 182015. Please send your comments on the Draft EIS to make sure that preservation plays a role in shaping the City’s future growth!

Send your comments via email by Thursday, June 18, 2015, to Gordon Clowers at

Contact DPD today! Here are some key points:

  • The Draft EIS proposal states that “All Comprehensive Plan elements will be reviewed and updated as part of the proposal.” The draft does not address Economic Development, Neighborhood Planning, Cultural Resource, and Urban Design.
  • The current plan includes preservation under the “Cultural Resource” element (CR11-CR16).  The new Comp Plan replaces “Cultural Resource” with an “Arts and Culture” element. This new element focuses on art (public art, cultural space, arts education, creative economy, creative placemaking) and seems to eliminate historic preservation and protection of cultural resources. How will preservation be included in the future Comp Plan? How are the city’s existing preservation policies and regulations being addressed?
  • The “Environment” element addresses environmental stewardship, one of the plan’s core values. Environmental stewardship is primarily defined within the context of the natural environment (air, land, and water resources) and not built environmentThe analysis should address the role of preservation vs demolition in terms of environmental stewardship.