Let's Study Historic Preservation, Seattle!

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Seattle is in a Housing Crisis

Thanks to everyone who is taking action and sending this letter to Seattle leaders.

Who is historic preservation for? Who does it make richer? Does it make an invisible gate around a community? Does it help stop displacement or hasten it? What burdens does it place on existing owners to upkeep their homes using more costly materials or special contractors?

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March 2021

Dear Seattle City Council, Department of Neighborhoods, Landmark Preservation Board, Department of Construction & Inspections, Office of Planning & Community Development, and Mayor Durkan,

We are concerned about work being done that could stop important changes to our community. We care a lot about the future of Seattle and the future of Wallingford.

Some residents in Wallingford have applied for an honorary Historic District with the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) which will encompass approximately 2,000 structures—most of which are single-family homes. It is unclear if this effort is authentically about historic preservation, or if it is a cover to stop future changes to allow more neighbors. Wallingford intends to create a Neighborhood Conservation District in lieu of creating an Historic District with the City of Seattle.

As Seattle begins the Major Comprehensive Plan updates, any attempts by a handful of neighbors to designate large areas of a community as an historic district must be investigated. These efforts must be evaluated in the context of parallel efforts to block changes to exclusive neighborhoods.

In 1976, Victor Steinbrueck surveyed the same structures being put forward for preservation in Wallingford and found only 26 buildings worthy of the discussion of preservation. Only 16 were single family homes.[2]

Wallingford’s demographics today reflect the exclusivity of the 1960s. Across the country we know that past land use laws were often used to maintain wealthy, white, low density neighborhoods [3]. If this honorary historic preservation district moves forward, it could lead to enshrining Wallingford’s racial and economic exclusivity, an outcome that is unacceptable. Seattle’s commitments to race and social justice and equitable development are undermined by efforts to use historic preservation to block zoning changes, especially in District 4

We ask:

  • For a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) that adds a strong Race & Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) framework and lens that includes historic redlining and racial covenants in future landmark designations.

  • For a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) that examines if a past landmarking process has been used for obstruction or exclusion.

  • For a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) that is newly funded with a staff to coordinate between the various departments involved in land use decisions in our city.

  • For a Statement of Legislative Intent (SLI) that examines if the landmark process is contributing additional costs of time to housing as suggested in this 2017 Sightline article.

  • Seattle City Council, Department of Neighborhoods, Landmark Preservation Board, Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections, Seattle Office of Planning & Community Development, and Mayor Durkan, to avoid creating a Neighborhood Conservation District if Wallingford’s honorary designation is achieved.

Thank You,

[Name]

[Zip Code & Council District]



Thank you for taking action today. Thanks for sending a letter to 14 decision makers in the City of Seattle who have the power to coordinate a study between Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods, Department of Construction & Inspections, and the Office of Planning and Community Development.

Letter Campaign by
Laura  Loe
Seattle, Washington
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