With most development comes destruction. Before construction cranes can loom large over city streets, the past’s buildings must be razed.
Last year, the City of Seattle received 711 demolition applications. That’s compared to the scant 14 received ten years ago. The demolition increase has led some on Capitol Hill — like the owners of the Gaslight Inn and most recently the owners of the J.W. Bullock Residence — to seek shelter under landmark protection.
UPDATE: The Urbanist has blown apart the “711” demolitions stat. We’ll stick with our pull of seattle.gov numbers for Capitol Hill, however — 94 permits in 2013, 70 in 2014, and 67 through September this year. Thanks to @bryceroda for pointing out the issues raised with the citywide numbers.
Last week, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted to move the 1220 10th Ave E house forward in the process to be considered for official landmarks protections. CHS reported on the details of the nomination here.
First defined in 1977 as the Landmark Preservation Ordinance, the Seattle municipal code states, “the economic, cultural and aesthetic standing of this city cannot be maintained or enhanced by disregarding the heritage of the City and by allowing the unnecessary destruction or defacement of such cultural assets.”
Around 30 single family homes are permitted for demolition across the Capitol Hill area every year. For a few, landmarks designation has become a way to keep properties away from the growing reach of Seattle development.
That’s the route taken by J.W. Bullock-owner Dr. Valerie Tarico. Although she says she has no personal vendetta against the rising density of Capitol Hill, she said she wants to protect the 103-year-old J.W. Bullock house from that particular fate.
“It’s something I’ve thought about for years,” Tarico said in an interview prior to last week’s vote. “It’s a stewardship issue. This building was made by our ancestors that put a lot of care and precision into their craftsmanship. Buildings like this are not going to be made again.”
Tarico’s neighborhood is zoned for lowrise development so the 103-year-old building, built by the gold miner J.W. Bullock, is not in immediate danger of becoming a mixed-use apartment building. Tarico told CHS she’s thinking about the future.
“We know something about what has enduring appeal,” she said about the quality that the building provides the neighborhood. “[The Landmarks status] forces whoever would buy it in the future to not bulldoze it, but to get creative with it. I think that’s what I’m looking for.”
Any building at least 25-years-old can apply for a nomination to be labeled as a preservable landmark. The city qualifies that, to receive the status, it must have”significant character, interest or value as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of the City, state, or nation.”
Should a nomination receive landmark status, strict limitations are placed on any changes made to the properties that would affect the qualities that led to it receiving such status.
While there are “wins” for those seeking protections like the Bullock house, Capitol Hill has seen plenty of larger, more significant — but apparently less landmark-able — properties rejected by the board.
Currently, the Landmarks Preservation Board has 21 properties nominations for the protective status. Geographically, they come from all over the city, though Belltown leads with five nominated properties. Capitol Hill is home to two properties on the nomination list — 15th Ave’s Gaslight Inn won landmarks status in October.
Tarico and her husband, an executive at the Gates Foundation, bought the J.W. Bullock residence in 1994. She said she grew up in tract housing in Phoenix, Arizona. and was honored to have the opportunity to raise her two daughters in the historic northern Capitol Hill home.
“It feels like a magic thing to get to live here,” she said.
Whatever protection the designation could provide would also affect any improvements Tarico wants to make. And, she acknowledged, it would affect the selling price should she ever choose to part with the property. Anyone interested in purchasing the J.W. Bullock residence would be saddled with the same renovation limitations.
It’s also not cheap. The city charges a host of fees to review the building’s historic qualities. An environmental review of a possible landmark by the City Historic Preservation Officer is charged at $250 an hour. Additionally, review of a building’s eligibility as a Seattle landmark is charged $250 an hour.
“Ever city has these little remnants of its past,” she said. “I don’t have any intention to halt any development on Capitol Hill, but I’d like this house to be a little remnant of its past. This is a part of people’s commute.”
Developer Scott Shapiro, with Eagle Rock Ventures, has led many Capitol Hill projects like the Melrose Market, the Pine Street Apartments and most recently Harvard Exit. He said he didn’t know if seeking landmark status to protect from development has grown into a trend.
“I don’t think it’s affected development at this time,” he said. “Any developer looking at their property is going to see if it’s landmark status or not. It’s fine by me. It’s their right.”
The pace of nominations to the Landmarks Preservation Board is actually slowing. While 2015’s current tally of 21 nominations already tops 2010’s 20 total nominations, there were times when the board has been far busier. It received 34 nominations in 2008.