With focus on ‘preservation,’ Wallingford inches closer to historic district designation

Oct 15, 2021, 12:19 PM | Updated: 12:21 pm
Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood. (Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons

In 2019, Historic Wallingford announced a bid to pursue a National Register of Historic Places designation from the federal government. Two years later, the group has made significant progress toward that goal.

Wallingford could be next battleground in Seattle’s war for density

A listing in the National Register of Historic Places is largely an honorific title that doesn’t affect the ability of developers to demolish or build over existing properties. As Historic Wallingford notes on its website, “a National Register district does not affect an owner’s ability to remodel their property, but it could encourage more sensitive exterior revisions.”

“Nor can an historic district prevent demolitions, but it may give builders pause and encourage renovations instead,” it adds.

So, why pursue the listing in the first place? While the group hasn’t explicitly stated an intention to prevent future attempts at denser housing options, it does extole the benefits of having “a valuable record of our neighborhood and an excellent planning tool to aid and inform the long-term management of growth and development.”

Historic Wallingford also frequently brings up the preservation of many of its existing single-family homes as a larger overarching goal.

“Without the focus of a preservation plan, Wallingford’s historic fabric could be lost to future generations,” the group’s website describes.

Seattle and Tacoma weigh changes to single-family zoning with key differences

In the past, a National Register listing has proven to be a first step toward added protections against upzoning in Seattle neighborhoods. That played out in January of 2019, when Seattle’s Ravenna-Cowen neighborhood acquired a National Register listing for over 440 homes within its boundaries. A month later, Seattle City Council approved an amendment to remove the neighborhood from the list of urban villages upzoned under its Mandatory Housing Affordability regulations.

Speaking to MyNorthwest in 2019, Historic Wallingford’s Sarah Martin pointed out that “Ravenna is definitely an example,” and that the group was likely “going to learn from them.”

Moving forward, Historic Wallingford has identified two adjacent areas within the neighborhood to combine into a “North historic district.” The hope is to then focus on a separate area for another listing.

A “complete nomination” for the North historic district is expected sometime in late 2021.

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With focus on ‘preservation,’ Wallingford inches closer to historic district designation