Poll: Owners Should Have Final Say in Landmarking

Owners moving forward on initiative effort.

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The Ace Hotel is on the city's list of proposed landmarks.

Not so fast with the mass landmarking, Peter Steinbrueck! The results of a recent Stuart Elway poll show that Seattleites lean toward giving property owners final say over whether their buildings become historic sites. Out of 410 people asked, 49 percent said a property owner should have to agree before his or her building could be nominated by the city for landmark status; 42 percent said any citizen should be able to nominate any property as a potential historic landmark (the current policy.) Once a property is designated it can't be demolished or significantly modified without the city's permission. Today owners can appeal the nomination, but they don't have the last word.

The poll was commissioned by building owners upset about the city's recently released list of 37 downtown properties eligible for nomination as Seattle landmarks. The idea is to test the waters for a citizens' initiative that would change the city's landmark ordinance to give building owners final say. Art Skolnik, a former state historic preservation officer who's organizing the owners, says the results were encouraging enough to spur them forward on the initiative front. He thinks the city's overreaching this time around. An additional 56 buildings will be considered for nomination next year. Steinbrueck, who will step down from city council later this year, is leading the effort.

While the results were outside the 5 percent margin of error, Elway says it's not a consensus-level majority. Still he says it's an indication of Seattle's gut-level sensibility. "It's probably not an issue that people have given a lot of thought to, so it's hard to poll on," Elway says. "It shows more people are leaning toward the property owners' position. If it becomes a big debate, I would expect the numbers to shift around and harden, but this is an indication of how people feel today."

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