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Landmarks Board Unanimously Designates Exterior and Courtyard of The Roy Vue Apartments

Landmarks Board voting unanimously.

As you can tell, we have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving with our first successful landmark designation! Many thanks to the landmarks board, my fellow CHHS members Rob Ketcherside and Tamara Bunnell, and our friends Historic Seattle and SavetheRoyVue for all their hard work that made this possible.

There's more to it though than appears on the surface, so I want to quickly recap the more salient points of the designation hearing and offer my own take on them. Apologies to those who attended if I am missing anything here as I am going off of memory. So don't hesitate to correct me.

The main crux of the meeting was whether to designate the interior floor plan. The rest was a given and was settled in last month's nomination meeting. Even the owner had a change of heart by enthusiastically supporting the designation of the exterior and courtyard.

Unlike at last month's meeting though, attendance at this one was light. Only seven out of twelve board members were there with the seventh arriving late. (A crucial factor which I'll get to.)

During the board deliberations, five board members came out strongly supporting the designation of the interior floor plan in addition to the exterior and courtyard (that's huge). The reasons cited for including it were as follows:

  1. All units either have views to both east and west or both north and south with all overlooking the garden which could be lost if they were subdivided.

  2. The presence of stairwells instead of corridors.

  3. The presence of two sets of stairwells, one with street access and the other courtyard access.

  4. The unusually large dining rooms and the spaciousness of the units overall.

  5. Concerns of facadism being too prevalent and an interest in exploring additional preservation options.

Two board members opposed designating the interior floor plan and their reasons were as follows:

  1. Overreach. Designation should be for public spaces such as lobbies, not private spaces. (Other board members echoed this concern, but felt it was worth making an exception for the Roy Vue.)

  2. Their belief that it would be too cumbersome and costly for a developer to alter the floor plan (subdivide the units) making landmark protection unnecessary.

Supporters of interior designation tried to assuage these concerns by citing that interior changes could still be made through the architectural review committee, but to no avail. Therefore, without the necessary six votes to pass an interior floor plan designation, those who supported it were forced to abandon it lest the entire designation should fail.

The omission of the interior was a major disappointment to be sure. One that could easily have been avoided under normal circumstances and leaves some of us with the lingering fear that another developer could still come along and gut the Roy Vue. Despite these concerns though, I do believe this is an overall win for us moving forward.

First, we got the standard designation package of exterior and garden protection, which is still amazing in its own right. With the Roy Vue built to the area's current height limit and the inability to build over the courtyard, there should now be much less incentive to gut the interior. Second, there was an unusually strong interest in and discussion about landmarking an entire interior floor plan indicating a potential shift away from facadism. Furthermore, had more board members attended this meeting we very likely would have gotten the interior included. All it would have taken was one more board member out of the five who were absent (great odds). We just had the unfortunate luck of the hearing coming just one day before Thanksgiving when many people were out of town. So this means interiors are much more likely to be considered in the future. That's a win and one for which we are most thankful.

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