By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Two brick buildings along California SW have been in the news here again recently – Charlestown Court (3811), up again for demolition:
And the former Admiralty House Antiques (2141), recently sold but NOT currently up for demolition, undergoing interior work:
As other development proposals turn up – and as large developments proceed, with 4206, 4730, and 5020 California underway in The Junction and 3210 California in the works for south Admiral – the question is often asked: Is anyone working to save anything before it’s (almost) all gone?
The answer is complicated.
Some West Seattle buildings, of course, are already official city landmarks – but probably fewer than you think; see the list here. The process of getting landmark status is a tough one – the aforementioned Charlestown Court was reviewed when it last faced demolition, in 2008, and the board decided it didn’t qualify.
Even minus a landmark declaration, some buildings might be considered worth saving. But they might not be on your radar until they’re gone, or close to it. So – in the spirit of the song lyric in our headline – to create a record of what remains, there is an early-stage effort to survey (list and photograph) properties along the heart of California Avenue SW – in the works for some time, but virtually without resources, so far.
It’s been in discussion before the Southwest District Council, which includes reps from community councils and other major organizations in western West Seattle – has been discussing a survey. Chas Redmond from the SWDC has been a point person for the potential project, and says the latest plan is to see if the council can apply for a city Small and Simple Projects grant to get the survey going. A one-sheet (see it in its entirety here) explains the project’s purpose:
A collaborative project through the Southwest District Council to survey California Avenue from the northern to southern urban village boundaries to find and identify and capture structures worthy of preservation based on worthiness or notability as a first step in creating a guideline for developers which would serve to advise and inform new development in such a way that the general “look and feel” of California Avenue is preserved, even though the structure height will change.
The project is expected to be “multi-level, multi-year, and multi-dimensional,” with results including:
•Inventory existing structures from California Avenue @ Massachusetts to California @ Othello (Admiral to Morgan Junctions)
•Research parcels to trace development and possible historic or notable use
•See if this ties into or can be associated with Main Street programs
•Identify the aspects which make California Avenue walkable and annotate them as they pertain to the length of the Avenue and its development
•Identify the elements of the neighborhoods which California Avenue passes through and put the Avenue and the neighborhoods in context with each other by characterizing that interface
•Identify how California Avenue has acted as a unification factor for the development which has happened, is happening and will happen in the future, what about California Avenue has tied these developments together
•Determine if it’s possible and (if so) work toward creating an overlay along the spine of California Avenue which protects structures
•Identify and create a visual context for developers to use which helps preserve the visual viewscape of California Avenue SW as informed by the outcome of the previously-cited actions (inventory, identification, assessment) above
Redmond says they hope to make the June application deadline to put in for a Small and Simple grant, and possibly to apply for a 4Culture grant, to get the survey going. SWDC reps are almost all from all-volunteer community councils, and they meet only monthly; if you’d like to get involved, best bet is to check out the SWDC at one of its meetings – first Wednesdays, 6:30 pm, now at the Senior Center of West Seattle (California/Oregon in The Junction), next one two weeks from today, February 5th.