(County archives photo of the building now known as Charlestown Court)
We’re at the Municipal Tower downtown, where the city Landmarks Preservation Board voted this afternoon to reject landmark status for Charlestown Court. The building is proposed for demolition to make way for an 8-unit townhouse project.
This was the second time the Tudor-style 1920s-era brick fourplex at 3811 California SW had been nominated; the last time, in a process that played out 2007-2008, the board said “no,” but development proposals then stalled until the current one, and the city said too much time had elapsed for them simply to refer to that previous vote, so the process needed to start again.
Before today’s presentation about the building, Paul Cesmat said he has owned it since 2007 and declared it has structural issues – “the brick’s not structurally sound, the chimney has issues, this has been pointed out to us … and we have insurability issues … I feel that this building does not meet historical criteria … and it’s not structurally worth saving.” It is wood-framed without concrete backing the brick, he explained in response to a question later.
The presentation focused on changes made to the building, including its windows, contending the changes made over the years affected the fourplex’s “physical integrity.” The photo you see at the top of the story was shown, with the comment “It’s a shame that’s not there any more.” (The nomination document from the June meeting, including photos and history, can be seen as a PDF here.)
In pre-vote discussion, board members said basically that while you could consider it “handsome” or “charming,” it just didn’t “rise” to landmark status.
One “yes” voter was a West Seattleite on the board, Deb Barker, who said “the footprint of this building is so distinctive … not a typical one for West Seattle … and that amazing strong roof line has not changed … a strongly identifiable visual feature from California Avenue SW.” She mentioned a nearby subdivision of “small Tudor buildings” to which this seems to have a relationship. “In my 29 years of driving past this building, it’s always been well-maintained” and eye-catching, Barker added.
Another “yes” voter said that “while it’s not necessarily the most impressive example of the architect’s work, it’s not the most humble or basic, either … I think it holds its own among its peers in the city.” And yet another one said basically that while it might not stand out in a big way now, we’ll miss it if it goes, because this type of building is disappearing around the city.
No one spoke during the public-comment period. Before today’s vote, West Seattle-residing City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen had sent the board a letter supporting designation as a landmark – read it here (PDF) – we received a copy just as the hearing began. It was not mentioned at the hearing, though.
The board did hear from a representative of Gamut 360, the prospective townhouse developer, who read from the minutes of the April 2008 board meeting at which the building was previously rejected for landmark status.
The townhouse project still has to go through the city permit process, including approval of a demolition permit, before construction can begin.