Planning Commission decision on Wedge Historic District looms

The City of Tacoma's Planning Commission is scheduled this week to move closer toward finalizing the boundaries of an historic...

The City of Tacoma’s Planning Commission is scheduled this week to move closer toward finalizing the boundaries of an historic district proposed for the city’s Wedge neighborhood.

On May 19 at 4 p.m., the commission will complete its review of the proposed boundaries for the Wedge Historic District and its conservation districts, and draft regulatory changes including design guidelines for the proposed overlay district and conservation districts, according to materials prepared for the meeting.

“It is staff’s intent to get final direction from the [Planning] Commission regarding the Wedge Neighborhood Historic and Conservation Districts so that a final recommendation letter and findings and recommendations report can be prepared for approval at the next meeting,” wrote Donna Stenger, the planning division’s acting manager, in a May 13 letter to the commission.

The proposal has worked its way through City Hall since June 2008, when three Wedge residents — Jean Carter, Char Cooper, and Lori Unger — submitted the historic district nomination to the city’s historic preservation office. According to the nomination, the Wedge neighborhood is an area of Tacoma that boasts more than 50 homes dating back 80 years or more. It’s also where Tacoma pioneer Aaron Titlow, candy company entrepreneurs Frank and Ethel Mars, and Titanic survivor Anne Kincaid resided. And it is ringed by Wright Park, the North Slope Historic District, and many of the city’s oldest churches.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) began reviewing the nomination on Sept. 10, 2008. Since then, the commission has held a series of public meetings to discuss several elements of the application, such as district boundaries, buildings inventory, and the neighborhood’s historic significance. Last year, the LPC met Wedge residents, property owners, and other interested parties for a walking tour of the neighborhood.

If approved, the Wedge neighborhood will become the fourth historic district in Tacoma, and the second residential historic district, according to the city’s historic preservation office. The proposed district zoning overlay stretches north to south from Division Avenue to Sixth Avenue, and zig-zags in several places along the eastern border: the alley between South L Street and South M Street; the alley between South M Street and South Sheridan Avenue; and a portion of South M Street near Sixth Avenue. The proposal also includes four conservation districts.

The Planning Commission held a public hearing March 17 to collect feedback on the issue. During that meeting, many people testified for or against the historic district.

Major Warren Dabis of the Salvation Army of Tacoma was concerned that the organization’s three parcels are included in one of the special conservation districts. One of the properties, located at 1521 Sixth Avenue, includes a former motel built in 1927 that now serves as the Salvation Army’s emergency lodge for 67 low-income people. According to Major Dabis, the organization has plans to expand the services offered on their sites by building a new facility in the future.

Lois Bernstein, MultiCare Health System’s Senior Vice President of Community Services, asked that the proposed eastern boundary be re-drawn to exclude four homes owned by MultiCare: three are vacant, and another is leased to a single family. The homes, which sit in the shadow of MultiCare’s hospital campus, are located at 1216 South Fourth Street (built in 1925); 1218 South Fourth Street (built in 1923); and 417 South M Street (built in 1905); and 407 South M Street (built in 1908).

Other property owners came forward to say they generally supported the historic district proposal, but did not want their properties included.

Still, most of the public testimony came from Wedge residents and preservationists who spoke of the neighborhood’s history, their desire to preserve it from future development, and a need to keep the conservation districts and district boundaries as they are currently proposed.

The planning commission meeting will take place on Weds., May 19 at 4 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market St., first floor. For more information on this proposal, visit http://www. cityoftacoma.org/planning (click on Wedge Neighborhood Historic District).

— WHAT’S AT ISSUE IN THE WEDGE NEIGHBORHOOD? —

When the City of Tacoma’s Planning Commission meets this week, it will face several issues related to the Wedge Historic District proposal. Most spring from a public hearing March 17 where concerns were raised by neighborhood residents and property owners.
The materials for this week’s meeting include a breakdown of some of the key issues and policy questions prepared by City Hall staff, as well as a map referencing many of the concerns. They are reprinted in today’s edition of the Index.

A. The Property at 421 South M Street — The Landmarks Preservation Commission omitted this property from its July 22, 2009 recommendation to the Planning Commission in response to the property owner’s stated opposition to inclusion in the historic district, as well as a desire to follow the R-2SRD zoning boundary (property is zoned HM). The property was added to the proposed conservation overlay by the Planning Commission on February 17, 2010. The property is a historically significant apartment building.

B. The 400 Block of South M Street — Much of the testimony and commentary received by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and Planning Commission has concerned this boundary. The following may be characterized as key factors:

— The Landmarks Preservation Commission included the eastern side of South M Street in its 2009 recommendation because it was felt that the edge of the district was clearly defined by the development pattern change at the alley between L and M Streets, because this is consistent with the R-2SRD zoning boundary, and because the affected homes are considered historically contributing to the district;

— Two residential property owners in the 400 Block of South M Street, representing ownership of 3 parcels, support inclusion;

— Three residential property owners in the same area, representing ownership of 3 parcels, are opposed to inclusion;

— The remaining affected property owner is MultiCare, which owns 4 historically contributing homes purchased between 2003 and 2005, and a non-historic daycare center that occupies 4 parcels on the west side of South M Street. MultiCare has consistently expressed its opposition to inclusion of its properties in the proposed historic and conservation districts;

— The area was downzoned to R-2SRD in 1990, with the objective of preserving the historic single-family character of the neighborhood. The eastern boundary was set at the alley centerline between South L and M Streets;

— However, the Land Use Intensity designation, established in 1980, is not consistent with the zoning boundary. The line between Low and Medium Intensity is located at the centerline of South M Street. Of note, there are similar occurrences in the HMR-SRD zone north of Division, in the North Slope Historic District.

C. The Berg Apartments at 1304 Division Avenue — The Landmarks Preservation Commission omitted this property from its July 22, 2009 recommendation to the Planning Commission in response to the property owner’s stated opposition to inclusion in the historic district, as well as a desire to follow the R-2SRD zoning boundary (property is zoned HM). The property was added to the proposed conservation overlay by the Planning Commission on February 17, 2010. The property is a historically significant apartment building.

D. The 500 Block of South M Street (western side) — These properties were added to the proposed conservation overlay by the Planning Commission on Feb. 17, 2010. These parcels are owned by a single owner, who has stated opposition to inclusion in the district, specifically due to the concern that future development potential may be hindered. The properties are zoned HM.

E. The property at 404 South Sheridan — The Landmarks Preservation Commission omitted this property from its July 22, 2009 recommendation to the Planning Commission in response to the property owner’s stated opposition to inclusion in the historic district, based on religious grounds. The property is classified by the Pierce County Assessor as Religious Use. The property was added to the proposed conservation overlay by the Planning Commission on February 17, 2010, and is considered a historically contributing residential building. No further comment was received from the property owner.

F. The properties at 1421 and 1501 6th Avenue — These properties were included in the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s July 22, 2009 recommendation for inclusion in the proposed conservation district, and were retained in the Planning Commission’s proposed districts on February 17, 2010. Concern regarding potential effect on future development was expressed by the property owner, the Salvation Army, at the March 17, 2010 hearing. Both parcels are zoned C-2.

G. The property at 1521 6th Avenue — This property is considered historically contributing to the district and was included within the historic district recommendation from the Landmarks Preservation Commission on July 22, 2009, and retained in the Planning Commission’s proposed district released on Feb. 17, 2010. Concern regarding potential effect on future development was expressed by the property owner, the Salvation Army, at the March 17, 2010 hearing. Specifically, this parcel may be planned for redevelopment as a surface lot, according to testimony. This would likely be prohibited if designated as a historically contributing property. The property is zoned C-2.

H. The Properties in the 1600 Block of 6th Avenue — These properties were included within the conservation district recommendation from the Landmarks Preservation Commission on July 22, 2009, and retained in the Planning Commission’s proposed district released on February 17, 2010. The structures in this area include a historic period warehouse, and the Trinity Presbyterian Church and Rectory, also considered historically significant. No comment has been received from these property owners, or comment specifically addressing these properties.

I. The Property at 1703 6th Avenue — The Landmarks Preservation Commission omitted this property from its July 22, 2009 recommendation to the Planning Commission because it was not considered a historically contributing property (constructed in 1986, currently the “It’s Greek to Me” restaurant). The property was added to the proposed conservation district by the Planning Commission on Feb. 17, 2010.

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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage of the Wedge Historic District nomination, click on the following links/articles:

1. Will Tacoma’s Wedge neighborhood go historic? (09/05/08) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1318920&more=0

2. A Slice of History: Two meetings will explore Wedge historic district nomination (09/23/08) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1355266&more=0

3. MultiCare, Wedge residents discuss hospital expansion, historic district effort (10/02/08) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1385425&more=0

4. MultiCare weighs in on Wedge historic district nomination (02/09/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1485714&more=0

5. Big decision ahead for proposed Wedge historic district (02/11/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1487900&more=0

6. New timeline for Wedge historic district review (02/18/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1491340&more=0

7. A Hike through History (03/05/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1502432&more=0

8. Decision expected this week on preliminary Wedge Historic District boundary (03/24/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1514668&more=0

9. Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission sets ‘working boundary’ for Wedge Historic District (03/27/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1517636&more=0

10. A house in the city, a home to neighborhood history (04/16/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1529595&more=0 or http://www.wahmee.com/tdi_walkup_residence.pdf

11. Another opportunity to weigh in on Wedge historic district proposal (05/21/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1553879&more=0

12. Wedge Historic District public hearing June 24 (06/19/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1573389&more=0

13. Wedge residents share support for historic district during public hearing (06/25/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1576698&more=0

14. Opposing sides emerge in Wedge historic district nomination (06/30/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1579134&more=0

15. More voices weigh in on Wedge historic district proposal (07/21/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1591525&more=0

16. Key meetings ahead for Wedge Historic District proposal (02/16/10) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1717406&more=0

17. Public can weigh in on proposed Wedge Historic District (03/19/10) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1729797&more=0

18. More voices heard as Wedge Historic District decision nears (03/24/10) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1739504&more=0

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For coverage of the LPC’s walking tour of the neighborhood, visit http://i.feedtacoma.com/TDI-Reporters-Notebook/walking-wedge-photos-from-neighborhood/ .

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For more information about the Wedge historic district, visit http://tacomaculture.org/wedge.asp .

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