By Knute Berger
The showdown between the University of Washington and the City of Seattle over the city’s landmarks ordinance, and whether it applies to the UW campus, is approaching on April 1, but it’s no April Fool’s joke. If the university wins it could set a precedent for exempting the UW and other state universities from local land-use laws. If the city prevails, Seattle’s landmarks ordinance could apply to buildings on campus, including the historic More Hall Annex, aka the Nuclear Reactor Building, which the UW wants to tear down but preservationists want to save.
In a rapidly developing city, the suit is a high-stakes legal struggle over what development rules apply and where. The UW has chosen to pursue a “nuclear” option on the city’s landmarks process, using arguments that the city sees as a threat to its authority.