The city of Seattle and the University of Washington really need to stop acting like the Hatfields and McCoys. Especially in the fight over dumpy More Hall Annex.
There are many pressing issues facing the University of Washington and the city of Seattle.
So it’s disappointing that they waste so much time bickering over relatively minor land-use disputes. These spats waste public money and resources and need to stop.
The latest fight involves whether the UW’s homely More Hall Annex should be preserved as a historic landmark. This follows the bitter, long-running feud over city fees on a UW project downtown.
In both cases, Seattle officials seemed intent on henpecking the city’s largest public employer at the behest of special-interest groups.
The UW, in turn, comes across as aloof and above city rules that apply to everyone else.
This dynamic surfaced last year in a fight over affordable-housing fees the UW must pay the city as it develops a tower and hotel on its Rainier Square property downtown. They bitterly argued for years over whether the school was paying its fair share.
The city was goaded by a hotel union while the UW was allied with developer Wright-Runstad. They eventually settled on an $11.7 million payout for affordable housing, child-care programs and rural preservation efforts.
Now the school and the city are in court fighting over the annex, which the UW wants to demolish so it can build a new data-sciences building. The school convinced a judge that it doesn’t have to abide by the city’s landmark-preservation ordinance.
Seattle initially fought to preserve the annex at the behest of preservationists. Now it’s appealing to resolve whether the UW must follow city rules.
City Hall should care as much about preserving low-density neighborhoods that distinguish Seattle and nurture its character. While it fights for an abandoned heap, it’s simultaneously encouraging developers to raze countless older buildings and blanket the city with generic apartments.
That More Hall Annex became a flash point is surprising.
The long-vacant nuclear-reactor building made negligible contributions to history. Preservationists noted that windows revealed the reactor to passers-by, but that feature failed to hold students’ interest and the nuclear program fizzled out in 1992.
The design of More Hall Annex mostly evokes a segment of a freeway overpass. If the city is so enamored with this style, it should preserve the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
In the meantime, city and university officials might save money on legal fees by locking themselves into the annex until they’ve talked through their differences.