Case 148

Presidio Golf Club v. National Park Service, 155 F.3d 1153 (9th Cir. 1998).

Plaintiff, the private Presidio Golf Club in San Francisco, California, challenged a proposal by defendant, the National Park Service (NPS), to construct a public golf clubhouse near its century-old private clubhouse, which was eligible for listing in the National Register. Presidio asserted that NPS violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by failing to consider that constructing the public clubhouse might lead to neglect and destruction of the historic private facility. NPS then challenged plaintiff's standing to sue under NEPA, NHPA, and the Administrative Procedures Act, and filed for summary judgment.

NPS argued that plaintiff lacked standing for the following reasons: first, that any future injury to Presidio would be a purely speculative economic competitive injury that is not within the zone of interests to be protected by NEPA or NHPA; second, that Presidio lacked standing in its representative capacity based on injury to its club members; and third, that any future injury would be "self-induced," "conjectural and speculative," and not fairly traceable to the actions of defendant. The court found that purely economic interests do not fall within the "zone of interests" to be protected by NEPA or NHPA, noting that on previous occasions it has held that a court would have to find that plaintiff's interests are inconsistent with the purposes of NEPA, and the interests are so inconsistent that it would be unreasonable to assume that Congress intended to allow the suit. It further noted that the "zone of interests" test is not demanding.

After reviewing the facts, the court concluded that retention of the historic clubhouse was consistent with the purposes of NHPA as a "living part life," and that it furthered NHPA's goals to "encourage the...private preservation and utilization of...the Nation's historically built environment." The court found no need to require the participation of individual members in the suit as suggested by NPS, since the interests and claims are undifferentiated among the members and similar to the interests and claims of Presidio. Finally, determining that the projected membership losses could well prove fatal to Presidio and constitute a future injury that is fairly traceable to NPS's alleged procedural violation, the court held that plaintiff had standing.

The court then turned to plaintiff's allegations that NPS violated NEPA and NHPA, noting the guidance from previous case law stating that "an agency's decision should be overturned if it was 'arbitrary, capricious and abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.'" Western Radio Services Co. v. Espy, 79 F.3d 896, 900 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 117 S.Ct. 80 (1996). It also stated that "review under the arbitrary and capricious standard is narrow and the reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of the agency." Id.

Although NPS expressed confidence throughout the NEPA process that compliance would end with the preparation and approval of a Finding of No Significant Impact, the court found that the agency's approach to the process was not pre-decisional and was therefore permissible. It also determined that it was neither arbitrary nor capricious for NPS to not take a "fuller account of the remote environmental effects on the historic private clubhouse that might result from the economic impact of competition from the new public clubhouse."

Presidio argued that NPS erred during its NHPA review by failing to consider the golf club as an "interested party" and consulting with it. The court found that all that NPS had to do regarding interested parties during effect assessment was to "consider their views." The court, based on NPS responses to public comments, decided that NPS had indeed considered Presidio's comments. The fact that NPS disagreed with those comments did not present a compliance problem. Although Section 106 of NHPA requires agencies to "consult with…interested persons" as to the resolution of adverse effects, such consultation was unnecessary in this case due to NPS's determination of no adverse effect.

The court ended its decision by holding that the district court did not err when it considered a "litigation affidavit." The affidavit was prepared to explain NPS's prior analyses of the possibility of using the private clubhouse, and also pointed out the standard developed by the Ninth Circuit in a previous case, which permits an "explanation" of agency decision making to allow for an adequate judicial review.

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