Case 18

Don't Tear it Down, Inc. v. General Services Administration, 401 F. Supp. 1194 (D.D.C. 1975).

A citizens' group brought an action to restrain the General Services Administration (GSA) from demolishing the Winder Building, the Winder Annex, the Riggs Bank Building, and the building occupied by the Nichols Cafe in Washington, D.C., to make way for the construction of a new office building. The Winder Building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and the other three buildings were possibly eligible for the Register. GSA had advised the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation that it intended to destroy the buildings, but when the Council pointed out to GSA that the three latter buildings might be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and that GSA should comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), GSA failed to respond to the Council's letter. After the Council requested the Secretary of the Interior to make a determination of the eligibility of the buildings for the Register, the Secretary found the buildings to be eligible and so notified GSA. GSA responded by informing the Council that it had decided to demolish the buildings but was willing to participate in the Council's consultation process.

After one consultation meeting in February, the parties determined that the matter should be heard by the full Council at its May meeting. Meanwhile, GSA began demolition, and plaintiffs obtained a restraining order preventing further demolition. The Council then rescheduled its meeting for April to allow the process to move more expeditiously. At that meeting, the Administrator of GSA asserted that he had gone ahead with demolition before completing the Council's process because he believed that GSA, the Council staff, and the Council would be unable to agree, that further consultation was futile, and that GSA therefore did not have to comply with Section 106 or the Council's regulations. After the Council had issued its comments, GSA moved to dismiss the lawsuit as moot.

The court found that the actions of GSA prior to the Council meeting were in contravention of the policies expressed in NHPA and the Council's regulations. Since that time, however, GSA had complied with the law and had apologized for its conduct. The court, while expressing its hesitation, therefore concluded that the case was moot and dismissed the action. 401 F. Supp. at 1199.

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