Case 97

Washington Trust for Historic Preservation v. City of Seattle, No. C87-1506C (W.D. Wash. Feb. 25, 1988).

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, with the National Trust for Historic Preservation as an intervening plaintiff, sought to enjoin the city of Seattle from violating the terms of a 1980 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) among the city, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the Department of the Interior, and the Washington State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO). The MOA was executed prior to the Interior Department's transfer to the city of 127 acres of land and 12 buildings in the National Register-listed Fort Lawton Historic District. It required the city to consult with the SHPO at various phases of the project and to obtain its comments prior to any final decision on demolition. The MOA also required the city to "take any action required to prevent further deterioration" of the historic buildings, enact an ordinance to manage the historic district, and record any buildings to be demolished. according to the standards of the Historic American Buildings Survey.

The district court found that the plaintiff preservation organization had standing to sue under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) on behalf of its interests and those of its members as evidenced by NHPA's attorneys' fees provision. The court also recognized that the National Trust had standing to bring suit to enforce both the MOA and the statute.

Assessing the facts of the case, the district court found that the city potentially violated the MOA by failing to properly consult with the SHPO, much less obtain its comments, prior to making a final decision to demolish all but two of the historic buildings. The district court also noted that the city failed to adopt the ordinance to provide for management of the historic district, even though 10 years had elapsed since the signing of the MOA, and that proper recordation of the buildings had not yet occurred.

In ruling on the preliminary injunction, the district court determined that plaintiffs had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits as they showed that defendants failed to adhere to several provisions of the MOA. The court found that irreparable harm would occur if demolition of the historic buildings proceeded and the MOA remained unfulfilled. Further, the court found that the injury to plaintiffs outweighed the hardship to defendants because plaintiffs could not be adequately compensated in damages if the demolition went forward.

The court enjoined the city from demolishing the historic buildings until the requirements of the MOA were fulfilled.

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