Protect Our Parks, Inc. v. Buttigieg, 21-cv-2006

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
Writing for the CourtJohn Robert Blakey, United States District Judge
PartiesPROTECT OUR PARKS, INC., et al., Plaintiffs, v. PETE BUTTIGIEG, et al. Defendants.
Decision Date12 August 2021
Docket Number21-cv-2006

PROTECT OUR PARKS, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, et al.
Defendants.

No. 21-cv-2006

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 12, 2021


MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

John Robert Blakey, United States District Judge

On August 16, 2021, construction is set to start on the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Chicago's Jackson Park. Since the City of Chicago made the decision to locate the OPC in Jackson Park in 2016, efforts to preempt the construction at that site have persisted. In 2018, Plaintiff Protect Our Parks, Inc. and several individuals sued the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District in this Court under various federal and state laws attempting to halt construction. This attempt was unsuccessful: this Court granted summary judgment in the defendants' favor on all claims, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed on the federal claims and held that the plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue their state-law claims.

Notwithstanding, six months after the Seventh Circuit's decision and just four months before groundbreaking, Plaintiff Protect Our Parks and several other new Plaintiffs have again sued to halt construction on the OPC. This time they sue not only the City and Park District, but also the Barack Obama Foundation and several federal and state agencies under a series of federal- and state-law theories, some old and some new. More recently, Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction on their federal claims, asking this Court to enjoin the imminent groundbreaking at Jackson Park. [30]. In support of their motion, Plaintiffs argued that various federal agencies failed in performing statutorily mandated reviews concerning construction of the OPC and its effects on the environment, historical resources, and wildlife, among other things. If the agencies had adequately performed these reviews, Plaintiffs claimed, the agencies would have concluded that a superior site to Jackson Park exists to host the OPC. As explained further below, this Court denied the motion. [83].

I. Background

A. Procedural History

In May 2018, Plaintiff Protect Our Parks and several individuals sued the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District under federal and state law seeking to stop the construction of the OPC in Jackson Park. This Court granted summary judgment to the defendants on all claims, and the plaintiffs appealed. See Protect Our Parks, Inc. v. Chicago Park District, 971 F.3d 722, 728 (7th Cir. 2020) (PoP II), cert. denied sub nom. Protect Our Parks, Inc. v. City of Chicago, No. 20-1259, 2021 WL 1602736 (U.S. Apr. 26, 2021). On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed this Court's grant of summary judgment on the plaintiffs' two federal claims-that the defendants took their property in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at 736. The court of appeals vacated summary judgment, however, on the plaintiffs' claims under Illinois law, which alleged violations of the public trust doctrine and ultra vires actions, finding that the plaintiffs lacked Article III standing to sue on those claims. Id. at 732. On remand, this Court, consistent with the Seventh Circuit's holding, dismissed the state-law claims for lack of jurisdiction.

Undeterred, Plaintiff Protect Our Parks, along with Nichols Park Advisory Council (NPAC), and individuals Sid Williams, Stephanie Franklin, Bren Sheriff, Dr. W.J.T. Mitchell, and Jamie Kalvin have sued again seeking to halt construction on the OPC. [1]. Plaintiffs claim that the construction project has triggered several major federal regulatory reviews, specifically, those under: (1) § 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, 49 U.S.C. § 303(c) and 23 U.S.C. § 138(a); § 106 of the National History Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), 54 U.S.C. § 306108; the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Act (UPARR), 54 U.S.C. §§ 200501-200511; and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4347. Id. at ¶ 2. According to Plaintiffs, these federal statutes require comprehensive reviews of alternatives to determine how to address any adverse effects created by the OPC and to evaluate opportunities to avoid, minimize, or mitigate future adverse effects. Id. at ¶ 2. Defendants, Plaintiffs assert, have essentially ignored the regulatory frameworks requiring them to evaluate alternative sites to Jackson Park. Id. at ¶¶ 2-3.

As a result, Plaintiffs have now sued, in addition to Defendants the City of Chicago (the City), the Chicago Park District (the Park District), and the Barack Obama Foundation (the Foundation), Pete Buttigieg in his official capacity as Secretary of the Department of Transportation; Stephanie Pollack in her official capacity as Acting Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Arlene Kocher in her official capacity as the Division Administrator of the Illinois Division of the FHWA; Matt Fuller in his official capacity as the Environmental Programs Engineer of the Illinois Division of the FHWA; Anthony Quigley, P.E., in his official capacity as the Deputy Director, Region 1 Engineer of the Illinois Department of Transportation; Deb Haaland in her capacity as the Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior; Shawn Benge in his capacity as Deputy Director of Operations of the National Park Service (NPS), exercising the delegated authority of the Director of the NPS; John E. Whitley in his capacity as Acting Secretary of the Army; and Paul Culberson in his capacity as Commanding Officer of the Army Corps of Engineers. Id. at ¶¶ 23-34.

The fifteen-count complaint asserts claims for: (1) violation of section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act against the federal and state transportation and highway administration Defendants, the City, the Park District, and the Foundation (Count I); (2) violation of NEPA against all Defendants (Count II); violation of UPARR against the Interior Department, NPS, the City, the Park District, and the Foundation (Count III); violation of section 106 of the NHPA against all Defendants (Count IV); violations of Rivers and Harbor Act and Clean Water Act against the Army Corps Defendants, the City and the Park District (Count V); violation of the public trust doctrine against the City, the Park District, and the Foundation (Count VI); an ultra vires claim against the City and the Park District (Count VII); violation of article VIII, section 1 of the Illinois Constitution against the City, the Park District, and the Foundation (Count VIII); violation of the Illinois Constitution Takings Clause against the City, the Park District, and the Foundation (Count IX); improper delegation of authority under federal statutes against all Defendants (Count X); improper delegation of authority in violation of the Illinois Constitution against the City, the Park District, and the Foundation (Count XI), violation of article I, section 2 of the Illinois Constitution against the City, the Park District, and the Foundation (Count XII), violation of article I, section 16 of the Illinois Constitution against the City and the Foundation (Count XIII); violation of section 110(k) of the National Historic Preservation Act against all Defendants (Count XIV); and, in the alternative to Counts I, II, and IV, violation of the Illinois State Agency Historic Preservation Resources Act against all state officials, the City, the Park District, and the Foundation (Count XV).

Plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction on their federal claims. [31] at 17.

B. Factual Background[1]

1. The City Approves Jackson Park as the Site of the OPC

In 2014, the Foundation began a nationwide search for the future location of the Barack Obama presidential library. PoP II, 971 F.3d at 728. Eventually, it settled upon Jackson Park, a public park owned by the Chicago Park District, on Chicago's South Side as the site of the OPC. Id.; PoP I, 385 F.Supp.3d at 668. The site selected for the OPC within Jackson Park comprises 19.3 acres, or 3.5% of the 551.52 acres that make up the Park. PoP I, 38 F.Supp.3d at 668. The site lies on the western edge of Jackson Park and includes parkland bounded by South Stony Island Avenue to the west, East Midway Plaisance Drive North to the north, South Cornell Drive to the east, and South 62nd Street to the south. Id. The OPC site also includes land within the park currently existing as city streets: the portion of East Midway Plaisance Drive North between Stony Island Avenue and South Cornell Drive, and a portion of South Cornell Drive between Eastern Midway Plaisance Drive South and East Hayes Drive. Id. at 668-69. As part of the construction, these street portions will be closed and removed to restore the landscape's connection to the lagoon and lake. Id. at 669. When built, the OPC will consist of a campus containing open green space, a plaza, and four buildings: the Museum Building; the Forum Building; a Library Building; and a Program, Athletic, and Activity Center. Id. at 669.

Upon selection of Jackson Park as the site of the OPC, the City acquired the 19.3 acres necessary for the OPC from the Park District, enacted ordinances required to approve construction of the OPC, and entered into a use agreement with the Foundation that governs the terms of construction, ownership, and operation. PoP II, 971 F.3d at 728.

2. Declarations For and Against the Preliminary Injunction

At the parties' request, this Court set Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction for oral argument on July 20, 2021; the parties declined to present any live witnesses, opting instead just to argue their respective positions. This Court therefore relies upon the arguments and evidence presented in the parties' briefs, including the various declarations submitted by each side and the administrative record.

a. Robbin Cohen for the Foundation

The Foundation submitted the declaration of Robbin Cohen, Executive Vice President - Obama Presidential...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT