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AGO 1955 No. 8 - January 17, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

LANDS ‑- HARBOR AREA ‑- PUBLIC PLACE ‑- IMPROVEMENTS ‑- CITY OWNERSHIP AND CONTROL ‑- CITIES AND TOWNS ‑- POWERS ‑- DOCKS ‑- MAINTENANCE AND INSURANCE

1. The state does not own and has no interest in rents that do, and insurance proceeds that may, accrue from a dock built by a first class city on a public place in a harbor area.

2. First class city may pay expenses of maintenance, repair and insurance on a municipal dock.

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                                                                 January 17, 1955

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 8


Attention:  Mr. A. E. Hankins

Dear Sir:

            You have asked for our opinion on questions arising from the following facts:

            Prior to 1914 the city of Bremerton built a dock on what was designated as a public place in a harbor area by the state land commissioner's plat of the Bremerton tidelands dated 1914; in 1921 the city leased the site from the state of Washington‑-the lease expiring in 1951; since that time, the city has continued renting certain portions of the dock to private persons, has maintained a wharfinger, and is paying substantial fire insurance premiums on the dock.

            Your questions are:

            1. If no new lease is given, will the state of Washington become the owner of the dock?

            2. Will the state of Washington be entitled to an accounting for rentals received since the expiration of the lease in 1951?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            3. In the event of loss covered by the insurance, will the proceeds of the policy be payable to the state of Washington?

            4. May the city legally pay the fire insurance premiums and expenses of maintenance and repair?

            Our conclusions are: 1. No; 2. No; 3. No; and 4. Yes.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            1. In 1914, the state land commissioner dedicated the site of the dock as a public place.  RCW 79.16.210 provides, in part, that streets and other public places are validated as public highways and dedicated to the use of the public for the purposes for which they were intended.  In addition, RCW 79.16.200, provides, in part, that streets shall be dedicated to the public use,subject to the control of the cities in which they are situated.  Because of the dedication and city control of the area, we are of the opinion that the state of Washington has no interest in or claim to city improvements placed thereon.

            2. and 3. Inasmuch as the area has been dedicated to the city, no lease from the state was or is now required; in fact, such a lease would be void as against declared public policy.  SeeLaurelhurst Club, Inc. v. Backus, 161 Wash. 185 (1931).  We believe the state's lack of interest in the dock entirely negates the possibility of the state's right to collect the proceeds of the fire insurance in the event of loss, and the state's right to an accounting for rents for the period since the expiration of the invalid lease in 1951.

            4. RCW 35.22.280 (26) expressly provides, in part, that any city of the first class may provide for the maintenance of public docks.  Also, it is generally accepted that municipalities have implied power to insure public property even though no express power may exist.  See 100 A.L.R. 600.

            We hope the foregoing analysis will be helpful to you.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


RICHARD L. NORMAN
Assistant Attorney General

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