Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1962 No. 141 - Jun 5 1962
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


A local improvement district may be created by a city or town to finance construction of a shopping mall covering city owned sidewalks.

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                                                                    June 5, 1962

Honorable Louis E. Hofmeister
State Senator, 30th District
P.O. Box 203
Enumclaw, Washington

                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 61-62 No. 141

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            May a local improvement district be created by a city or town in this state to finance construction of a shopping mall?

            We answer your question in the affirmative as explained in our analysis.


            You have described the proposed shopping mall as follows:

            "The property owners in a four block area of the downtown section propose to construct a shopping mall by means of reconstruction of existing buildings.  They propose to form a Local Improvement District to finance the construction of a full-length marquee covering the city-owned sidewalks within the area in question.  The marquee would not be structurally joined to any of the privately owned buildings.  In addition to the marquee, covered crosswalks, fountains, planter boxes and permanent landscaping and architectural features would be built upon a public street which is to be closed to vehicular traffic by city ordinance.

            "No part of the proposed construction would be on private property. . . ."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            By chapter 111, Laws of 1961 (cf. chapter 35.71 RCW), the legislature enacted a statute entitled:

            "AN ACT Relating to cities and towns; authorizing the establishment of pedestrian malls; and repealing all conflicting acts or parts of acts."

            By § 1 of this act, the word "mall" is defined to mean:

            ". . . an area of land, part of which may be surfaced, landscaped, and used entirely for pedestrian movements, except with respect to governmental functions, utilities, and loading and unloading of goods."

            Section 2 (cf. RCW 35.71.020) provides that:

            "The establishment of pedestrian malls is declared to be for a public purpose.  Any corporate authority, by ordinance, may establish and regulate any street right of way as a mall, may prohibit, in whole or in part, vehicular traffic on a mall, and may provide for the acquisition of any interest in the right of way necessary to its establishment, and may provide for the determination of legal damages, if any, to abutting property."

            Sections 3, 4, and 5 (cf. RCW 35.71.030, 35.71.040, and 35.71.050) set forth, in detail, matters of procedure to be followed in the establishment of such "malls."

            Then, most significantly, § 6 (cf. RCW 35.71.060) establishesmethods of financing as follows:

            "The corporate authority may finance the establishment of a mall, including, but not limited to, right of way improvements, traffic control devices, and off street parking facilities in the vicinity of the mall, by one or more of the following methods or by a combination of any two or more of them:

            "(1)By creating local improvement districts under the laws applicable thereto in Title 35 RCW.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "(2) By issuing revenue bonds pursuant to chapter 35.41 RCW, RCW 35.24.305, chapter 80.40 RCW, RCW 35.81.100, and by such other statutes that may authorize such bonds.

            "(3) By issuing general obligation bonds pursuant to chapter 39.52 RCW, RCW 35.81.115, and by such other statutes and applicable provisions of the state constitution that may authorize such bonds.

            "(4) By use of gifts and donations.

            "(5) General fund and other available moneys:  PROVIDED, That if any general fund moneys are expended for a mall, provision may be made for repayment thereof to the general fund from money received from the financing of the mall.

            "The corporate authority may include within the cost of any mall project the expense of moving utilities, or any facility located within a right of way."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The reference, in subsection (1), above emphasized, to ". . . local improvement districts under the laws applicable thereto in Title 35 . . .," without question refers to the provisions of chapters 35.43 through 35.56 RCW, which set forth in detail the authority and procedures regarding local improvements constructed by cities and towns in this state.

            In our opinion, therefore, your question may be answered in the affirmative; i.e., a local improvement district may be created by a city or town in this state to finance the construction of a "mall" of the type you have described in your letter.  For details with regard to procedure, close attention should be paid to all pertinent statutory provisions above noted.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General