The Samaritaine and the Serres d’Auteuil : An Update from the Courtrooms

1. The buildings at the Samaritaine on the rue de Rivoli being demolished
24 February 2014
Photo : Didier Rykner

24/2/14 - Heritage - Paris, Samaritaine and Serres d’Auteil - Judges and demolishers do not share the time frame. Readers might remember the title of our article concerning the surprising (to use a euphemism) decision delivered by the "juge des référés" [judge for emergency interim rulings] at the Tribunal administratif of Paris who concluded, last 8 July, that the protest submitted by the associations against the two building permits for the Samaritaine was not acceptable.
The case was to be heard today before the Conseil d’Etat. The commission reporter, after explaining there was a legal precedent, demonstrated in a few minutes that "the juge des référés committed a manifest error". Our analysis of the case was therefore correct but, unfortunately, our conclusion, that is that this meant the demolishers were free to proceed, was equally right. The demolition started in December (see here) and, coincidentally, has speeded up the last few days. As of today, all of the 17th and 18th century houses have been destroyed and the 19th century ones on the rue de Rivoli are for the most part also gone (ill. 1 and 2).

2. The buildings at the Samaritaine being demolished
(corner of rue de la Monnaie and rue Baillet)
24 February 2014
Photo : Didier Rykner

The case is now being deliberated and a decision - whose outcome leaves no room for doubt given the very clear demonstration made by the reporter - should be delivered in about two weeks, then clearing the way for a new hearing in "référé" chambers before the Tribunal administratif. This time around the ruling should annul the construction permits, halting a construction site which should never have been authorized in the first place by the French Ministry of Culture and Paris City Hall, preventing, at least for a few years, the construction of a building in frosted glass which will stick out like a sore thumb amid stone buildings, not far from the Louvre itself..

As concerns the Serres d’Auteuil, the latest rulings from the Tribunal administratif have been disastrous. Readers might remember that the first "Convention d’occupation du domaine public" agreed to by Paris City Hall and the Fédération Française de Tennis had been annulled (see here). Alas, the second one, much similar to the first, was nevertheless judged acceptable and the associations’ request was rejected by the Tribunal administratif. In this same ruling, published on 20 February, the court also rejected the appeal for annulment of the construction permit of the Centre national d’entrainement at the Hébert stadium (judging that the two sites were independent) and the appeal for annulment of the "révision simplifiée du PLU afin d’étendre, de rénover and de moderniser les stades Roland-Garros" [simplified revision of the Local Urban Plan in order to extend, renovate and modernize the stadiums at Roland-Garros].

The battle has thus been lost but the associations for heritage protection will continue to fight and will of course appeal these decisions. In a press release, they "are worried that the interests of a professional sports competition which lasts about two weeks should take precedence over the public interest and Parisian parks which were nevertheless protected by lawmakers". We indeed find it incredible that, no matter which side of the political fence they are on (with the exception of the Ecologists), political leaders outdo themselves in wishing to destroy the gardens at the Serres d’Auteuil which we remind our readers are entirely protected due to their listing as a historical monument.

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 24 février 2014

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