FOIA Request Denied for West End Library Agreement

March 14, 2013
Contact Robin Diener
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FOIA Request Denied for West End Library Agreement

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Officer has denied a request by the DC Library Renaissance Project (DCLRP) for a copy of the final land disposition agreement (LDA) between the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and developer EastBanc, LLC for the controversial West End Parcels deal. An LDA is a contract of sale, often referred to as a term sheet.

When the case was heard recently at the Court of Appeals, Judge Roy L. McNeese’s first question was “Where is the final LDA?” EastBanc’s counsel Deborah Baum confirmed that only a draft agreement was included in the record.

“The terms of a deal conveying valuable public property to a private developer should be public,” said DCLRP attorney Oliver Hall. “The District’s refusal to disclose the LDA, in apparent violation of the District’s open records law, raises serious questions about the propriety of this deal.”

The DC Library Renaissance Project is suing the Zoning Commission (ZC) over its decision to approve a Planned Unit Development (PUD) of three pieces of publicly-owned land in the West End, which the city is conveying to EastBanc in exchange for its construction of a new library and firehouse. Among the points of contention is the improper granting of a waiver of the affordable housing required under the District’s Inclusionary Zoning law.

DCLRP maintains that prime real estate was substantially undervalued and offered as an incentive to build the facilities, which the ZC then failed to take into account when approving the Eastbanc waiver. In addition, according to DCLRP, the new library/firehouse facilities are being paid for by the city through the land transfer and they should not count towards a waiver.

DCLRP filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the finalized LDA document after the Court of Appeals hearing. On Friday that request was formally denied in an email by DMPED’s FOIA Officer Ayesha Abbasi “on the grounds that these documents contain internal discussions and recommendations of a deliberative nature as well as attorney client communications. These documents are exempt pursuant to D.C. Official Code §2-534 (a)(4).”

DCLRP plans to appeal the denial of its FOIA request.