November 12, 2013

Regarding the Nov. 3 Metro article “Opposition to D.C. public-private land deal again delays library, other projects”:

Why have Ralph Nader and the D.C. Library Renaissance Project asked the U.S. attorney to investigate the appearance of corruption and possible illegality arising from the District’s agreement to convey two properties to a developer? Here are some key facts that prompted our request:

First, D.C. officials testified before the zoning commission — falsely, we believe — that the $91-per-square-foot sales price they negotiated with the developer, EastBanc-WDC Partners, exceeded the appraised value of the lots, which hold the West End Library and fire station. In fact, the lots were appraised at $156 and $170 per square foot, respectively, meaning taxpayers are losing tens of millions of dollars in value on the deal.

Second, EastBanc reportedly obtained an additional $7 million in taxpayer financing after claiming it could not otherwise afford to build the small number of affordable housing units required by law. But the profit projections in EastBanc’s business plan, which we provided to the U.S. attorney, appear to contradict this claim.

Notably, none of the EastBanc supporters quoted by The Post disputed the facts that serve as the basis for our charges. Those opposed to a $50 million-plus giveaway of taxpayer assets therefore should welcome an investigation.

Oliver B. Hall, Washington

The writer is counsel to Ralph Nader and the D.C. Library Renaissance Project.