On Wednesday night, hundreds of residents of the Watergate East co-op complex filed into the Monticello room there to vote on a measure some hoped might stop the sale of the Watergate Hotel.
The ballots were collected, locked up and transported to the offices of the D.C. League of Women Voters, precautions taken because of past accusations of ballot shredding and fraud.
The watchdog group counted the votes yesterday with a proctor from each side observing. The results, revealed on an internal TV station and in fliers stuffed into mailboxes: 35,334 votes against the sale, 34,898 for it. (Each co-op unit gets a number of votes, based on its size.)
But that did not end the bitter battle among Watergate East residents over the sale of space they own under the hotel to a developer who wants to turn the entire hotel into another luxury cooperative. Monument Realty LLC wants the space for additional parking.
The Watergate East board's president, Daniel Sheehan, who supports the sale, said Wednesday night's vote was simply advisory. Last night, the board held its own vote and by a 5 to 4 count, with two members absent, approved the sale of the underground property. But two board members who oppose the sale invoked a clause in the co-op's bylaws to schedule yet another vote in 10 days. "I'm very, very frustrated with it," said Audrey R. Wolf, a literary agent and board member who favors the sale.
The board had been expected to sign an agreement with Monument today. And Monument's principal, Michael Darby, said he expects to pay Blackstone Real Estate Advisors LP of New York, the seller of the hotel, the additional funds he owes them Aug. 1.
Opponents of the sale say they will file a lawsuit if the board ignores Wednesday's vote of the co-op owners.
Monument has offered to pay the Watergate East complex $4.25 million for that underground space. Those supporting the deal say the complex could use the money.
Monument says it could proceed even without that space underneath the hotel, although it would make its plans more complicated.
Wednesday night's vote was the third by co-op owners on whether to sell the space to Monument. Their first vote was thrown out by a judge who said the bylaws weren't observed, and the second vote was canceled because of allegations of ballot shredding.
William S. Diedrich, a retired U.S. diplomat who is vehemently against the sale, said after his side won the Wednesday night vote, "We're so pleased. It's delightful. It's delicious."
"We won. We won," said Evelyn Y. Davis, a corporate watchdog who lives in the Watergate East. "They have to make this vote binding or that really would be cause for a lawsuit."
William B. Wolf Jr., a lawyer who supported the sale and Audrey Wolf's husband, said, "I can't believe it. I'm not very happy."
The league's president, Frances Gemmill, declined to answer questions about how the votes were being counted yesterday.
"It's their property. We just count the vote," she said.