Standing next to a brick-patterned "We Shall Not Be Moved" sign and surrounded by local public officials, representatives of the McLean Gardens residents' association last week urged support for a development plan they have proposed for the complex.
This spring, California builder Dwight W. Mize announced that he had signed a contract to purchase McLean Gardens, a 723-unit apartment complex that is one of the city's largest concentrations of moderately priced housing. Mize said he planned to convert the complex to condominiums.
But residents have now countered with their own "balanced" development proposal. The plan would set aside one-fourth of the apartments for rent to low- or moderate-income persons; another one-fourth would be "minimally" renovated and coverted to condominiums to be sold at prices lower than condominiums proposed by Mize. The remaining 50 percent could be converted according to Mize's plan. He has said he would like to sell the condominiums at prices ranging from $45,000 to $75,000.
James McCabe, president of the residents' association, said at the press conference that some tenants have met several times with Mize and his lawyers to discuss the plans. "Though he seems like an amiable person, nevertheless he stonewalls very nicely," McCabe said. McCabe said residents have asked city officials to pressure Mize into negotiating "in a forreal fashion, not just in a stonewalling fashion."
The tenants' plan is not being embraced with enthusiasm by Mize, who said in a telephone interview last week that he considers the matter "a dead issue."
He added that he will continue to meet with tenants to consider restoration work on some of the units. Mize has repeatedly said he is not interested in keeping the McLean Gardens as a rental complex, and added last week, that his lenders would not allow him to do so anyway. He said he also has investigated the possibility of turning the complex into a cooperative, but said he has concluded that a cooperative wouldn't work.
The tenants, Mize said, "are asking for a dream-world situation that I can't do. I've told them 'no' 16 different ways." He said about 150 tenants at the complex already have said they plan to buy condominiums if the complex is converted.
Mize said he has signed $27 million contract to purchase the complex, placing a $500,000 deposit. He said he hopes to go to settlement in September. He also said he plans to move to Washington from California.
At the press conference, several public officials or their representatives promised to help the tenants and to urge Mize to continue working with them.
Council members favoring the tenants' plan included Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large) and Arrington Dixon (D-Ward 4) who is running for council chairman. Congressional Del. Walter Fauntroy also supported the plan as did all three mayoral candidates, Marion Barry (D-At Large), City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker and Mayor Walter Washington.
Barry called the tenant proposal "a good beginning, a start." He said he would urge Mize to work with the residents.
Tucker planned to meet with Mize within 48 hours and urge him to negotiate with the tenants on their development proposal, said a spokesman. Fauntroy said he also planned to meet with Mize within 48 hours. Fuantroy, who has endorsed Tucker for mayor, said he and Tucker probably would meet together with Mize.
Lorenzo Jacobs Jr., the city director of housing and community development, represented the mayor at the press conference. Jacobs said the mayor's office had been assured that negotiations will continue and said the mayor believes the tenants' plan is a "well thought-out document."