The District's urban renewal agency yesterday postponed a vote on approving the sale of the valuable downtown Metro Center parcels to two prominent developers because of the developers' affirmation action plan.
"We need to nail down how small businesses and minority businesses can participate in a major redevelopment project in downtown, and this plan doesn't do it," said Judy Jenkins, a D.C. Redevelopment Land Agency board member, whose position was supported by others on the four-member panel.
The proposed sales agreement calls for developers Oliver T. Carr and Theodore R. Hagans to pay the city $14.5 million in cash over the next five years, $14.5 million in notes repayable over the next 30 years and $22.6 million from the project's profits. The vote was rescheduled for Friday.
The RLA board members criticized the fact that while the city had agreed to sell the Metro Center land "at favorable terms," including the 30-year repayment schedule, the affirmative action plan, which board members termed inadequate, would remain in effect for only two years.
Some blacks are included in ownership and construction of the planned $350 million office, hotel and retail complex along G Street NW between 11th and 13th streets, the RLA members said. But the affirmative action plan pledges no defined role for blacks and other minorities in contracts for legal services, insurance, maintenance, security or accounting services after the project is completed.
The plan details what percentage of construction work must be assigned to minorities. But after that, the developers agree only "to make good faith efforts" to meet certain employment goals for D.C. residents and minorities.
William Joseph H. Smith, the developers' attorney, told the board, "We thought we were breaking new ground" by agreeing to report on minority involvement during construction and for an additional two years after the completion of construction of each phase of the project.
"We don't want to be under the stringencies of that plan for more than two years," Smith said. He questioned the board's authority to require a long-range plan.
Said board chairman Nira Long, "I'm not aware of any law that says we can't do it, and in fact we have done it."
Later, she touched off a debate with Carr when she said, "I would like to know that this is really an opportunity for minority business post-construction."
Carr responded, "You don't want to overwhelm the developer with so much discipline that he cannot function."
"I would find it hard to believe that you would resist our efforts to write in requirements for the post-construction period," Long said.
"We want to resist any efforts to bureaucratize us," Carr replied.
"If you are willing to deal with the cumbersome bureaucracy of 30-year terms for a favorable deal," Long said, then affirmation action requirements should be a smaller problem.
Carr said he would review the plan. Hagans gave no response.
The RLA board could revoke the developers' rights to Metro Center if the numerical goals of the affirmative action plan are not met, Smith said.
The affirmative action plan is one of the few aspects of the Metro Center agreement that board members can change. The financial agreement was worked out by city officials and the developers after Carr and Hagans took the city to court in a dispute over the land price for the three Metro Center parcels.