City Pushes 100% Affordable Housing Proposal for Boys and Girls Club in Hill East
Only the Dantes/Menkiti Proposal Meets the Narrow Requirements of DGS
by Larry Janezich
Yesterday, the Department of General Services (DGS) released the developers Best and Final Offers (BAFOs) for the former Hill East Boys and Girls Club at 261 17th Street, SE. Only two proposals were submitted for developing the city-owned building: Dantes/Menkiti’s would be 100 percent affordable housing financed by the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC); Century Associates’ would be 100 percent market rate units financed conventionally with no government subsidy. DGS asked the developers for their BAFO in response to concerns raised by residents during community meetings to consider the proposals. See here: http://bit.ly/1KXZYxd
One of those concerns was that DGS had stacked the deck in favor of Dantes/Menkiti by limiting the lease to 25 years – effectively limiting financing to public funds, since private equity needs for a major overhaul would be impossible on such a short-term lease. In addition, DGS ruled that developers must comply with a new District law requiring 30% affordable units in projects on property surplused by the city, a law that passed after the initial request for bids to redevelop the Boys and Girls Club was issued.
ANC Commissioner and Hill East Task Force Chair Brian Flahaven reacted to the BAFOs as follows: “Based on the BAFO response summary, it is pretty clear that DGS is down to one proposal for the site – Dantes/Menkiti. Instead of providing additional flexibility in the BAFO, DGS essentially doubled-down on their original RFP terms, including the ridiculously short lease requirement. I’m extremely frustrated that this process has led to a choice of one.” For Flahaven’s full statement on the BAFOs, see here: http://flahaven6b.com/
ANC6B10 Commissioner Denise Krepp pulled few punches in her reaction, sent to DGS today, and copied to Councilmember Allen’s office, among others. Krepp said, “This document does not provide the specific information Commissioner Flahaven and I requested. In the meeting earlier this month, we told you that we needed more financial data and you promised to provide it. DGS failed to live up to this promise.
This document is full of generic information that makes me doubt DGS’ commitment to sound financial planning. We still don’t know how the applicants plan on financing construction. Similarly, we don’t have any information on the applicant’s past performance on DC projects.
Absent more specific information from DGS, I will recommend that the ANC send a letter to the Mayor expressing outrage over the way in which DGS operates. As a taxpayer, I expect more from DGS. As an ANC Commissioner, I intend to make sure your office provides the ANC with quality data. The document you sent yesterday doesn’t meet this definition.”
Separately, two neighbors of the Boys and Girls Club, Hill East residents Denise and Greg Daniel, distributed a survey that they formulated to 286 neighbors within 1 to 2 blocks of the Boys and Girls Club site. Of the 81 households that responded, 51% preferred the Century Associates proposal, 32 % preferred neither, and 17% preferred Dantes/Menkiti. The Daniels have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with DGS to require disclosure of “any and all emails” between DGS and the developers as well as any and all emails related to limiting the lease to 25 years, community preference for the property, low income set aside requirements for the property, exceptions to the minimum square footage for the units, and those related to zoning variance requirements.
ANC6B Planning and Zoning Committee will meet Tuesday, March 3 to craft a response to the BAFOs. Flahaven told other commissioners at Tuesday night’s ANC 6B’s Executive Committee meeting that he expects that the Planning and Zoning committee will not recommend a developer, but will comment on the RFP process and state what the committee likes and doesn’t like about the two proposals.