UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
November 5, 1953
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al. MORRIS v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA REDEVELOPMENT LAND AGENCY et al.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: PRETTYMAN
These are two civil actions, consolidated, in which the constitutionality of the District of Columbia Redevelopment Act of 1945
is challenged. The defendant Government bodies and officials filed motions to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Affidavits, with exhibits attached, were annexed to the motions. The plaintiffs filed cross-motions for summary judgment.
The plaintiffs are the owners of properties, one at 712 and the other at 716 Fourth Street, Southwest, both in the District of Columbia. One property is a department store owned and operated by the plaintiff Morris, and the other property is a retail hardware store owned and operated by the plaintiff Schneider. The defendants are the members of the District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency, that Agency itself (a corporation), the members of the National Capital Park and Planning Commission (called in this statute the 'Planning Commission'), the members of the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia, and the District of Columbia, a municipal corporation. The properties of the plaintiffs are located within the boundary lines of an area known in this litigation as 'Project Area B'.
This is the first project undertaken under the Redevelopment Act. The Planning Commission first published a Comprehensive Plan for the whole District of Columbia. Then it prepared a 'Land Use Plan' for an area called the 'Southwest Survey Area', which includes almost the whole of Southwest Washington. That plan, the Commission report says, 'includes the Commission's proposals for the distribution of the basic land uses in the Survey Area, the population to be accommodated, the proportions of different housing types and the amount of low-rent housing which should be provided.' The report recites as two of the principal proposals for the survey area:
'1. That the area continue to house about the same number of families.
'2. That the plan induce balanced and protected residential neighborhoods for all income groups, with approximately one-fourth of the housing designated for low-income families.'
The locations of other survey areas have been prepared by the Commission, one a Northwest Survey Area and one a Southeast Survey Area. Out of the Southwest Survey Area the Commission selected a part, to be known as Project Area B, for the first redevelopment project. This is what is now before us.
The proposal of the Commission was approved by the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia. Thereafter the Planning Commission adopted a redevelopment plan for the area. The Land Agency made a detailed survey, using techniques considered standard by public authorities. A total of 1345 dwelling units in 1006 structures in the area housed a population of 5012. The survey indicated that 57.8 per cent of the dwellings depended upon outside toilets, 60.3 per cent had no 'baths', 82.2 per cent no wash basins or laundry tubs, 29.3 per cent no electricity, and 83.8 per cent no central heating. The survey indicated that 64.3 per cent of the dwellings in the area were beyond repair and 18.4 per cent needed some major repairs.
After a public hearing the Commissioners approved the proposed redevelopment plan, and the Planning Commission certified it to the Land Agency for execution. Having obtained the necessary funds for preliminary steps from the Federal Housing and Home Finance Administrator, the Land Agency advertised for proposals to negotiate for the purchase or lease of land in the project area. After due consideration the Agency accepted the proposals of five bidders who owned property in the area (Safeway Stores, Inc., Martin Wiegand, Inc., Eagle Transfer Company, Max Greenwald, and Rudderforth Brothers), each to repurchase its present property, and of the Bush Construction Company for the remainder of the area.
The boundary of the project area is a line beginning at South Capitol and Eye Streets, running west to Fourth Street, north on Fourth Street, around Lots 89 and 90 in Square 541; thence further north on Fourth Street, around Lot 70 in Square 497; thence west along H Street, around Lot 43 in Square 497; thence east along G Street back to Fourth Street to the rear of lots facing on Fourth Street; thence north 95.75 feet, east 3 feet, north 16 feet, east 25 feet, north 150 feet, west 25 feet, north 61.75 feet to the south line of F Street; thence east along F Street 25 feet, north 282 feet, around Lot 16 in Square 538; thence east along E Street to the property line of the P.B. and W. railroad; thence along that boundary to South Capitol Street and to the point of beginning. From this described boundary five lots owned by the trustees of the Friendship Baptist Church were eliminated.
In an affidavit the Director of Public Health for the District of Columbia characterizes Project Area B as a slum area 'characterized particularly by the lack of those things which make for a good community.' Attached to his affidavit are statistics of the Bureau of Vital Statistics of the District Health Department for Census Tract No. 60, within which Project Area B lies, being about one-half the residential-commercial area in the Tract. The figures for the year 1951 are:
Census Tract Entire District
No. 60 of Columbia
Death Rates Per 1000 Population 15.6 10.1
Death Rates from Tuberculosis Per
100,000 Population 83.7 35.5
Death Rates from Syphilis Per
100,000 Population 41.8 7.1
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