who have made investments in an urban renewal area under a government-sponsored redevelopment plan may block subsequent plan modifications which would adversely affect their interests and properties. Specifically, the plaintiffs in this case object and refuse to give their consents to proposed changes in the redevelopment plan for Southwest Washington which would substitute low income housing for church use on one parcel of land and would permit a motel to expand in size and height on another parcel.
There are four sets of plaintiffs and two sets of defendants. Plaintiff L'Enfant Plaza Properties, Inc. (L'Enfant Plaza) is a tenant under a long-term lease of premises in the Southwest urban renewal area which contain office space, a commercial shopping area, a theatre, a hotel, and underground parking.
The Hoeber plaintiffs
are owners of townhouses in the urban renewal area who obtained title to their properties from redevelopers who, in turn, had acquired such title from the Redevelopment Land Agency. Plaintiff Reporters Building, Inc. owns and operates an office building containing commercial space in the same area.
Intervenor-plaintiff Harbour Square Owners, Inc., is a non-profit cooperative housing corporation which owns a development in the area consisting of single-family and multi-family houses.
Named as defendants are several governmental entities and individuals, including the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) which adopts urban renewal plans and modifications, the District of Columbia Council (City Council) which approves these plans or modifications, and the Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA) which is responsible for implementation of the plans. The other principal defendant is Manglen Limited Partnership (Manglen), an intervenor, which developed property in the Southwest area upon which the Channel Inn, a motel and restaurant, is located.
On August 2, 1946, after several years of planning and the introduction of several bills in the Senate, Congress enacted the District of Columbia Redevelopment Act of 1945, D.C.Code § 5-701 et seq., 60 Stat. 790, which authorized a program of urban renewal for the District of Columbia and established a framework for its implementation.
The statute was adopted pursuant to a legislative determination that conditions in the District of Columbia (including substandard housing and blighted areas) were injurious to the public health, safety, morals, and welfare of its residents, and that it was the policy of the United States to protect and promote the well-being of its citizens by eliminating these conditions. Congress further determined that control by regulatory processes had failed to remedy the existing problems and that the acquisition of property was necessary to effectuate the declared policy.
An elaborate and detailed scheme was prescribed in the statute to carry out this urban renewal program.
Section 705(a) of the Act vests a planning function in the National Capital Planning Commission and grants to that agency the authority to adopt redevelopment plans for specific project areas,
subject to the approval of the City Council.
Under this authority, the NCPC has the power to prescribe the public and private land uses for the respective areas, density standards for both population and buildings, and the amount and character of any low-rent housing. Section 705(b)(2). Following City Council approval, the NCPC certifies the plan to the RLA which then acquires and assembles real property in the area
and transfers it to public agencies (for use for such public purposes as streets, utilities, recreation facilities, and schools) and to redevelopment companies (for lease or sale of the remainder). Section 706(d). The Act directs the RLA to give preference to private enterprise over public agencies in executing the redevelopment plan. Section 706(f).
To insure compliance with the renewal plan, Congress specified that all lease and sales agreements shall contain clauses binding the lessees or purchasers to carry out the plan and that use of all property shall conform to the plan. Section 710-11. The Act establishes procedures for modification of redevelopment plans by the NCPC, and it provides in section 718 that neither the federal nor the District government may modify an approved redevelopment plan or deviate therefrom unless the change is either adopted in accordance with the procedures set forth in section 711 or prescribed by an Act of Congress.
This litigation has from its very inception centered on the "consent" clause of section 711 which provides as follows:
An approved project area redevelopment plan may be modified at any time or times: Provided, That any such modification as it may affect an area or part thereof which has been sold or leased shall not become effective without the consent in writing of the purchaser or lessee thereof: Provided further, That such modification may be effected only through adoption by the (National Capital) Planning Commission and subsequent submission to and approval by the (District of Columbia Council,) as hereinafter provided. Before approval, the (District Council) shall hold a public hearing on the proposed modification after ten days public notice (emphasis added).