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CHINA TRADE CENTER v. WASHINGTON METRO. AREA TRAN.

January 29, 1999

CHINA TRADE CENTER, L.L.C., PLAINTIFF,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, ET AL., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sporkin, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's ("WMATA"), Motion for Summary Judgment.*fn1 The following facts are undisputed: WMATA is an interstate agency that was established in 1996 through a congressionally approved interstate compact among the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. WMATA is charged with the operation of the metrorail and metrobus transportation system in the greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Plaintiff, China Trade Center, L.L.C. ("China Trade") is a limited liability company whose principals include individual and corporate developers.

On March 22, 1996 WMATA issued a request for proposals ("RFP") for thirty different properties in the Washington metropolitan area. The RFP indicated the procurement process would be conducted according to WMATA's competitive negotiation procedures whereby WMATA would conduct various rounds of negotiation with each bidder in an attempt to secure the most advantageous Best and Final Offer ("BAFO"). A negotiated procurement procedure differs in significant ways from a sealed bid. Typically, in a sealed bid each proposer has but one opportunity to submit a proposal to the procuring authority. A low or otherwise uncompetitive initial bid necessarily must lose out to a more advantageous one. In a negotiated procurement however, each bidder is encouraged to submit multiple proposals over the course of an ongoing negotiation process. Consistent with these procedures, each bidder submitted multiple proposals to WMATA.

The RFP listed four factors against which WMATA would evaluate each proposal. These were as follows: (1) the financial viability of the proposed development and developer; (2) the effect of the proposal on WMATA's ridership; (3) the project's ability to create sources of revenue for WMATA; and (4) the effect of the proposal on the local tax base of WMATA jurisdictions. Pursuant to a technical evaluation each proposal was accorded a numerical score signifying the extent to which the proposal fulfilled each factor. WMATA ultimately awarded the project to the proposal that best met its objectives as demonstrated by the final evaluative score.

In addition to satisfying the above factors, all proposals had to comply with certain informational requirements set forth in Part Two of the RFP. These requirements included (1) specific identification of proposed land uses; (2) a site plan; (3) general information on the anticipated impact of the project on Metro transit facilities; (4) sufficient detail so as to enable WMATA to determine whether the proposal would be compatible with local land use policies; and (5) a statement that the developer would ensure that the project will "comply with all applicable local, state and federal, laws and regulations".

One of the properties identified in the RFP was a 1.71 acre lot in Chinatown known as the "Gallery Place Site".*fn2 WMATA received three timely bids for the Gallery Place Site. The first, from LCOR Inc. ("LCOR"), proposed a mixed-use project consisting of retail and office space. Plaintiff, China Trade, proposed to build a Chinese trade center consisting of office and retail space, condominiums, a cultural/exhibition space and a hotel. Intervener Western Development Corporation ("Western"), initially proposed retail shops and restaurants, most of which had a sports-related theme, and a 2,700 space parking garage.

WMATA conducted an initial technical evaluation of the three proposals in September, 1996. After the initial technical evaluation, the ranking of the three proposals was as follows: LCOR received the highest technical score, followed by China Trade and then Western. Following the ranking, WMATA entered into discussions and negotiations with each bidder in order to suggest improvements to each of the three proposals.

WMATA received final BAFO's on September 5, 1997. Western's BAFO consisted of a movie-complex, additional retail space, 120 residential units, two Chinese restaurants and a pedestrian walkway. China Trade's final proposal remained substantially the same.

Following WMATA's final technical evaluation, Western's proposal received the highest score of 810 points. Western's proposal scored high on three of the four evaluation criteria: financial viability; effect on Metro ridership; and ability to increase revenues for WMATA. Specifically, WMATA found Western's proposal would raise $5 Million more in revenue than the other two proposals, would increase metro ridership by 3,400 more riders per day and was backed by solid financing and an experienced development team capable of bringing the project to fruition. On October 24, 1997 WMATA notified Western of its selection as the developer for the Gallery Place Site.

China Trade initiated this action on February 25, 1998. China Trade claims WMATA abused its discretion and violated procurement law in awarding the development project to Western. Specifically, plaintiff makes the following allegations: (1) WMATA violated a material requirement of the RFP that all proposals comply with local land use laws*fn3; (2) WMATA violated procurement laws requiring fair treatment of all offerors by exhibiting impermissible favoritism towards Western and bias against China Trade; and (3) WMATA's treatment of China Trade breached an implied contract entered into between WMATA and China Trade whereby WMATA agreed to provide fair and honest consideration to China Trade's proposal. On October 10, 1998 China Trade filed a motion to extend the discovery period and to allow it to take additional depositions. China Trade's motion was assigned to a Magistrate Judge who, after a hearing, denied plaintiff's request in an Order dated November 20, 1998. Plaintiff moved for reconsideration of the Magistrate Judge's Order on December 12, 1998. On January 26, 1999 this Court held virtually an all day hearing at which time it provided plaintiff the opportunity to expound further on its allegations of bias and favoritism. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, China Trade has not been able to demonstrate successfully any basis for its discovery request or for any of its allegations against the defendant. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted and Plaintiff's request for additional discovery denied.

ANALYSIS

I. Standard of Review

WMATA procurement decisions, like those of administrative agencies, are entitled to a presumption of validity. Birnberg v. WMATA, 389 F. Supp. 340, 343 (D.D.C. 1975). A court can not overturn a procurement decision unless it determines the decision has "no rational basis" or "involved a clear and prejudicial violation of applicable statutes or regulations". Elcon Enters. Inc. v. WMATA, 977 F.2d 1472, 1478 (D.C.Cir. 1992). In making this determination a court's review ordinarily is limited to "the administrative record already in existence" Aero Corp. v. United States, 38 Fed.Cl. 408, 411 (Fed.Cl. 1997). In addition, government officials are presumed to act in good faith. Kalvar Corp., Inc. v. United States, 211 Ct. Cl. 192, 543 F.2d 1298, 1300 (Cl.Ct. 1976). Plaintiff must present ...


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