DC law does not allow the allow for the kind of long term lease that the current tenant of the old Hardy School building is seeking. In order to get what the tenant wants, the DC Council will need to change the law.
On February 28, 2019, Mayor Bowser sent a legislative package to the Council consisting of four separate bills intended to accomplish Lab School's objective – the “Old Hardy School Disposition and Lease Approval Emergency Declaration Resolution of 2019,” the “Old Hardy School Disposition and Lease Approval Emergency Act of 2019,” the “Old Hardy School Disposition and Lease Approval Temporary Act of 2019,” the “Old Hardy School Disposition and Lease Approval Act of 2019.” You can view the bills here.
Three of the bills are substantially equivalent, they differ in how they are presented, as regular legislation, temporary legislation, and emergency legislation. (The fourth bill is an emergency resolution, which is necessary to enact a bill as emergency legislation). The DC Council has a description of the different types of legislation here, but briefly, emergency and temporary legislation allow the Council to bypass the regular legislative process, where hearings are conducted that are open to the public and concerned citizens are allowed to submit written and in-person testimony. Clearly, Mayor Bowser does not want this process to happen in a way that is visible to the light of day.
If any of these bills are passed, they would bypass a process established by the Deputy Mayor for Education at the DC Council's direction for determining whether a school building is needed by DC Public Schools, and if it is determined that the building is not needed, providing for its reuse in a way that maximizes benefit to the citizens of the city.
Under this process, the Deputy Mayor for Education first has to establish whether a school is needed. The process requires that he analyze:
– Population projections
– Nearby Enrollment
– Nearby Capacity
– Nearby Utilization Rates
– Nearby Academic Programs
The process also requires that a public hearing be held before any recommendation is made about the need for the school. If the Deputy Mayor for Education finds that the building is unneeded, a recommendation is sent to the DC Council. The DC Council must then declare it surplus using the regular legislative process, which includes at least one public hearing, a committee vote to proceed, and two separate votes of the entire Council.
If the Council declares the property surplus, it then goes through a process to determine how it should be reused. A Request For Offers (RFO) is issued, public meetings are held with the community to asses the offers. A review panel is convened with representatives from the Deputy Mayor for Education, the Office of Planning, the Department of General Services, and the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and the panel submits a recommendation to the Mayor for approval. If the Mayor approves, the recommendation is sent to the Council for final approval, which requires the regular legislative process – committee hearings, a committee vote, and at least two separate votes of the entire Council.
This process was established to remove special-interest politics from facilities decisions, to create transparency and to ensure that the outcomes benefit the communities that neighbor the facilities and the residents of the city. This is the process that the Mayor is trying to bypass with special-interest, emergency legislation.