On June 10th, the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center (APALRC) honored Legal Aid attorney Julie Becker and the entire “Save Museum Square” legal team for their extraordinary efforts to preserve affordable housing for the 302 individuals and families who live at the Museum Square building in Chinatown.
Arnold & Porter LLP, Housing Counseling Services, and the National Housing Trust were co-recipients of the organization’s 2015 “Access to Justice” Award. The Museum Square story has been featured previously on this blog, and was reported on at length in the Washington City Paper. In short, the team sued the building’s owner on behalf of the tenants, asserting that the owner’s offer to sell the building to the tenants for $250 million – or over $800,000 per unit on average -- was not a “bona fide offer of sale” as required by the DC Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). The Court agreed, holding that the Act requires a price related to the current market value of the property, not a speculative future valuation.
All of the recipients expressed their appreciation for the honor and thanked APALRC for its leadership in organizing the residents to fight for their homes. The team dedicated the award to their clients, the tenants of Museum Square, many of whom are monolingual Mandarin speakers who have lived in their units for decades. The effort to “Save Museum Square” continues apace. But last night Julie and the rest of the team earned well-deserved congratulations for giving these 300-plus families a fighting chance to save their homes.