CAG President’s letter to DeGioia about the 2010 Campus Plan

If you don’t recall how neighborhood residents of Georgetown reacted when administrators presented the 2010 Campus Plan back in November, let me remind you of the words of Advisory Neighborhood Commission Chair Ron Lewis when he heard that adding 1,000 parking spaces in the University was part of the plan:

“There is a problem,” he said. “And the problem is that people who come to your classes are jamming up our streets by parking. It’s not our role, it’s not our job to figure out the solution—it’s the University’s. But there is the problem. And unless the problem goes away, it’s going to be a problem for the plan.”

And that was at the meeting where Georgetown said it was definitely rerouting GUTS buses through Canal Street, which the ANC has been demanding for years.

Now, as the end of January nears—at which point Georgetown administrators have said they hope to submit the Plan to the ANC for its first stage of review—neighbors are no less content than they were in November about the proposed 2010 Campus Plan.

Jennifer Altemus (COL ’88), the president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, sent a dense letter to President John DeGioia last Thursday which she provided to the Voice. The letter enumerates the neighbors’ grievances with the current draft of the Campus Plan.

“We are extremely disappointed with the process thus far. It appears that community input at the GU sponsored meetings has been ignored,” she wrote. “This list is by no means comprehensive but these issues represent the priority concerns of the community that will be raised during the plan review and approval process.”

Read the full letter and a summary, after the jump.

Altemus, who has told Voice reporters that residents will do what they can to frustrate the approval process of the Plan if it not to their satisfaction, wrote that neighbors believe the current plan will create or maintain five main intolerable conditions in the community, which Georgetown must address:

  • “The disproportionately high number of students located in a residential community of single-family homes.”
  • “Intolerable noise caused by students off campus at all hours of the night.”
  • “Objectionable behavior of unsupervised students living off campus in University and privately owned student group houses (vandalism, threats, sanitation, trash; maintenance, safety issues).”
  • “Increased traffc [sic] congestion and lack of parking.”
  • “Land use which threatens the historic fabric of the community.”

She then summarizes neighborhood objections to two main elements of the plan, “Enrollment and Housing” and “Transportation, Parking, and the Hospital.” Unsurprisingly, she dedicates a lot of space to the first section.

The letter ends with an extension of the proverbial olive branch:

“We look forward to working with you to address our concerns and identify solutions that will positively impact relations between the community and the University and the overall quality of life for all residents in West Georgetown, Burleith and other neighboring communities.”

Let’s see if Georgetown and the neighborhood can work out its issues before things get ugly and avoid a repeat of the 2000 Campus Plan—in which Georgetown and the neighborhood essentially went to war.

January 7, 2010

Dear Mr. DeGioia:

On behalf of the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG), I am writing to highlight the primary concerns of District residents in response to the proposed draft Georgetown University Campus Plan 2010-2020. We are extremely disappointed with the process thus far. It appears that community input at the GU sponsored meetings has been ignored.

CAG seeks to ensure that Georgetown University’s plans for expansion do not adversely impact District residents that are already impacted by excessive noise, traffic, growing student population and other conditions.

The issues discussed below reflect those in which the community has ongoing and serious concerns. This list is by no means comprehensive but these issues represent the priority concerns of the community that will be raised during the plan review and approval process.

  • The disproportionately high number of students located in a residential community of single-family homes
  • Intolerable noise caused by students off campus at all hours of the night
  • Objectionable behavior of unsupervised students living off campus in University and privately owned student group houses (vandalism, threats, sanitation, trash; maintenance, safety issues)
  • Increased traffc congestion and lack of parking
  • Land use which threatens the historic fabric of the community

In addition, we have requested but have yet to receive information about various aspects of the plan. For example, we have not received specifics about the power plant and the implications of a proposed new smokestack.

Summary of Issues

I. Enrollment and Housing

A. Undergraduate Enrollment and Housing – The University needs to mitigate the adverse impacts it has caused on adioining neighborhoods by increasing enrollment without providing any new housing on campus.

The continuing viability of West Georgetown as a residential neighborhood is threatened by the large number of students currently living in that neighborhood in group houses, several of which

are owned by the University. In the Fall of 2008 Georgetown provided only 5,053 undergraduate beds for its 6,247 “traditional undergraduates” who required housing. However, 111 of those undergraduate beds are located in University owned townhouses in West Georgetown so only 4942 or 79% of its Fall 2008 undergraduates could be housed in dormitories on campus. As a result 1305 undergraduates were forced to find housing off campus-primarily in rental group houses in West Georgetown and Burleith.

In the Spring of 2008 nine hundred “traditional undergraduates” were living in zip code 20007 in privately owned homes, with 498 residing in West Georgetown. To that number must be added the 111 students living in University owned townhouses, for a total of 609 students in West Georgetown. In addition there is a substantial number of graduate students living in West Georgetown. The University’s graduate enrollment is about 4,770 and the University currently provides no housing for them. As a result, a significant number of students are living in the small residential communities of single family homes adjoining the University, primarily West Georgetown and Burleith.

Furthermore a large number of the University’s “on campus” undergraduate beds are located in University owned dormitories in Nevils and LXR Halls, the so-called “East Campus” expansion of the University. Those dormitories are immediately adjacent to residential housing in West Georgetown. Students returning to those Halls late at night have been a source of numerous complaints by residents over the last twenty years.

During the early meetings held by the University on its proposed Campus Plan, Cooper Robertson, the University’s architectural consultant, identified locations on campus for buildings housing an additional 800 students. The community uniformly demanded at those meetings that Georgetown house most of its undergraduates on campus and move the undergraduates in off campus University owned townhouses on campus. However, in its current draft Campus Plan the University states that because it is not seeking any increase in the existing cap on undergraduate enrollment it is proposing no new student housing on campus. It also proposes to continue using its townhouses in West Georgetown for undergraduate housing and to continue purchasing properties for student housing in West Georgetown.

B. Graduate and Professional Enrollment – The proposed increases in enrollment would have a serious adverse impact on the surrounding community.

In its draft Campus Plan the University is also proposing to increase graduate and professional student enrollment from 4,770 to 6,150 students, an increase of 1,380 or 29%. It is also proposing to increase Continuing Studies enrollment from 775 to 2,600, an increase of 1,825 students or 235%, none of whom are provided housing. Finally, it is proposing to increase its “nontraditional undergraduate” enrollment (which is not subject to the cap on undergraduate enrollment) from 885 to 1055, an increase of 170 students.

While the majority of resident complaints about noise and student misconduct have involved undergraduates, graduate student off campus group houses create many of the same problems as undergraduate houses. At present the University provides little if any graduate and professional student housing and no housing for Continuing Studies students. In its draft Campus Plan the University is only proposing to build townhouses in the 1789 block of Thirty-six Street that could house about 120 graduate students and faculty. No main campus graduate housing is proposed.

The insufficient supply of on-campus housing for graduate students combined with the proposed large increases in graduate enrollment are likely to exacerbate an already intolerable situation. A significant percentage of those new graduate and professional students will seek to rent properties in West Georgetown, which could cause a predominantly owner occupied neighborhood to change to a predominantly rental student group house neighborhood which has very negative implications for both the livability and property values in West Georgetown. In addition the increased student demand for housing is likely to lead to higher rents, more group houses and an increase in tenants per house in response, all of which would have a negative impact on this area.

The proposed huge increase in graduate and Continuing Studies enrollment, combined with the proposed increase in “non-traditional undergraduates” many of whom are commuters, would also place intolerable demands on an already overloaded road system and require more on site parking than the 500 spaces Georgetown is proposing to add for University use. Furthermore the total increase proposed for parking-1,000 spaces, with 500 for Medstar-represents an almost 25% increase in parking spaces. Such a large increase in parking availability will simply exacerbate the already overloaded Reservoir Road, creating objectionable traffic and parking availability conditions for adjoining communities.

C. Continuing Studies Enrollment – The proposed huge increase in enrollment on campus would overwhelm the existing transportation infrastructure.

There is already excessive traffic and no parking available in West Georgetown to accommodate the current 775 Continuing Education students, many of whom are currently attending the University’s satellite campus in Clarendon, VA. The proposed 1,825 increase in Continuing Studies enrollment (a 235% increase) on campus would overwhelm the transportation infrastructure in West Georgetown. Any fiuther expansion in Continuing Studies enrollment should take place in a satellite campus outside zip 20007 but preferably in the District of Columbia. Section 1214.5 of the District’s Comprehensive Plan for future development directs the District, the University and residents to “promote the development of satellite campuses to accommodate university growth, [and] relieve growth pressure on neighborhoods adjacent to existing campuses”. The University’s proposal to potentially move the students from Clarendon to the main campus goes in the opposite direction from that recommended in the Comprehensive Plan and simply ignores the impact of the traffic and parking problems that the University has created for the surrounding community with its current enrollment.

II. Transportation, Parking and the Hospital

A. Transportation and Parking

The Campus Plan should contain a transportation management plan that includes rerouting GUTS busses and those seeking to use any permitted increase in parking spaces through the Canal Road entrance. The Plan should include a loop road within the campus boundaries to transport people from the parking spaces accessed through the Canal Road entrance to the campus and hospital. The Plan should not include additional parking spaces accessed from Reservoir Road. The Prospect Street gate should be closed as the University committed to do in the 2000 Campus Plan but failed to implement.

B. Hospital

CAG is in favor of a new, enlarged hospital on the Georgetown University Campus. However, the proposed plan for rebuilding and enlarging the existing hospital on the current hospital site is unacceptable. The proposed structure would be too large for the site creating objectionable bulk and density conditions. Piecemeal construction of a new hospital on the current site without closing the hospital would involve a decade of construction traffic on Reservoir Road that would impose an unreasonable and objectionable burden on the surrounding neighborhood. When finally completed the increase in traffic to the enlarged hospital would overwhelm the capabilities of Reservoir Road and surrounding streets. The increase in traffic and demand for parking by employees and patients would create objectionable conditions for local residents. We agree with MedStar representatives that piecemeal construction on the current site is not desirable. Relocating the hospital to another site on the University campus accessed fiom Canal Road would avoid these objectionable impacts and also create a large space for the construction of new student housing.

CAG would like to discuss these issues with you in detail. We look forward to working with you to address our concerns and identify solutions that will positively impact relations between the community and the University and the overall quality of life for all residents in West Georgetown, Burleith and other neighboring communities.

17 Comments on “CAG President’s letter to DeGioia about the 2010 Campus Plan

  1. Hmmm. Ron Lewis says, it response to the University wanting 1,000 more spaces on campus, “people who come to your classes are jamming up our streets by parking.” Wouldn’t putting more spaces on campus REDUCE the number of people parking in the neighborhood? And, if people are already driving into the neighborhood and parking, doesn’t that mean the traffic is already in the neighborhood? So, adding parking doesn’t add traffic, it just moves the parkers out of the neighborhood. It seems that the neighbors should be FOR this, not against it. Of course, rerouting GUTS will probably cause more traffic and parking problems for the neighbors because some people will stop using GUTS and drive instead. Busses REDUCE car traffic. Dumbasses.

  2. Don’t these people realize that some students will always choose to live off campus, even if there is campus housing available? If they take issue with it, then they need to address those in their own community who very willingly rent housing to students.

    I’m glad they’re in favor of a new, larger hospital, though. Good to know they don’t just want to use the university for its facilities while banishing the riff-raff to Clarendon.

  3. Yes, college students could be more respectful.

    No, we are not the worst ones out there. Nor are we even considered a “party school.” In fact, I submit to the ANC and CAG as evidence: This American Life, episode #396: Party School (http://thisamericanlife.com/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1330).

    All of these people went to college. Funny how memories fade with age, eh?

  4. Not only did they all go to college, the CAG president graduated from here in 88. Criminy, the woman is in her early forties and is already one of those “damn kids today” cranks.

  5. FactChecker, I’ve become convinced that the neighbors’ demands about the 10 Year Plan are only focused on making sure the University shrinks behind the gates. The way they do this is by ruling out any options the University has on an issue, leaving it paralyzed.

    Transportation is the best illustration of this. At a plan meeting, neighbors complained that too many Georgetown night students were parking on streets. Fair enough, you might think–just build more parking spots on campus. But they’re opposed to that too. And right when you might think improved GUTS service would reduce the number of cars parking in the neighborhood and on campus, neighbors force Georgetown’s buses to take the most unreliable, circuitous route.

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  7. So they want LXR to shut down, basically?

    This is getting ridiculous.

  8. What hits me every time I hear these sorts of complains (noise, parking, unruly neighbors) is that they’re really complaints about living in a city, and not at all specific to the Georgetown neighborhood, so why should the university answer for them?

    Can you name one neighborhood in D.C. that does have a surplus of parking? Not in NW at least. The misuse “of single family homes” is likewise an issue of Washington, D.C. in general, where all across the city unmarried 20- and 30-somethings are moving into townhouses. Owners of those properties can choose not to rent to students and young adults, making a market-fueled choice that is not dictated by any neighborhood organization. I would also reject the author’s premise that Georgetown townhouses are universally equivalent to “single family homes”. D.C. is experiencing population growth around 5%, which, yes, causes increased rent and more group homes as many try to afford those rents.

    And the demand that Georgetown open a new satellite campus elsewhere in the district, just away from angry Georgetown residents? Can they do that?

    Patrick

  9. Waaaaait, check this out. “Relocating the hospital to another site on the University campus accessed fiom [sic] Canal Road would avoid these objectionable impacts and also create a large space for the construction of new student housing.” What now? It’s not like a classroom building where you could, I don’t know, get temporary structures. Where exactly on campus is there room for another, larger hospital complex? That is, one the neighbors won’t object to, because you *know* the Foxhall people would be pissed about that one. Georgetown can’t win no matter what it does.

  10. What an idiot. She actuually suggesting moving the hospital? I had thought the association was comprised of slightly cranky but generally reasonable non-student residents, but not actual extermists. The author is a true fool.

  11. That’s what it looks like, from reading the letter’s hospital portion. Can anyone think where we have spare room to move the hospital to? I love how they manage to get their Canal Road obsession in, too.

  12. Jennifer Altemus deserves every bad thing that ever happens to her in her life.

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