Burleith’s major misunderstandings about the 2010 Campus Plan
Although nothing agitates the blood of a Vox reader quite like a post about a Citizens Association of Georgetown meeting about the 2010 Campus Plan, you’ve got to hand it to our neighbors in West Georgetown—they know that plan backwards and forwards. CAG seems to have a clear idea about what exactly in the plan they don’t like and why it threatens their neighborhood.
Don’t believe me? Then you should go to the next Burleith Citizens Association meeting about the 2010 Campus Plan, where their take on the plan is unfortunately beset by speculation and half-truths.
If you read our coverage of the first meeting the BCA held about the final plan draft in April, you’re already familiar with Burleith residents’ main gripes with the 2010 Campus Plan. And if you didn’t, I’m sure you can guess the usual suspects. The plan doesn’t add new on-campus housing for undergraduates; it adds over 2,400 graduate students to the school in the next ten years; it threatens to increase traffic in the neighborhood; and in general, it gets residents talking about how awful it is to live near students. With a few adjustments, the slides at the two meetings that the BCA held this past Saturday and Sunday to talk about the 2010 Campus Plan were more or less the same as the last meeting.
So I’ll spare you another rundown of what Burleith hates about the plan. What’s more interesting is what they just don’t get about it.
Let’s start with the portion of the presentation led by Candith Pallandre, the BCA’s treasurer, which consisted almost entirely of assumptions and misunderstandings. Pallandre zeroed in on the road that will run the length of campus between the woods and Kehoe Field, the tennis courts, and the power plant.
“This was supposed to be a service road, and now they’re saying that buses are service vehicles,” she said. With a knowing smile, she continued, “Buses carrying students are not really service vehicles.”
Pallandre didn’t give any clues as to why it would be a problem for GUTS buses to drive along a road that is bordered by woods and Georgetown University property. But it’s clear that she assumed the University thought it was being sneaky by classifying GUTS buses as service vehicles, and that this would have sneaky consequences.
In reality, the road will allow Georgetown University to pick up passengers from the north end of campus and then exit out Canal Road—which is what Burleith residents have been demanding for years.
After the jump, we recap the rest of the gripes from last weekend’s BCA meeting.
But Pallandre seemed to assume that if the University is doing it, it must be devious. Like putting a roof over Kehoe Field, for example. Georgetown said that this was to protect the field, she explained, which suffers from thousands of dollars worth of damage from exposure every year.
“But what other uses are they going to have for this space that the University isn’t telling us about? Parties?” she asked.
She had similar misgivings about Georgetown’s plan to replace its 10-foot power plant chimney with an 83-foot chimney. Georgetown has been admittedly vague about the environmental ramifications of raising the height of the smokestack, but administrators have said consistently that it will help better disperse pollutants from the plant. This was not good enough for Pallandre, who was joined by the rest of the room in assuming bigger meant worse.
Then there was BCA Vice President Walter Hillabrant, who explained that Georgetown University “absolutely with premeditation is going to take away our community to be their dormitories.” After spelling out the litany of abuses Georgetown students in Burleith visit upon residents, like “doing binge drinking” and “doing public urination,” he accuses the plan of increasing enrollment without increasing on-campus housing.
Hillabrant is wrong. The University intends to build space for 120 graduate students and young faculty to live on the 1789 block, on campus. Hillabrant conflated undergraduate student enrollment with graduate student enrollment. It’s pretty clear that he’s worried that more undergraduate students—doing drinking and urination—will invade Burleith as enrollment rises. But, Georgetown isn’t adding more undergraduate students, only graduate students.
Hillabrant’s presentation didn’t make this clear, although the next presenter corrected him just as attending residents (who numbered very few—only ten people or so) were starting to murmur angrily. But both Hillabrant’s and her presentation, which projected the number of students who will be living in areas like Burleith, Foxhall, and Glover Park in 2010, consistently neglected to mention a key fact of the plan: more than half of the additional graduate students will be enrolled in the School of Continuing Studies (1,370 of 2,475), meaning they are likely to be older commuters.
But let’s move on to the pièce de résistance, provided by everyone’s favorite Burleithian, party photographer Stephen R. Brown. By unexplained leaps and bounds of logic, he drew a connection between Georgetown’s intention to align 38th Street with the hospital exit and a hospital in Burleith. You read that right. To Brown, Georgetown’s intention to eliminate a dangerous, uneven intersection reveals in no uncertain terms that Georgetown is planning to build a hospital in Burleith.
He even had an artist’s rendition of what a hospital would look like read to show residents—an altered photograph of a large building looming behind a row of Burleith houses.
“I’m a professional architectural photographer,” he explained, as photographs entitled “The Future of Burleith” flashed on the screen.
Astoundingly, this did not seem preposterous to Burleith residents.
“I don’t have the facts to back this up, but I think that’s an interesting perspective,” BCA President Lenore Rubino said, “and we need to start thinking into the future.”
What’s convincing about this? Brown said he is friends with a Georgetown Jesuit who told him, “You think in terms of your Ten Year Plan. We’re Jesuits. We think in centuries.”
Yes, Stephen. The Jesuits are in charge of major facilities development.
So what’s next for the BCA? Fundraising and hiring a zoning attorney and an urban planner to help them build their case against the campus plan. Lawn signs will also soon be available soon, like, “Our homes, not GU’s dorms.” Wrapping up the meeting, the presenters reminded residents that Burleith “is working against a corporate, big-business mentality, not a community partner.”
As of the meeting, the BCA has raised about $8,000 to oppose the campus plan, and CAG has raised about $13,000. But, good news! The BCA now accepts credit cards.