At last night’s mayoral candidate debate, an audience member from Foxhall, an affluent neighborhood north of both the University and Burleith, asked the three candidates what they thought of a few elements of the 2010 Campus Plan—specifically, its plans to “build a 30-foot roof over Yates [Editor's note: they mean Kehoe], which already towers above the forest behind Georgetown,” erect an 83-foot smokestack over its power plant, and build a service road on an “already fragile embankment.”
So, what do D.C. mayoral candidates think (and know) about Georgetown’s 2010 Campus Plan?
We’ll start with former TV news reporter Leo Alexander‘s answer, which was ludicrous. He began by laying out his in-touch-with-the-community creds, telling the audience that he’d actually attended a meeting about Georgetown University, where he “heard all about Georgetown and its students and all the nuisances they’ve caused returning home from bars and parties at night.” Cheap shot, Leo. Then his answer got weird.
“Georgetown University is not going anywhere. They can threaten all they want,” he concluded. “They may say, ‘If you don’t let us do whatever we want, we’re packing up,’ but they’re not going anywhere.” As a final note, he added that he wanted Georgetown to build more on-campus housing and establish a board that enlists the opinions of neighbors.
Umm … what? We’re kind of curious to know what gave Alexander the idea that (1) the oldest university in the city, which has invested its image, millions of dollars, and hundreds of jobs in three major D.C. campuses has ever threatened to leave D.C. (and go where? Rosslyn?) if the city doesn’t allow it to build a minor service road for its food delivery trucks and buses, and (2) that neighbors would be real broken up if Georgetown did leave, and need reassurance that Georgetown is here to stay.
We’re just wondering. Because Alexander’s ridiculous musings about the 2010 Campus Plan have officially made him the awardee of Vox‘s Craziest Theories About Georgetown title—usurping it from Stephen R. Brown, who thinks that a cabal of Georgetown Jesuits are planning to build an entirely new hospital facility in Burleith (and who takes secret photos of students from bushes).
By contrast, City Council Chair Vincent Gray seems to know what he’s talking about. He started by rattling off the plan’s hottest numbers—it adds about 2,500 graduate students, 150 housing units, and 1,000 parking spaces—with accuracy.
“That seems inadequate to me,” he said. “[Georgetown] is an important part of the city. But there has to be a balance between the University, the community, and the people who have chosen to live in the vicinity of the University. The bottom line to me is having a campus plan that has the input of the citizens.”
Unsurprisingly, the candidate with the least amount of patience for this question was Mayor Adrian Fenty. He payed brief lip-service to balancing the interests of importance institutions with neighborhood interests, then dedicated the rest of his two-minute response to a rebuttal of something Gray critical had said about the Anacostia River cleanup and the bag tax.
Fenty’s disdain for residential concerns was on display at other points in the debate, too. When asked about community concerns about over-development, his answer mostly had to do with how much development had taken place under his administration. He also defended his recent choice to appoint more developers (i.e. people who are not likely to side with concerned residents) to the three person, all-developer Zoning Commission instead of community voices. (Hilariously enough, this actually may help Georgetown once its 2010 Campus Plan goes before the Zoning Commission).
Finally, a few notes about the question itself. The resident who wrote the question said that Foxhall is the guardian of much of the City’s greenspace, so it seems that a lot of his or her concerns have an ecological bent to them. But that 83-foot smokestack? Although Georgetown and Burleith citizens associations have wasted no time in implying that it will pollute the surrounding neighborhood, they have yet to produce any evidence that it actually will. They have also been told by the University (and EPA permitting standards back this up) that the smokestack will not produce any more emissions than it already is. Still, the big-equals-bad line of reasoning is holding up amongst residents.
Second, the road on the “fragile embankment” is for service vehicles and GUTS buses. Why GUTS buses? Because Georgetown and Burleith residents have moaned about the travesty of having to share the road with GUTS buses so unrelentingly that Georgetown is rerouting all bus lines except one out of the Canal Road exit, meaning that it needs a way to turn the buses around inside campus. If Foxhall residents want to eliminate the need for that road, they’ll need to take it up with West Georgetown.