CAG sends special edition newsletter outlining opposition to Campus Plan

In case there was any doubt about how the Citizens Association of Georgetown feels about the upcoming Georgetown University Campus Plan, CAG sent a special edition of their newsletter to approximately 4,000 area residents last week.

Entitled “GU vs. Neighborhood,” the ten-page letter laid out CAG’s opposition point-by-point to the Campus Plan, which the University is required to submit to the District of Columbia every ten years.

CAG points to five main areas of the plan that concern them the most: an increase in student enrollment, no additional housing on the “traditional” campus, the construction of the proposed 1789 block, the building of an 83-foot smokestack, and adding 700 parking spaces to accommodate anticipated additional traffic to the campus and hospital.

In a section attacking the University for trying to increase enrollment but not adding on-campus housing, the newsletter states that 48% of homes in Burleith are rented—often to students—and 113 houses in Georgetown have been converted to houses used by students. Despite these concerns, CAG continues to oppose the 1789 block plan, which would add 120 beds in the area surrounded by Prospect, 36th, 37th, and N Streets.

The newsletter also raises fears of increased crime in the area due to having more students living in the neighborhood. To illustrate their point, CAG included an infograph detailing the instances of 911 calls in close proximity to student housing. (This may have to do with the Burleith Citizens Association and CAG encouraging residents to call 911 on students.)

Not to appear biased, CAG included part of a column from the Voice’s Kara Brandeisky to express the students’ opinion on the issue. CAG, however, opted to not include the parts of the column that supported the Campus Plan.

CAG is currently encouraging residents to contact their elective representatives—including Mayor-elect Vince Gray, who recently said he was open to having more students at DC universities—to express their opposition to the plans.

In order to fund their opposition, CAG is accepting donations to their “Save our neighborhood” fund. The minimum recommended donation on the newsletter is $300.

h/t The Georgetown Dish

15 Comments on “CAG sends special edition newsletter outlining opposition to Campus Plan

  1. Pingback: The Morning Metropolitan | The Georgetown Metropolitan

  2. To be fair, the university’s decision to build more parking is pretty ridiculous. Georgetown might not have a Metro, but it’s still very walkable and as good bus service (whether it’s the D6 or the campus shuttles). They should be building more dorms, not more parking. If there’s a parking shortage, do what a free market would do – raise prices!

  3. @Stephen Smith,
    But one of the neighbors’ constant complaints is that too many University students/employees park on the streets in Georgetown and Burleith. The neighbors seem to think, incorrectly, that they have some kind of ownership over public city roads. I have never heard of a residents of a city claiming that they can control the traffic (moving and parking) that exists on the city’s streets, but apparently, the uppity, self righteous Georgetown neighbors think they can. Anyway, I imagine that Georgetown’s move to add parking is merely an attempt to alleviate one of the neighbors’ concerns. You’re right that the campus is easily accessible by bus, but the neighbors also fight tooth and nail to limit bus service because they object to the traffic on their streets. That is why the Dupont and other GUTS shuttles no longer take the most expeditious route.

    When Georgetown tries to fix one problem, the neighbors just complain that it causes another. The only solution that would satisfy them is if the University packed up and closed the gates. There is no “free market” solution to this because we’re dealing with the most irrational of all actors: angry, bitter, demanding old farts who think they should wield unlimited power over all land in Georgetown (both public and University-owned).

  4. I would only say that the DC income and property taxes that the residents and homeowners pay go toward paying for the infrastructure within our community. As residents within the community, I do not think it is far fetched to ask for some say in the development of the community, traffic patterns, and the allocation of street parking. With regards to parking, discussions regarding parking regulations are not new and not unique to the Georgetown neighborhood. Zone permits and parking limitations permeate many communities in the U.S. and around the world.

    The debate gets heated at times and sometimes neighborhood positions on development seem in conflict with one another but that does not mean that residents do not have valid points or a right to be heard.

  5. If Georgetown and Burleith residents don’t want students living near them, shouldn’t the response be to focus on the landlords who rent students houses in Georgetown and Burleith? Honestly.

    From a practical standpoint, if the the number of nearby off-campus houses available for students to rent vastly decreased, there would be a significant housing issue and Georgetown would be forced to come up with new housing.

    It seems to me to be a much more productive course of effort to go after the so-called ‘slum landlords’ who are renting to Georgetown students. If they stop, problem solved. This is really a neighbor-to-neighbor issue, not a university to neighbor issue. And if Burleith residents keep renting to Georgetown students, well, I guess they aren’t all opposed to the campus plan then.

  6. It certainly makes sense for the neighbors to address the landlords that rent homes to students and let the homes fall into disrepair and create safety issues for the tenants. I am pretty sure this has been pursued by the neighborhood and the university – probably more so since tragic fires and accidents have affected students. While I might argue that the University has an obligation here to participate in a very meaningful way to make sure student have safe housing options, the economic incentive is not there because building housing on the limited space the University owns is extremely expensive and precludes building more educational facilities. That said, as a resident I am not opposed to students living in the neighborhood. In fact, I was once a student at GU that lived off campus and have many good interactions with the current students. There are clearly issues on some nights with loud partying, inappropriate acts, etc. Living near a university requires you to live with some of this but does not require you to site idly by and accept the disrespectful acts (urinating and throwing up in yards, leaving trash in the street late night, etc). There are some neighbors that would love to see all students on campus. The more reasonable expectation is what most in the neighborhood want. Responsible development that sees new on campus housing and parking added to support increased enrollment. The truth is that increased enrollment would likely lead to more people living in the neighborhood as student housing tends to be more densely populated than a typical resident home and student homes may have more cars parked on the street. This would result in adding people and cars into what is already a very crowded neighborhood. Whether it is a university town or typical suburban neighborhood or city area there are always discussions about how development impacts the neighborhood and compromises that need to be made by those that want to increase density. This is a community issue where all parties need to be heard and sensible compromises need to be made by all.

  7. Norm, I wish the neighbors would follow your advice on sensibility. The University has bent over backward, sung, and danced, to try to appease neighbors, many times at the expense of student interests. Neighbors, as a whole, have been nothing but unreasonable and self-entitled. This newsletter, complete with hyperbole, fabrication, and outrageous statements, is no different.

  8. When I see the changes that have been made to the campus since I attended – new academic facilities, new dorms, athletic fields I find it hard to believe that the students have been grossly affected by the interests of the community. It seems that a lot of the student’s interest and perhaps the primary interests of the student are being met – improving academic facilities and a safe environment in which to live and learn. Often times there is hyperbole in the debate and that goes both ways. I have to admit though with regards to the stories I have seen students do some pretty sensational things but that is really not that pertinent. For every newsletter that you find objectionable there are students that post on these boards and speak out in dismissive and often very aggressive tones about the needs and rights of the residents. It is really unfortunate for both sides of the debate.

    I would also ask that you keep in mind that the residents are for the most part not self-entitled – in speaking with a lot of my neighbors I have found that they have built their lives here and are committed to the community. They are life long residents that will be here for years to come and want their families to live here as well. They love living near the university and want Georgetown to excel as an academic institution. They also want to live in a neighborhood that has a sustainable development plan that fits within the fabric of the community and one that is supportable by the current infrastructure. These are not unreasonable viewpoints. These types of discussions occur in communities throughout the country.

    I certainly do not agree with every view point with regards to the objections that have been outlined regarding the 10 year plan (some parts of the plan are very reasonable approach to addressing some of the neighborhood concerns) but they are part of a process – some times contentious – that should result in a compromise that allows Georgetown to pursue its course of development as it has in the past and supports the needs of a great and vibrant community.

  9. Georgetown built a quarter billion dollar dorm on campus just to move students out of the neighborhood and please the neighbors.

    Didn’t do shit. The debate is as pitched and the neighbors are as strident as they were a decade ago.

    Georgetown is blessed and cursed to be plop in the middle of a bunch of rich uppity assholes who’ve plowed half their income into their homes and have a lot of time on their hands. If we were Columbia, we’d have the city crying eminent domain at our request, but we’d also be in the slums. Seems intractable. The neighbors will never conquer the university or micromanage its encroachment into their fucked-out 500k/year lives; neither will the university demonstrate some savvy and figure out how to play the Long Game to its advantage.

    So… see you next decade?

  10. I’d be interested to see how this housing issue has been developing over the last thirty years. Digging back into The Voice archives reveals that Georgetown student housing was so overcrowded in parts of the 1970’s that we had to house people in a now-defunct hotel on Wisconsin. It seems that when women started attending the College, we just doubled enrollment rather than readjust the gender ratio. I wonder if this was the start of the controversy.

    Then again, the neighborhood certainly wasn’t as posh in the past as it is now. Going way back, Georgetown was port town that had all manner of incomes. Then, I had a high school math teacher who said that in the 1950’s his dad, a middle-income DoD employee, was trying to choose whether to move the family into a Georgetown row house or a Silver Spring ranch. They picked the Silver Spring ranch because “the houses in Georgetown often still had outhouses and it was considered an old, dumpy place to live.” The Voice archives also talk about all manner of low-rent, student-oriented shops on M Street that I feel like would be out of place in the same density today. In fact, I don’t think Georgetown started really coming up until Jacqueline Kennedy made a name for it. Is that right?

    @Ben Sinister
    Being the South Carolina rube I am, I thought you were talking about our illustrious state capital! It’s a dump, but maybe “slum” is too strong a word. :D

  11. @Tim – Unfortunately, that’s not how parking works in actuality. There is not a set amount of demand for parking – in dense areas like Georgetown where parking will ALWAYS be in high demand no matter how many spaces there are, more spots can only bring more cars. Very few students actually need cars, and if you make it marginally more difficult to park (by, say, NOT adding all these under-priced spaces), they will leave their cars at home. By adding more spots, you’re only going to encourage the amount of people who bring cars to Georgetown. For more on the economics of free parking, might I suggest Donald Shoup’s magnum opus…The High Cost of Free Parking.

  12. @Norm:

    Thanks for the response. And I agree with Typical in wishing we had more sensible neighbors (or at least, that those neighbors who are most vocal would be more sensible).

    It seems to me the biggest problems with college students living off campus is noise and trash. As I said before, I think the most reasonable and most productive method to get the desired results is in pressuring the landlords who rent to students, and therefore enable the issues. I’ve only known two groups of students who actually owned houses in Georgetown, and those were exceedingly rare (and, ultimately, owned by their parents) — everyone else rented.

    Practically speaking, I doubt many landlords would stop renting to students. It’s too profitable. Therefore, I would suggest an economics incentive-based approach to deal with the issue by changing the profit margin. [N.B., I have no idea if this is legal or not, but seeing as it’s private action by third parties and not the landlords, I don’t see why not.]

    1. Pay landlords subsidies to rent to graduate students, young families, etc.
    I imagine most of the problem is thought to be undergraduate students — so pay landlords extra to take on non-undergrads. A typical rowhouse goes for somewhere around $800-$1000/person/month, give or take. You could offer a $1000/month subsidy (or more, or less, depending on need) to the landlord if the renters are non-undergraduates. If a group of neighbors are really concerned about one or two houses on their block supposedly ruining their quality of life, I bet they’d be willing to spend $100 per month (or less, depending on how many neighbors are involved) to ensure that it doesn’t happen.

    2. Pay students not to throw parties
    Same logic as above. If landlords wind up renting to students, pay the students not to throw parties. There are enough parties and bars around Georgetown that if someone came up to me and offered me a few hundred dollars a month on the condition I didn’t throw a party, I can tell you I would take it in a heartbeat. And if I did eventually want to host a party, you better bet I’d go and talk to the neighbors in advance for permission and make sure it didn’t get out of control. Hell, you’d probably be subsidizing them to go to bars instead of house parties, and thus taking the noise all the way out of the neighborhood.

    You could pay students on a monthly, quarterly or semesterly rate to maximize compliance — so they don’t just take the money for a few weeks and at the end throw a huge party. Might be difficult to get them to comply with a semesterly or yearly payment, seeing as the odds for welching based on ambiguous definitions of noise increase over time (and, I imagine, as it looks likelier they are going to get paid, the odds of not wanting to pay increase exponentially).

    Again, I’m sure some neighbors would feel indignant about the concept of paying students to keep quiet, but in the end, what do they value more — a few dollars a day out of their pockets, or perpetual peace and quiet?

    3. Pressure landlords into having stricter trash cleanup policies written into the leases.
    If students habitually don’t pick up trash, landlords can trigger a clause resulting in higher rent (no clue if this is legal or not, just spitballing here). Even if landlords wouldn’t agree to cease renting to students, period, I’m sure they’d be amenable to something like this if enough pressure were applied. Students don’t want to pay higher rent, obviously, so the motivation to comply goes way up. This works much better than relying on the off chance they get a fine from the city once in a blue moon.

    4. Pressure landlords into including trash removal services written into the leases
    As above. Have a landscaper, etc., come and clean up the outside of the house once or twice a month, and pass the costs on to the rentees. I’m sure you could hire someone from Craigslist for $50-100/month or so to keep the lawn and trash in check. With four or five people, paying an extra $10-25/month is fairly negligible, especially if it solves the neighbors’ main concerns.

    5. Pay students to maintain the outside of their houses
    As above. Either the students can use the money to hire people to do the work or do the work themselves, but either way neighbors get a neat and trash-free neighborhood.

    OR neighbors could just continue to futilely complain to the University, call the police and otherwise not solve their problems. Neighbors need to recognize that they own real estate a stone’s throw away from a major university, and that consequently they should not expect residence life to be the same as if they moved to a gated community in Chappaqua. Students, likewise, should realize that they are living in a residential neighborhood and that some things that might fly in Village A don’t fly in Burleith — although that’s not to say they have no right to host parties or have friends over. That having been said, as outlined above, neighbors can purchase a higher quality of life for a relatively small amount of money and students can be placated into conforming their behavior like they were in a gated community while getting a financial benefit for doing so.

  13. I’m with John Flannagan, the root cause is that Georgetown let women in!

  14. @Norm

    If more people talked like you and fewer people talked like Lenore Rubino, I am positive you wouldn’t be getting the same kinds of responses from students that you do. When I was a freshman and sophomore (aka when the only times I’d been to Burleith were to go to an occasional party or, more often, to watch television at my friend’s house), I thought students should be friends with neighbors – why not, right? The summer after sophomore year, I lived on S St. with some friends. The very first week we moved in, we received a copy of the Burleith newsletter, including a very long and unpleasant article by Ms. Rubino that detailed how much she hated Georgetown and its students. My housemates and I, upset and offended, no longer had any interest in being friendly with this woman or the people who elected her. Junior year, of course, brought about the advent of our friend Stephen Brown, whose actions flirt with illegality. Then, this year, when I decided to live off-campus for the full year, I discovered just how much the university does to appease neighbors and how little it advocates for students, and that did absolutely nothing to endear the neighbors to me. I’ve always tried to be a good neighbor – I don’t litter (in fact sometimes I pick up other people’s litter as I walk to school); I smile at everyone; I let the dogs bark at me and sniff me and whatever else they need to do; I offer to help anyone who looks as if s/he’s having a hard time carrying something; in short, all of the things that I always thought were polite to do. I still get dirty looks when I – horror of horrors – come back from the grocery store with a bag of groceries while wearing a Georgetown shirt.

    What I’m trying to say is that it’s a circle. Most students don’t arrive at Georgetown with a “Fuck the neighbors; I’ll do what I want” attitude. But they do arrive to find out that the neighborhood has a “Fuck the university; we’ll call the police and yell and scream until we get what we want” attitude. It’s really hard to walk down the street knowing that you are hated without starting to hate. I’d like to say that most of us still care about being respectful neighbors – remembering a party some friends of mine had a few weeks ago before which they brought their next-door-neighbor cookies and their cell phone numbers, assuring him that the party would be over at midnight – but those who don’t didn’t start that way.

    That having been said, building new on-campus housing wouldn’t do anything to stop students from living off-campus. There isn’t room on campus for meaningful new housing, other than dorms. Almost no one wants to live in a dorm after sophomore year (when we’re required to). Upperclassmen who DO want to live in dorms can almost always get housed in dorms, but they’d rather live in apartments or houses where they can have their own bathrooms, kitchens, and living rooms. Actually, there are vacancies this year in on-campus housing – more wouldn’t fill the beds; it would just cost money and move the empty places around.

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