Office of Planning, ANC collaborated on 2010 Campus Plan

Update: Click here to read the e-mails Vox obtained yesterday in a Freedom of Information Act request.

The D.C. Office of Planning, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E, and the Georgetown community cooperated on the controversial OP report on Georgetown University’s 2010 Campus Plan, according to e-mails uncovered by student rights organization DC Students Speak and Vox Populi.

The report, released on May 5, most notably recommended that the University accept a legal limit on enrollment and house all undergraduates on-campus.

The e-mails reveal that ANC 2E Chairman Ron Lewis met with OP a total of three times starting in Spring 2010.

On October 19, 2010, Lewis scheduled a phone call with Jennifer Steingasser of the Office of Planning to discuss the possible closing of negotiations between the community and the University on the 2010 Campus Plan.

“The discussions with Georgetown University about their campus plan have been disappointing (to put it mildly) and we’re on the brink of breaking them off,” Lewis wrote. “I’d like a chance to bring you up to date on what’s been going on.”

Community representatives officially ceased talks with the University on October 28, 2010. In subsequent meetings, it appears that Lewis’ input figured prominently in the OP’s final product.

In advance of a February 7, 2011 meeting with OP, Lewis e-mailed Steingasser with talking points containing several elements that made it into the final OP report, including a mandate for Zoning Commission approval of future University purchases in zip code 20007 (i.e. Georgetown and Burleith outside the main gates) and enrollment cap penalties for noncompliance with on-campus housing requirements.

Lewis additionally recommended consulting the Office of the Attorney General on the possibility of the University prohibiting students from residing in zip code 20007.

Meanwhile, an e-mail obtained by DC Students Speak also reveals that Richard Hinds, legal counsel for the Citizen’s Association of Georgetown, is the original source of a UK study on student housing cited in the OP report.

When the time came for the ANC to issue its report on the campus plan later in February, Lewis sought Steingasser’s advice on the wording of the commission’s recommendation. “I will make to finish reading this tonight and give youo [sic] any comments tomorrow – but on first blush it reads well,” she replied.

Lewis also obtained meetings with representatives of former Mayor Adrian Fenty on July 8, 2010, and with Mayor Vincent Gray himself on February 25, 2011.

In a summary of the July 2010 meeting, Francisco Fimbres of the Executive Office of the Mayor wrote, “OP and the community are on the same page and OP should be encouraged to keep supporting and working closely with the community on this.”

The next day, Lewis wrote Neil Albert in the Executive Office of the Mayor encouraging him to disregard claims the University might make in a meeting they were scheduled to have with the mayor’s office later that year.

“I urge you to keep in mind that the arguments they will make have been thoroughly reviewed and rejected by the community and by OP,” he wrote.

20 Comments on “Office of Planning, ANC collaborated on 2010 Campus Plan

  1. So, around the same time Lenore Rubino begins changing her tune from “things are getting better” to “things are a breaking point”, Ron Lewis is marshalling everyone, including a DC public office, to embrace a single set of talking points, chief of which is that the only solution is 100% on-campus housing? Is there any wonder that students think the process has been one of misinformation and deception?

  2. I fail to be surprised by this. Hopefully the ZC becomes aware of this collusion and considers it in their decision (aka, hopefully Dwyer brings it up.)

  3. She has seen this so hopefully it will be brought up. However, at the last hearing, the University said that it would submit most of the documents for Monday’s hearing by close of business today (6/15) so we’ll see whether this makes it into the written submission.

  4. I don’t believe there’s technically anything wrong with speaking with, and possibly influencing, the Office of Planning prior to when it submits its report. It’s unethical to discuss the matter with the Zoning Commissioners prior to the hearing, but OP is all ears to anyone who wants to approach it. And, had OP not already opposed the plan, I doubt they would have conversed with Lewis in the first place– seems more like a “preaching to the choir” kind of thing here, where the two groups were already in sync to an extent, so OP was willing to listen.

  5. Although there certainly is nothing wrong with communicating with community groups, the closeness of this relationship does seem troubling. I also don’t like that Lewis got an early copy of the report and then was able to get language he wanted inserted into within an hour.

  6. @2011 grad:

    The purpose of the OP report is supposed to be for them to offer their professional take on the campus plan from the perspective of the District’s planning and development goals, the comprehensive plan, etc. They can take outside input into account to some extent, but the real mechanism for consideration of community and other views is supposed to be submissions and hearings before the ZC, NOT during the writing of the OP report. And certainly not to the extent demonstrated here.

    This is akin to having a hearing before the City Council on some matter, where one of the parties to the hearing gets to ghostwrite portions of the testimony to be given by a DC government agency. There’s a process for airing their claims, but they want to circumvent this and instead have them appear under the seal and imprimatur of a government agency. Introducing a claim as part of an official OP document makes it seem a lot more credible than if it is introduced before the Zoning Commission as “the testimony of Stephen R. Brown, Persona Non Grata in the State of Israel and Proprietor of DrunkenGeorgetownStudents.com”

    Moreover, providing draft copies – for revision! – of the report to certain members of the ANC ( the student ANC did not have this courtesy extended to him) brings into question OPs impartiality in making their assessment.

    Of course, in reality, OP had already gotten pressure from above regarding what side they were supposed to take, but they’ve all learned to be smart enough not to put such things in writing.

  7. “Lewis additionally recommended consulting the Office of the Attorney General on the possibility of the University prohibiting students from residing in zip code 20007.”

    Fucking Ron Lewis

  8. @ @2011 grad and Dizzy — thanks for clearing that up.

    And on an additional note, this gem from one of Ron’s e-mails makes me grit my teeth and want to throw something, except I’m at work and I can’t:

    “Under ‘Campus Housing,’ will it say anywhere that if the housing is on-campus it must be west of the 37th Street gates (and not in the “on-campus” residential area between 35th and 37th Streets – eg the “1789” block?) And that if it’s not on-campus west of the gates it can’t be anywhere in zip code 20007? […] I appreciate the condition that location would be subject to ZC approval, but it might help to specify some excluded areas if possible.”

    I’ll second @Mirror in the Bathroom. Fucking Ron Lewis. So happy to be out of Burleith and all of that negativity.

  9. Ron Lewis was elected in 2008 with a little over 400 votes. There are almost 800 students who live in dorms in his district, not to mention the many more students living off campus.

    If students want to get serious, they can start by registering those students to vote. They are in Darnall and Henle. Also note that DC allows same-day registration at the polls, but you need either a DC ID or a government document showing your address. From the website:

    Valid proof of residence is either a copy of a current and valid government photo identification, or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter.

    Anyone interested in a campaign should see how students en masse can get these documents easily. Does GU provide copies of utility bills if you’re on campus?

    See also this suggestion on the upcoming redistricting about a possible second student ANC seat: http://georgetownmetropolitan.com/2011/04/01/what-to-expect-with-redistricting-part-2-the-single-member-districts/

  10. @Matt: The DCBOEE has released a memo that provides for students to prove residency through university documentation. If you ask GU for them, they will provide you with them. They did so for special election in April and several individuals took them up on it. They are willing to do so going forward as well.

  11. @JS:

    Awesome. Any chance you can dig this memo up, just to make crystal clear? Or perhaps DC Students Speak can request it.

    The next step, then, is to work with Georgetown University to provide some easy way of getting this documentation — something as simple as a website where you input your user ID and it brings you to a page to print out the information.

    The next election is Nov. 6, 2012. Over the course of the coming year, the impetus should be on recruiting students to run. Students who run have to be signed up by the first days in September in 2012 (it was 9/3 in 2010), and be registered voters for at least 60 days prior, and get votes of at least 25 registered voters.

    This means that students have to be living in their districts by early July 2012, which means that students likely have to either be living off-campus or be students who are living in the same dorm/residence hall for the second year.

    Under the current districts, this is a bit of a problem: since terms are two years, only sophomores can realistically run, because their term begins January 2013 and ends January 2015 (a sophomore would be in the class of 2015).

    Under the way the current districts are gerrymandered (see here – http://anc2e.com/images/gusmdlarge.gif ), to have someone run in SMD 02, they’d’ve needed to live in Darnall their freshman year, then get Henle. For SMD 03, you’d need someone in Harbin going to Copley. And for SMD 05, it seems there’d be no way of doing it, since only Nevils and LXR are in the district and no freshman resides there.

    Any ideas on how to fix this?

    Note also that the petitions have to be filled out by 25 registered voters in the district, which means students have to register in advance of signing. With petitions generally not released until August, it’s a hell of a time crunch to get students in the district registered and signing the petition by the early September deadline.

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  13. The D.C. Office of Planning = Ron Lewis’s puppet

  14. Matt’s said all that needs to be said. These neighborhood gadflies get elected by razor thin margins. If the student body got organized and vote, these people would never be elected.

  15. “The next election is Nov. 6, 2012. Over the course of the coming year, the impetus should be on recruiting students to run. Students who run have to be signed up by the first days in September in 2012 (it was 9/3 in 2010), and be registered voters for at least 60 days prior, and get votes of at least 25 registered voters.”

    Do you really think you’re going to get enough students who are willing to vote in DC rather than their home states in the 2012 election? Good luck with that.

  16. @LongTimeRez

    We, the students, spend 4 years here with very little time back in our home states. Some students even spend their summers in DC while most graduates go off and find jobs here or away from their home states. For the most part, what happens in DC affects us much more than what happens back home.

    Considering that the dorms house students that are predominately Freshmen or Sophomores who care about their University, yes I do think we can get enough votes.

    Thanks for the support!

  17. Pingback: Vox Populi » Evans launches Ward 2 ANC redistircting

  18. Just when you think that Lenore Rubino, Jennifer Altemus and their comrades can’t do any more to show contempt for their neighbors, they find a new way. In this case, by demanding that the city ignore the concerns of anyone affiliated with an organization “supported by GU.” For example, they believe that the Duke Ellington School must reject any support or assistance from GU and its students, or risk being censored by CAG and the BCA regarding any testimony linked to its neighborhood concerns.

    The BCA and CAG complain that Grace Bateman is a long-time activist and supporter of the University, then complain that Tim Moran has only lived in the area since August 2010. On one hand, they think the city should dismiss Moran’s concerns because he hasn’t been around for many years, while they should also dismiss Bateman’s concerns because she has been involved for decades.

    Also, if being a graduate of GU disqualifies your concerns, then they should also dismiss any submissions from CAG, as it is led by Jennifer Altemus.

  19. @LongTimeRez,

    Have you heard of Pat Scolaro and Beverly Jost? Both were vocal anti-student activists in the 1990s (Scolaro has continued her anti-student activism). Students defeated both of them for ANC seats in 1996, despite a voter intimidation campaign from a small group of neighbors.

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