Last night, Georgetown administrators and neighbors gathered before the D.C. Zoning Commission to discuss the 2010 campus plan for the final time as the University, ANC 2E, and neighborhood groups submitted a revised version of the original campus plan that they hammered out last month. The commission voted 3-0 with one abstaining to accept the proposal in its entirety.
After the Zoning Commission voted last February to postpone any decision on the campus plan until the parties reached an agreement, neighbors and administrators restarted negotiations. The commissioners were highly pleased with the result. “We don’t always get the results we would like to see, and, in this case, I feel like we got everything and more,” Commissioner Peter May said. “And so I really am very, very happy with this result.” The other commissioners agreed: “I think that what’s happened in this case is no less than exceptional,” commissioner Michael Turnbull said. “To see Georgetown and the neighborhood come together like this is just wonderful.
The room erupted in cheers after the commission voted without opposition to approve the agreement, and Georgetown administrators joined in the sentiment. “What this process has made clear is that there is great strategic advantage for the University to align ourselves with the city,” University spokeswoman Stacy Kerr said. “I think you’re going to see from this a lot of opportunities for us to find new ways to engage deeper with the city and engage beyond just Northwest D.C. and beyond that historical 37th and O street. And, really over the long term, we see that as… [an opportunity] to strengthen the residential undergraduate experience at 37th and O street.”
Reactions from students have been somewhat less cheerful. As Vox reported the night that agreement details were released, GUSA will have representation in the Georgetown Community Partnership—a mechanism intended to prevent and defuse future conflict in negotiation with the University and neighborhood leaders. After the meeting, Kerr restated Georgetown’s commitment to consider the student voice as part of ongoing negotiations: “Todd Olson has been very clear in all of this that students will have a role in this, both on the Georgetown-Community Partnership and… also in implementing some of these policy changes.”
GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’12) and Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’12) released a statement last month expressing their disapproval with parts of the campus plan agreement, but, since the Zoning Commission’s vote is final, students will focus now on implementation stage. It’s still unclear, however, when some of the changes (such as the possible extension of GUTS bus routes) will take place. Yet Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount have promised to lobby for student interests when such a time comes.
“Student advocacy still has a very large role to play in ensuring that the less fleshed out elements of the plan end up being implemented in the most student-friendly way possible,” ANC Commissioner and GUSA Chief of Staff Jake Sticka (COL ’13) said in an email to Vox. “Students absolutely have the moral high ground to insist that housing built on-campus be high-quality and low-cost, that party planning become significantly easier, that the Student Code of Conduct become fairer, and that space vacated by administrators moving into Magis Row townhouse be filled with main campus student space, especially in historical buildings like Healy Hall.”
Even though it seems that all town-gown strife is now dead with the 2010 Campus Plan officially put to rest, a whole new institution now exists to address University-neighborhood relations—the Georgetown Community Partnership. If the past is to be any guide, GCP discussions won’t be as harmonious as those that occurred at One Judiciary Square last night.
File Photo: Max Blodgett (Jan. 13, 2010)
Additional reporting by Vanya Mehta