-The proposed 10-year plan for Georgetown University is increasingly controversial of late, pitting residents and students against each other in a growing neighborhood controversy about the future of the university. On April 19, Georgetowners will gather for a CAG meeting to address their major concerns and, ideally, make suggestions for an improved plan that compromises between resident and student interests. Will it be easy? Or straightforward? No, and no, but it can be done — if residents show up armed with the right questions, ready to have a frank conversation about the current and future state of the university’s interaction with the community.
As the dialogue progresses, there are several clear issues with the existing plan. Jennifer Altemus, president of CAG, expressed her own frustration in an open letter to the community, writing, “We are extremely disappointed with the process thus far. It appears that community input at the GU sponsored meetings has been ignored.”
In addition to her frustration, Altemus went on to succinctly cite five major concerns with the current 2010 plan that are unacceptable to Georgetowners. A primary issue is the disproportionate amount of University housing in a residential area traditionally made up of single families. Noise and other disturbances were a major concern, with complaints including theft, vandalism and sanitation. Traffic and land use are other veritable concerns.
In our view, three of these issues will most affect the interests of students and residents. As you sit down with your CAG compadres, consider these factors — and the give-and-take solutions necessary to satisfy town and gown alike.
Parking and traffic
For a road system that is already struggling daily with heavy traffic, the proposed increase of 3,375 more graduate and professional students in the 2010 Plan is a staggering prospect. More graduate students undoubtedly means more cars, exacerbating the already clogged roads of Georgetown. To this end, the University has proposed to add 1000 more spaces to the already existing 4,080 spaces. Where exactly will this parking be? How does the University plan to address commuters? (Presently, satellite parking spaces with shuttle access are provided. Rates on campus are discounted for carpools).
But more cars raise another important issue: traffic. The plan proposes to reroute the University bussing system, known as GUTS, to the Canal Street entrance, addressing a recent ANC resolution. Students have raised concerns, however, about the environmental implications of a less-direct route; how much more gas will be consumed from the new route? How can GUTS reduce overall traffic?
Just as more graduate students means more cars, it also means more housing. And, since the campus itself isn’t getting any bigger, it means more housing off campus. Keep in mind that 84 percent of undergraduates are presently housed on campus, which is more than any other area campus, excepting Gallaudet. To address sanitation concerns, the university also plans to implement a comprehensive trash policy with community clean-ups and a weekly trash patrol. How can the university help mitigate students living in traditionally residential areas? What other housing can the university provide? What measures can the university take to better address neighborhood complaints? How can relations be improved between students and residents?
With all the proposed growth, the University has included plans to build on the 1789 block, a distressing prospect to residents, since the block is a historic landmark. According to the plan, building on the 1789 block would provide for either graduate or faculty housing and 80 parking spaces, accessible from 37th Street. With the historic fabric threatening to tear, can the university build and maintain the historical integrity of the area?
Working together, Georgetowners will need to create a solution that addresses their major grievances with the current plan. Dialogue on both sides will improve the relationship between residents, the university and students, which, ultimately, should be mutually beneficial; having a renowned campus in the neighborhood, itself an element of Georgetown’s vibrant history, is a great benefit to the community, bringing in the best and brightest students to strengthen and diversify the neighborhood experience.
The CAG meeting will be held on April 19 at St. John’s Church (3240 O Street). The reception starts at 7 p.m. and the program at 7:30.