Georgetown’s 10-Year Plan: Know Before You Go

June 18, 2013


-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?

Our history
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.

Heated Words Fly in Campus Battle


-Georgetown is simmering, change is in the air, and University’s 10-year plan is a polished 2.0 version, new and improved, or so some would say. Last Monday, residents gathered for a meeting with the University, represented by Linda Greenan, Assistant Vice President of External Relations, Alan Brangman, University architect, Todd Olson, Vice President of Student Affairs and Provost James O’Donnell.

To say the meeting was business, cut and dried, simply would not be true.

Residents were indignant. One went so far to exclaim, “My quality of life is terrible … I don’t know when a toga party is going to erupt on my block!”

Toga parties excepted, the 10-year campus plan is taking a definite form as it approaches the final stages of planning. Greenan was clear from the get-go that, “We don’t intend that there will be changes,” which means that the plan presented Monday will be the same plan that will come before the zoning board in late May or early June.

As of the Monday meeting, there are several changes included in the updated plan, such as the removal of the Campus Convocation Center.

For those concerned about toga parties, the plan promises to double the SNAP car patrol, a University program employing a security officer and car to patrol the neighborhood, addressing
noise complaints and other behavior issues. Moreover, there will be two community advisers,
explained as “live-in educational and disciplinary advisers for off-campus students and liaisons to the local community.” They are expected to start in August 2010. Another addition will be three MPD reimbursable detail officers for the academic year as a pilot program. If the program succeeds in the first year, officers will remain during the summer months.

One of the bigger points of contention is the proposed enrollment increases. The University
is protective of its flexibility in projecting growth, as they look forward to creating “innovative
programs that appeal to professionals.” Estimates have been made however, with a projected
graduate increase of approximately 2,475 students, while non-traditional undergraduate enrollment is expected to grow by 104 students, based on 2010 data.

This growth means that the campus itself will be expanding, and one contentious location for growth is the 1789 block. Alan Brangman discussed several key changes regarding this historic area. Brangman was emphatic that all building on the block will take place on University land; no renovation will take place outside campus boundaries. Moreover, the number of graduate beds proposed was reduced from 300 to 120 beds. The building plans themselves also were reduced from five stories to two or three. Parking will be available under this structure, with 10 percent allotted to residents. A ZipCar presence is also a possibility, although nothing has been confirmed yet.

Brangman was insistent that although the plan will be presented to the zoning commission,
“this doesn’t close out the process” and neighborhood input will still be considered. In fact, the University is emphasizing the spirit of collaboration, repeating their commitment that “the dialogue doesn’t stop,” as Greenan stated. In a later meeting with The Georgetowner, she cited changes made in 2006 and 2008 as clear evidence of the University’s commitment to working with the community to better implement the changes. So far, she said, the University has received its share of positive, albeit quiet, feedback from less vociferous neighbors.

“People appreciate Georgetown University,” she said. “They see us as part of the community.” She pointed out that the students had done a lot in the community, both with the University and as individuals: “They are dogwalkers, babysitters … A lot of people like our students.”

Olson, who also talked with us after the forum, recounted a recent Community Clean Up day, with students and residents working side by side to clean up Georgetown. He also pointed out that the University has continually supported Trees for Georgetown and the Georgetown Senior Center. “The large majority of our students deserve and earn our respect,” he said at the forum, advocating minimal police involvement in student conduct issues. He later outlined an “ambitious, evolutionary way” of improving discipline through In fact, data collected by the University even shows that as high as 75 percent of houses that called the University to report problems have never been heard from again.

These statistics raise hopes that an additional SNAP car will be effective in resolving
neighborhood issues. Olson makes the point that calling 911 can take MPD officers off of the streets where they are most needed, drawing them into a situation better suited for a SNAP officer, who can alert the University on the issue and address it appropriately.

Despite what the statistics may be, there is clearly a pervasive neighborhood belief that “it is not enough.” Some residents are angry, feeling that their voices are not being heard, or that they are simply being ignored by the University, which, they claim, is simply pushing the plans through, disregarding many complaints and issues. ANC Chairman Ron Lewis, for one, was vocal, warning the University against disregarding the community’s input as they go forward to the zoning commission.
For its part, the University has expressed its commitment to stay engaged with the community.
“We are constantly out in the community,” Greenan explained. “We are constantly meeting with people.” And while residents have raised “fair issues” in the past, she said recent efforts at civil, one-on-one talks with the community “didn’t get off the ground.”

But in spite of these efforts, many residents are still crying foul. “I feel like we’re here just so you can check a box off with the city,” one neighbor said at the forum, referring to what he perceived was the University’s cursory probing of community input. Clearly, the town and gown tensions are far from settled as the 10-year plan approaches its ultimate review by the zoning commission. If the plan is approved, it will be unclear what role the community will play in planning the joint future of the neighborhood and the campus.

DC Goes Green

November 3, 2011


-As global warming has clearly been a hot topic (no pun intended) in recent news, this year D.C.’s own Environmental Film Festival will return for its 18th annual season. Boasting a queue of 155 films, the festival will have showings at over 50 venues around D.C., including museums, embassies, libraries, and local theaters. And, although this showcase has grown to be the best of its kind in the U.S., it doesn’t fall short on local flavor.

Speaking of which, make sure you show up with an appetite; food is a big part of the festival this year, with films that cover everything from organic produce to world hunger to sustainable farming practices.

To kick off the festival, make sure to attend the launch party, set to take place on March 10. The event will have music, film clips, raffle and a silent auction. If you’re feeling really lucky, you could win a trip to Ecuador or London! $10. Warner Building Atrium (1299 Pennsylvania Ave.), 6:30 p.m.

“The Green House: Design it, Build it, Live it.” If you’re looking for local inspiration to go green, look no further. In the world premiere of this film, you will see the design and building of a house in McLean, VA from groundbreaking to the finishing touches. The hook? It’s completely carbon neutral. March 17. $10. E Street Cinema (555 11th St.), 7 p.m.

The film “Colony” chronicles the mysterious disappearance of bees and beehives all across the country. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder, this startling trend is captured through the stories of veteran beekeepers and newbies alike, struggling to save the bees and their business. But it’s not just the beekeepers that are in trouble — bees are essential in sustaining our own food supply. March 18. $10. AFI Silver Theater (8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD), 7:15 p.m.

“Nora!” is the story of one of Washington’s own, chef and restaurateur Nora Pouillon. Nora was doing organic before it was on everyone’s plate; in 1999 her restaurant, Restaurant Nora, was certified not only organic but also biodynamic. Now, it is a popular spot for environmentalists and politicians alike. Since its inception, only 3 other restaurants have become qualified organic. Feast on that! March 23. Free. International Student House (1825 R St.), 7 p.m.

Classical music is endangered, but not due to apathetic listeners. “The Music Tree” is a captivating film that highlights the plight of the Brazilwood (pernambuco) tree, highly coveted for its red dye. The tree’s wood is also used to create violin bows and other instruments. Recently however, exploitation of this species has pushed it to the edge of extinction. The film features several prominent violinists and cellists who are dedicated to protecting the pernambuco, as it is essential to the sound and quality of their music. These musicians, among others, have established funds aimed to preserve the trees, and so far 500,000 been planted. But will these efforts be able to save both the trees and the music? March 26. Free. Carnegie Institution for Science (1530 P St.), 7 p.m.

For more information and complete film listings, visit