Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Housing, Loop Road Monopolize Debate at Campus Plan Hearing

At the D.C. Zoning Commission’s second hearing on the 2010 Campus Plan, the debate was consumed by discussion of the Office of Planning’s recommendation that Georgetown house all students on campus by 2016 and the university’s proposed loop road.

Representatives from the OP, members of neighborhood citizens associations, lawyers for Georgetown and nine students appeared to testify before the commission.

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh called for an end to off-campus student housing, expressing support for OP’s recommendation that 100 percent of students be housed on campus. She said that Georgetown students displace families and prevent communities from “developing and growing as communities and not as transient populations.”

OP Deputy Director Jennifer Steingasser said that while the District values the intellectual and cultural vibrancy that universities bring, the presence of students adversely impacts the quality of life in surrounding neighborhoods.

“Nobody said that the university is bad, we’re just saying that some of the objectionable conditions [created by students] need to be addressed,” she said.

According to Steingasser, there is a correlation between the number of students living in a neighborhood and the number of calls to MPD.

Zoning Commissioner Peter May agreed, though he questioned whether all 911 calls could be attributed to students.

“It does seem like it really is a remarkable number of really, really bad incidents,” he said. “The university has said they’ve made efforts to control the bad behavior but it’s apparent from the letters we receive that it’s not as effective as we would like.”

Throughout her testimony, Steingasser emphasized that Georgetown needs to “draw students back to campus,” saying that the university could accomplish this by increasing the number of students per room and adding dorms on top of existing buildings.

“Not all housing needs to be luxury suites,” she said.

Maureen Dwyer, the attorney for Georgetown, appeared to grow frustrated with Steingasser during her cross examination.

“Do you understand that for the university to provide the funds to provide [additional] beds would mean no money for academic or athletic facilities?” she asked.

Finally, Georgetown students representing a number of campus organizations presented testimony of the benefits the university brings to the community. At one point during the meaning it looked as though students would not be able to testify because of time constraints, which would preclude them from testifying as most students will be leaving D.C. before the next hearing due to the end of the semester. At around 9:00 p.m. however, Zoning Commission Chairman Anthony Hood announced that the commission would make accommodations to allow students to testify that night.

Testifying students included Aaron Golds(COL ’11), a former student commissioner on ANC 2E; Timothy Ogino (COL ’11), co-director of the math and science outreach program GUMSHOE; Habib Zalzal (COL ’11), a member of the off-campus student life advisory board; Colin Brody (COL ’11), former Georgetown Emergency Medical Response Services president; Monica McNutt (COL ’11), the women’s basketball captain; Sarah Christiano (COL ’13), a member of DC Students Speak; Jake Sticka (COL ’13), Georgetown’s ANC 2E representativeMike Meaney (SFS ’12), president of the Georgetown University Students Association; and Ayalew Taye (COL ’11), a track athlete from Ethiopia and Molly Breen (MSB ’11), founder of Georgetown Samaritans.

Each witness emphasized the positive influence that Georgetown students have on the neighborhood as tutors, volunteers, voters and community members.

Breen, whose group aims to improve relations between Georgetown and its community through neighborhood cleanups and other service projects, said that the neighborhood is as much a home for students as it is for Georgetown residents.

“I want to care for this community that I love so much in the same way I was taught to care for my community at home,” she said.

Sticka affirmed this testimony.

“Students should be allowed to live off campus,” he said. “It is part of being independent. It is part of what makes them be invested in the community. If we would like to grow this city, I would urge you to allow [students] to live in actual parts of the city.”

The topic of the loop road, which would encircle Yates Field House, McDonough Arena and the tennis courts and run adjacent to Glover-Archibold Park, was also addressed

According to GU attorney Maureen Dwyer, the National Parks Service has tentatively endorsed a proposed internal loop road. The road would help to turn around GU Transportation Shuttles, alleviating traffic problems on campus and reorienting GUTS buses away from narrow Georgetown streets.

But Cheh expressed concerns about noise and air pollution from the proposed road, which she said would be disruptive to the park land in back of campus.

“As far as the loop road goes, I think there are alternatives. There is a negative impact on the residents of ward three, and I respectfully request that the commission deny Georgetown the building of the loop road,” she said.

Hearings on the campus plan will continue on Monday, May 16, when witnesses from the citizens associations of Foxhall, Georgetown and Burleith will provide their testimony to the Zoning Commission.

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