Foggy Bottom fights GW plan

Foggy Bottom residents are ready to fight GW’s off-campus expansion, the president of the Foggy Bottom Association said in a neighborhood meeting Monday night.

We want to engage the help of the Board of Zoning Adjustment on the impending (campus) plan, Thomas told Foggy Bottom residents. We want to engage the help of the Zoning Commission on the faulty regulations.

All universities located in a residential area within D.C. are required to present a campus plan – a policy statement about the boundaries of university property – every 10 to 15 years to the District’s zoning board. The plan outlines projected uses of campus property and student housing issues.

GW proposed a new campus plan for the 2000-10 at a Board of Zoning Adjustment hearing April 26, and cross-examination of University witnesses as well as FBA testimony was postponed due to time constraints. The next hearing, previously planned for May 24, was rescheduled to allow negotiation between GW and the FBA.

We still have not reached an agreement on the core issues, Thomas said in a phone interview following the meeting. When you look at it, the University is the one that needs to change its position because all we’re asking is that they do less.

GW will provide a public statement of their position Friday, said Barbara Porter, GW Director of Public Affairs.

The FBA’s main concerns include the regulation of off-campus expansion and the amount of on campus housing for students as enrollment numbers rise, Thomas said.

It’s easier for the University to expand outside of the campus plan than within, he said. He explained that a mandatory process of razing and building on campus encourages GW to buy property around it.

Thomas said the University revised the plan, which targeted to house 60 percent of the student population including all freshmen and sophomores, since the April hearing. It has now set a goal to provide on-campus housing to 80 percent of students, but not necessarily within the plan’s boundaries, Thomas said.

Porter said that while details of the negotiations could not be released until Friday, the 80 percent stipulation was not part of the plan. That percent is part of what we’re still working on, she said.

Thomas said the biggest challenge is not agreeing to a boundary size, but getting the University to adhere to it.

I don’t think we want to encourage the expansion of the campus boundary, we want to encourage boundaries that are meaningful, Thomas said, citing the approximately three dozen GW buildings – including the Hall on Virginia Avenue, Riverside and Aston halls – that lie outside proposed boundaries.

A campus plan ought to be about where they are doing things and that ironically turns out to be outside the boundary, Thomas said.

The group discussed the need to testify at the hearing and make the BZA aware of unregulated GW expansion.

I thought a clear way to enforce the campus boundary was to tie the number of on-campus beds to the number of full-time students, said Jim McCleod, a member of the FBA. If they do a census and they’ve got 2,000 (students) living in Foggy Bottom private rental housing and we say that the goal is in fall of 2001 they need to have that number reduced a certain percent, we would guarantee that the number of students in Foggy Bottom decline.

You’re not saying to an individual student, `You cannot live in Foggy Bottom,’ what you are doing as a university is creating incentives and disincentives, he said.

Carolyn Uanis, managing agent and resident of the Foggy Bottom Mews condominium complex, had her own ideas about how the FBA should approach the issues.

It seems to me that it’s time we stopped fighting against a GW plan and start fighting for a Foggy Bottom plan, she said. I think we have to do this as one voice whenever possible and not as individual letters and requests.

Uanis also said that in her property, she introduces herself to all tenants and makes clear the expectations of their behavior. If a problem arises with a student, the owner of the unit is first notified, then the University, then GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, she said.

We have had all kinds of problems and they have stopped because we have taken control of our neighborhood, she said.

Some residents spoke up about the causes for the large student population in off-campus buildings around GW. One concern was the cost of on-campus housing.

If you’re going to GW and you’re strapped for cash, you have to give GW all your money to live there or find a place off campus, said Brad Kellog, a GW junior who lives off campus at 25th and Eye streets.

Elizabeth B. Elliott, who lives in the York apartment building, said she believes overcrowding on campus is causing the influx of students in her building.

Our building has become a quasi-dorm, she said at the meeting. Why is there not a clearer definition between dormitory and rental housing?

The BZA hearing is set for Sept. 13 at One Judiciary Square, located at 441 4th Street, in room 220. An additional date of Sept. 26 will be used if necessary.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.