The D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment heard the third and final day of testimony in GW’s application for the 2000-2010 campus plan Tuesday. Members of the Foggy Bottom Association and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission were present to oppose the plan’s approval, which outlines the University’s plans for property purchases and the use of land in the next 10 years.
The board will review three new revisions to GW’s housing proposal and a revised report from the District Office of Planning before it makes a final decision in a Nov. 15 public meeting.
Two of the new provisions include a goal to house 70 percent of GW’s full-time undergraduate population and a plan to have more beds than students on campus by 2005, University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said. Under the new provisions, the University would not increase the number of students who live off campus by more than 300 students each year until 2005, he said.
GW will provide a status report on housing progress by 2005, Barber said. Until then, the University will voluntarily relinquish its matter of right to purchase residential and other properties for University uses, but may still buy properties for investment purposes.
We’re proposing to do more on-campus housing, Barber said in his closing remarks. GW, in combination with the Office of Planning and some of the groups here, can make that happen.
Maria Tyler, a commissioner of ANC district 2A, said the cure is not increasing the number of beds but slowing the growth of the student population.
It is not substantial if you are going to use these beds for new students, she said. Are you going to siphon students from the Foggy Bottom neighborhood? They should not be allowed to increase enrollment because our city will be overwhelmed.
FBA President Michael Thomas said GW has not been able to come up with an accurate census of where students live off campus.
We haven’t been able to get information from the University, they don’t know where their students are, Thomas said.
BZA Chairwoman Sheila Cross Reid asked the University to provide numbers of Foggy Bottom buildings occupied by GW students, the proportion of off-campus students living there and if all students living in Foggy Bottom are GW students.
Barber said fulfilling Reid’s request may prove difficult because of the way the University collects information from students.
It’s not that we can’t keep track of students, but as we’ve gone increasingly on the internet it’s possible for students to get grades and register without providing a local address, Barber said. He said about 1,000 GW students live in Foggy Bottom, and about two-thirds of GW’s off-campus student population live in other parts of the city.
Thomas also said he believes GW’s propositions are not enforceable.
It provides only a status report after five years, it does not require sworn testimony, he said. It contains no provision for violation of the housing agreement.
Carol Mitten, a BZA board member, agreed that these provisions are insufficient because the BZA can only enforce the campus plan by refusing to approve plans in the future.
We have concluded that the enforcement mechanisms in existence now are woefully inadequate, she said. If the one enforcement mechanism in place is that we as a board refuse to hear further processing until compliance is reached, we need to make sure that enforcement is in place.
Barber said the University plans to begin an incentive program for off-campus students to live outside the Foggy Bottom area.
We don’t want to give students the idea that they are less worthy people and can’t live in Foggy Bottom, Barber said. We can do everything we can to build the beds and manage our population in the meantime.
The incentives could include Metro vouchers or shuttles to areas of the city densely populated by students, he said.
Extending the University Code of Conduct to students living in the Foggy Bottom area is another way GW hopes to reconcile behavioral concerns of the neighborhood, Barber said.
The students who move off campus to get away from (the University Code of Conduct) won’t live in Foggy Bottom, he said.
The Office of Planning, which recommended earlier this month that the BZA reject GW’s campus plan, presented a report of how University growth should be controlled.
We’re saying to deny (the plan), said Ellen McCarthy, Office of Planning representative. If you choose to approve it, it should be for no more than five years.
She said the Office of Planning would consider approving the plan with several conditions, including that GW expansion does not adversely impact the surrounding community.
It’s a structural issue, McCarthy said. There is so little left of the residential fabric of Foggy Bottom that almost no more displacement is necessary to make it a student neighborhood.
Another condition was a baseline approach to reducing the amount of students in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, according to the Office of Planning’s Power Point presentation of the report. This would involve a count of students currently living there, with future counts not exceeding that count.
Reid said it was difficult to sort through the wealth of information in the report, and asked the Office of Planning to revise it before the board’s meeting Nov. 15.
The thing I would have liked to have seen is that you would have given us an analysis of the issues and recommend conditions to mitigate the adverse impact (of the University), Reid said.
Reid said she does not agree with the portrayal of community concerns in the Office of Planning’s report.
What I gathered from the report and the nature of the presentation was kind of an alarmist reaction from the community, that the community was threatened by annihilation by the University, Reid said. And I don’t see that. The people that live in the area today moved there when GW was there.
The board requested that the Office of Planning define more clearly their conditions for approving the plan and the parameters of an advisory committee between the University and neighborhood before it votes in the Nov. 15 meeting.
BZA board member Anne Renshaw also asked the Office of Planning to strengthen the language of the report.
The language in this report should be strong enough to give the community the feeling and gives us the feeling that there will be some muscle behind it, she said. How are you going to reach the students living outside of the housing opportunity and encourage them to spread out around the city?
This article appeared in the September 28, 2000 issue of the Hatchet.