Forum: GW already overcrowded

After hundreds of hours of meetings, negotiations and hearings, the Foggy Bottom community and the mayor’s Office of Planning have not been able to agree with GW on the terms of its proposed campus plan. GW claims to have met every concern. It would be closer to the truth to say that GW still does not accept that campus planning is a process intended to preserve and protect existing residential communities and not its business plan.

The Foggy Bottom Association and the community it represents are not anti-student. Students are welcome as FBA members at discounted fees, and we happily partner with the GW Student Association on community projects.

Our concerns are rather with institutional policies of GW that have become very damaging to Foggy Bottom and the West End. We cannot survive as a residential community if the same policies are allowed to continue.

The core problem has three main causes. First, GW has had no meaningful constraint on enrollment and has grown in great spurts since 1993. It consistently outgrows its projections. Second, there has been no requirement to house added students on campus, and the University has largely not done so. Third, the law currently allows the University to acquire property outside the authorized campus boundaries and subject it to University uses, with fewer constraints than if the property is within the authorized boundaries.

Two phenomena resulted from those causes. Student renters flooded the private market turning apartment houses into de facto dorms and row houses into student communes. Also, GW bought about three dozen properties outside the authorized campus but within Foggy Bottom/West End mostly to house students.

The large numbers of long-term taxpaying residents, the stakeholders in our community have been displaced. Large amounts of tax revenues have been lost. And an old established residential neighborhood now faces a greater threat.

In 1985, GW projected that enrollment would grow by only 12 percent over 15 years and that most growth would be in graduate students. Enrollment grew almost 19 percent in the six years after the plan was approved in 1993, and 84 percent of that growth was in undergraduates.

In fall 1999, 2,380 full time undergraduates were not offered University housing. Nearly 1,000 of those offered housing were in apartment houses GW had recently bought off campus. Nearly 5,000 full time graduate students were also renting. Enrollment has grown, and the percentage of students housed by GW has fallen.

GW’s current proposals go further than their earliest draft, but fall well short of what is needed. The conditions they place on proposals for new student housing may never be met on Square 54, which is the site of the old hospital, or on Square 80, the School Without Walls. They may never acquire the property they need on Square 103 to build there. If any of these projects fail, there is no commitment to house 70 percent of full time undergraduates anywhere, much less on campus. If the 70 percent commitment ever becomes operative, it could still mean as much as 1,000 more students in the rental market than in fall 1999. Before 2005, GW wants to add 300 full time undergraduates without housing.

For all these reasons, the mayor’s Office of Planning is correct: the plan is flawed as a matter of law and as a matter of policy. We agree with the mayor that the plan as submitted should be denied.
-The writer is president of the Foggy Bottom Association.

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