Campus plan boils down to three key issues

After a month-long postponement, the District’s Board of Zoning Adjustment will vote on GW’s campus plan Tuesday.

D.C. universities are required to submit a campus plan every ten years. The campus plan outlines campus boundaries and uses of property for the next ten years and does not include proposals for buying property outside of university boundaries.

Since the University submitted its first draft of the plan Dec. 28, 1999, tension has mounted between members of the Foggy Bottom neighborhood and GW administrators. To address some residents’ concerns and meet city requests over the summer, the University adjusted some of the provisions submitted in the original plan.

The University made changes dealing with off- and on-campus housing and the GW’s property purchasing practices. Despite the changes, residents say they are still not satisfied with the plan.

Contention between neighbors and administrators focuses on three key points.

Student housing:

On campus

Foggy Bottom residents argue that GW’s lack of on-campus housing has forced many students to live in the immediate neighborhood.

The University made modifications to the campus plan last summer, requiring freshmen and sophomores to live on campus. If the campus plan is passed, freshmen will be required to live on campus by the fall 2001 and sophomores by fall 2003, Barber said.

The University has pledged to house 70 percent of all full-time undergraduate students by 2005.

Residents say that the University’s pledge will be impossible to achieve.

They don’t have enough beds so they simply cannot do it, said Marilyn Rubin, president of the Columbia Plaza Tenants Association.

Off campus

Foggy Bottom residents say GW students are being pushed off campus and occupy too much of the neighborhood.

GW rejected a recommendation from the D.C. Office of Planning to restrict the number students from moving into Foggy Bottom, citing violations of the D.C. Human Rights Code. GW will not increase the number of students living off campus by more than 300 a year until 2005, according to the plan.

While the University will not offer benefits to students who choose to live outside of the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, GW will provide services to make the move easier, Barber said.

Barber said the University will provide information about off-campus property for students to rent. GW will also consider retaining a real estate agency to assist students in locating apartments.

If we identify a significant number of students living in an area not convenient to a Metro, we will consider offering a shuttle service, he said.

Enrollment:

In 1985 the University voluntarily imposed a cap on total enrollment for the Foggy Bottom campus, limiting the number of graduate and undergraduate students to 20,000.

But members of the neighborhood say that the University is admitting too many students, without the facilities to provide housing for them.

I think there should be a direct correlation between full-time undergraduate enrollment and the University’s capacity to both teach and house students, said Michael Thomas, president of the Foggy Bottom Association. It’s pretty clear that their enrollment – which is based on a business plan – does not include housing considerations.

Thomas said an undergraduate cap may not be the answer, but he said he favors the D.C. Office of Planning’s recommendation that if the University adds a student, it should add a bed.

GW has rejected the idea of a cap on undergraduate students.

(The neighborhood is) not producing evidence showing undergraduates’ impact specifically, Barber said. If there is an impact, it is all students.

Purchasing property:

The University added a moratorium on its off-campus expansion to the campus plan, Barber said.

The University will voluntary relinquish its right to purchase for University residential-use properties outside the housing opportunity area in Foggy Bottom, he said.

The housing opportunity area is comprised of the existing campus boundaries plus several blocks of land adjacent to the University where GW already owns significant amounts of property, Barber said.

GW still retains its right to purchase property for investment purposes – defined as property that does not change its use after it is purchased, Barber said.

But neighbors say they are frustrated with GW buying binges. Often, they say, the purchasing of area buildings, such as the Hall on Virginia Avenue and Aston Hall, are a result of overcrowded residence halls and high undergraduate enrollment numbers.

(The University) has deliberately taken every available space on campus and used it for (buildings) other than student housing, Rubin said. As a result, GW will have to expand off campus in order to accommodate student housing, she said.

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