Panel of GW officials fields neighbors’ concerns

The Foggy Bottom Association invited University officials to its monthly meeting Monday night to discuss student disturbances, despite barring GW administrators from attending meetings in fall 2005.

A panel of University officials, a Metropolitan Police officer and a Student Association representative answered questions and listened to concerns of the FBA, a group of residents committed to protecting the neighborhood from development. FBA President Joy Howell said earlier this fall that the association barred GW administrators from attending their meetings last year because meetings “had been interrupted by University staff.”

The FBA sued D.C. to block GW’s plan for the old hospital site, and the proposed residence hall at 22nd and F streets, which the Zoning Commission approved Nov. 13.

“We continue to struggle here with a very small geographical area and a vast amount of people who struggle to live in it and work in it every day,” Howell said. “Regardless of what happens to (the neighborhood), we have to live together in Foggy Bottom.”

Howell said the purpose of the panel was to address resident concerns that complaints about student noise and behavior aren’t being heard. Both MPD Lt. Phillip Lanciano and University Police Chief Dolores Stafford spoke to residents about their jurisdictions. Stafford said she can empathize with residents because she lives on 21st Street between G and F streets.

“If (UPD officers) have noise complaints they will try to quiet them as best they can but in the public streets … they have no authority,” Lanciano said. “They can basically … roll down the window and ask them to quiet down.”

For students living in off-campus housing, Lanciano said MPD enters the apartment address in a database for every complaint received. Police use this to track troublemakers and fine them for disturbances. Under D.C. law, the resident receives a $300 fine, which goes on their record as an arrest after one warning, and the third incident results in an actual arrest.

FBA members said they are most frustrated by students going out and coming back into the neighborhood from drinking at night.

University efforts have succeeded in reminding students they live with older professionals that work in the morning, said Michael Akin, director of D.C. and Foggy Bottom/West End affairs. He said this Halloween, which is usually one of the most disruptive days of the year, was quieter than a normal Friday night.

“We sent students e-mails and put up fliers,” Akin said. “We had three days worth of on-campus events.”

The week after spring break and Greek-letter group recruitment week are the two other most disruptive times for the community as measured by complaints, Akin said. He added that one initiative that UPD helped implement – putting “quiet zone” signs inside of residence hall doors – was also effective at reducing student disturbances.

Residents said they liked the idea of the signs and wanted them put back in dorms. Elizabeth Elliot, a resident in the York and FBA member, said she thought the signs worked, but the noise is due more to overcrowding.

“I remember hearing about your quiet zone initiative, and I think it really had an impact,” Elliot said. “I think the only solution is to lower the number of people, and of course you are planning to put another 500 of them (on F Street).”

Resident suggestions included a list of best practices for community members who are new at renting to students and a larger police presence on foot on F Street.

Akin said he thought some real progress was made at the meeting.

“I think tonight there was a recognition that we’re trying and that our efforts are having some impact,” he said. “Clearly our efforts are being noticed.”

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