Neighbors ask Georgetown to house all students on campus

Georgetown University will be subjected to strict student housing requirements if recommendations from the D.C. Office of Planning and a group of neighbors, jaded by the university’s policies, are adopted.

Georgetown’s Advisory Neighborhood Committee said the university’s population growth has a negative impact on full-time Georgetown residents and is asking the city to force the college to house all traditional undergraduates in university housing. Students could live outside campus boundaries in University-owned housing.

The separate recommendations from the ANC and the planning office both ask for an enrollment cap on the number of traditional students – undergraduates taking at least one class on the main campus. The Planning Office specifies a cap of 6,652 – only 636 more than Georgetown University currently has in its housing system.

To comply, Georgetown University would be required to provide 250 new beds by the fall 2014 semester and house 90 percent of those undergraduate students by fall 2015. One hundred percent of traditional undergraduates would live on campus by fall 2016.

The strict recommendations were sent to the D.C. Zoning Commission earlier this spring. If the commission adopts the recommendations, Georgetown University will be forced to comply, or otherwise risk an annual reduction of 25 percent in the number of students enrolled.

The report accused the university of being unable to control the “disruptive off-campus situation” caused by students living in the surrounding community and recommended that the University even consider adding more “fully functioning new satellite campuses” to reduce not only the number students residing around campus but also commuting to class.

The recommendation submitted by the planning office noted that the students, noise and traffic have “created objectionable conditions to neighboring residential properties” and that a spike in disturbances also resulted in increased 911 calls to the Metropolitan Police Department.

“The evidence presented to us indicated that the university needs to take additional measures to adequately address this. We attempted to craft our recommendation in a way that would start to address the objectionable conditions but, in recognition of the important role that universities play in our city, we wanted to make sure that they have the flexibility in terms of how to do so,” Tanya Washington-Stern, the Office of Planning chief of staff, said.

The university has been in contact with the planning office for two years, Director of Georgetown University Media Relations Rachel Pugh said, but neither anticipated the 100 percent housing requirement nor the penalty of “enforced shrinkage if [it] is not met.”

“We strongly disagree with many aspects of the analysis and with the conclusions in the report issued by the Office of Planning,” Pugh said. “We look forward to correcting the record and providing further clarity on a number of points to the Zoning Commission as we continue the public hearing process.”

Currently, Georgetown University houses all freshmen and sophomores and 76 percent of all undergraduates – more than both GW and American University.

Georgetown has already made more than a dozen adjustments to its campus plan, including the conversion of an on-campus hotel into a 250-bed residence hall to comply with the 2014 requirement, Pugh said.

The Zoning Commission, which holds the final say in approving campus plans, has held five public hearings on Georgetown’s upcoming campus plan. A sixth will take place on June 20. There is no tentative date for when the final decision will be made. u

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