Greater Greater Washington

GU takes student ghetto approach to housing undergrads

On December 30th, Georgetown University filed its 10 Year Campus Plan with the DC Zoning Commission. While the Plan has led to frayed relations between the university and the Georgetown neighborhood, the central dispute concerns what is not in the plan: an increase in on-campus undergraduate housing.


Photo by decaf on Flickr.

Why should Georgetown University be expected to build additional on-campus housing for undergraduates?

If you visit the couple dozen blocks around the University in West Georgetown (west of Wisconsin Ave) and Burleith, you will find a student ghetto that simply wasn't there in 1980. The area is becoming characterized by dilapidated houses and unbagged trash strewn across lawns.

27% of student group homes have had run-ins with the police in the past year. The university touts this as a success. Residents, particularly young children, are awakened at all hours by screaming students, and many have begun moving away.

Current students often object that the University has conceded to resident opposition to other elements of the Plan. It seems to them that the residents will never be satisfied.


Red markers are undergraduate houses. Yellow markers are graduate houses.

The principal concern for two decades, however, has always been developing on-campus housing equal to growth in undergraduate enrollment. When the University agrees to this development as it once did, it knows that it will find a residential community more open to compromise on other initiatives even though they may raise residential concerns.

The university has two objections, however, to the expectation that it build additional on-campus housing.

The adverse impacts standard

First, the university asserts that Georgetown provides on-campus housing for a larger percentage of their undergraduates than any DC university other than Gallaudet. In reality, it's actually almost identical to GW, AU and CUA.

This would be meaningful if it mattered, but the Zoning Code puts in place a standard that is relative to each university: enrollment must not result in adverse impacts on the adjoining communities.

What's so special about Georgetown? Why does housing 20-30% of undergraduates off-campus adversely impact Georgetown more than Spring Valley, Foggy Bottom or Brookland?

Georgetown has a unique housing stock. Because it was built pre-zoning, its homes arose organically from a real community, providing the human scale of construction and diversity of home sizes that naturally follow from the needs of a multi-generational community.

With hundreds of small and medium-sized rowhouses with thin walls and little or no front yards, Georgetown's housing stock cannot sustain the introduction of over a thousand 18-22 year-olds without turning into a student ghetto.

This housing stock embodies so much of what has been lost in America's built environment over the past 50 years, as smart growth leaders like Duany and Speck and Kunstler demonstrate in their thoughtful sketches of Georgetown.

As Travis Parker from the DC Planning Office said recently to Georgetown residents, Georgetown is what it is because it was built before zoning, such that OP's current zoning rewrite aims "to enable other neighborhoods to have what Georgetown has".

We can't appeal to Georgetown's example while simultaneously allowing the displacement of the multi-generational community which sustains and is sustained by its housing.

Requiring Georgetown University to meet the "adverse impacts" standard of DC law, however, is supposed to prevent any such displacement from occurring.

The central challenge, then, is how to maintain the world-class status of the area's leading university and the multi-generational community living in an historic district on the National Register right next door.

Where to build on-campus housing:
The second response provided by the University to the expectation that it build additional on-campus housing is that there is nowhere else to build.

Page 13 of the plan claims that the university looked for more locations and found problems everywhere, chief amongst them the limited amount of green space. Other problems mentioned include "topography limitations, and engineering and design challenges".

This, too, is not really relevant. The University has increased undergraduate enrollment consistently over the past several decades without an equal increase in on-campus beds.

However, investigating the claim that there's no more room for on-campus beds gets to what may be the heart of the problem. When the University says there's no more room for on-campus beds, what they really mean is that there's no more room for single-use dorms.

But mixed-use buildings are not only an important consideration in any dense, urban development, they are also more attractive to students who don't want to live in "just dorms". One student reporter makes the same point.

Neighbors often cite the fact that an architectural firm identified space for 800 additional beds on campusif the University built on every plot of open space there exists on campus. (And built only dorm-style housing that no student would ever opt to live in as an upperclassman.)
How about the following 4 locations:
  1. Athletic Training Facility: This to-be-built structure could quite easily include additional floors of dorm space.
  2. O'Donovan Dining Hall: This 2-story structure is next to the 9-story SW Quad dorms. It's quite common to have dining halls in dorms. Why not add multiple floors of dorm space above the dining hall?
  3. Epicurean Dining Hall: Again, dining halls in dorms are quite common. Why not extend the Darnall dorm out over the front of Epicurean?
  4. End of Library Walk: While this is admittedly green space, it is unused by students given its remote location against the Canal Rd entrance and surrounded by parking and cars. It's really just unnoticed landscaping, not civic space. This was proposed by the University's architect as a potential dorm spot.
When asked about these sites, the VP of Communications says "the proposals you suggest are interesting", but that "it would be inappropriate to comment on whether or not they have merit without the benefit of a full analysis".

She insists that "we've conducted a thorough review of locations for residence halls on campus", but when asked whether these fairly uncreative proposals were considered, she "cannot confirm whether or not these were included in our review or not".

The only conclusion that one can reach is that the Georgetown town-gown dispute is not being caused by an anti-density stance on the part of the residents. It's being caused by an anti-development stance, particularly mixed-use development appropriate to a dense urban context, on the part of the University.

The University's flip-flops on housing

There was a time when the University agreed with this. In the 1990 Campus Plan, the University committed to "adopt as a long term goal of the University, the ability to provide housing for 100 percent of its undergraduate students on campus" and "to create a residential college environment".

The residential college model relies on mixed-use dorms in which residential life is integrated with other aspects of campus life, particularly intellectual life. In-dorm dining halls are where students and adults (faculty, grad students, clergy) living in the dorm together commune over meals.

It was the right vision for Georgetown, not least because it's the model adopted by several universities ranked higher than Georgetown. Harvard, Yale and Princeton are the most well-known universities with residential colleges, and all three house over 90% of undergraduates on campus.

Apparently the plan changed, because the dorms that were finally built in 2003 (the Southwest Quad) are single use dorms that, in the words of the GU student reporter, "no student would ever opt to live in as an upperclassman". It is another student ghetto.

And the beds that they added were outpaced by the increase in enrollment since the previous dormitory construction.

Not only is single use on-campus housing unattractive for upperclassmen, Georgetown's housing is the 2nd most expensive in the country.

The path forward for Georgetown, both to comply with DC law and to better compete with higher ranked universities appears to be the path that GU was on 20 years ago: Offer a residential college environment in mixed-use facilities at a more affordable price.

If you agree, sign a petition opposing the Campus Plan. If you don't agree, sign a petition supporting the Campus Plan.

Either way, come to a special Georgetown ANC meeting this Thursday, January 20th, 6:30 pm at Duke Ellington School for the Arts to hear the different positions and make your voice heard.

Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son. Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. 

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The only conclusion that one can reach is that the Georgetown town-gown dispute is not being caused by an anti-density stance on the part of the residents. It's being caused by an anti-development stance, particularly mixed-use development appropriate to a dense urban context, on the part of the University.

Really? I don't think this is the only conclusion one can reach. I could make the same conclusion about the surrounding neighborhood, too.

by Alex B. on Jan 18, 2011 10:50 am • linkreport

This piece is riddled with inaccuracies and I'm frankly disappointed that it wasn't reviewed more thoroughly prior to publication.

For example, this statistic is highly misleading: "27% of student group homes have had run-ins with the police in the past year." Anyone who is familiar with this issue, or who has been a Georgetown student, knows that there is a certain subgroup of residents who call 911 if they hear any noise at all emanating from a student residence - even during normal waking hours, and often when there is no obvious disruption. The Citizens Association of Georgetown even encourages residents to call 911 at the slightest provocation - with the express aim of generating statistics like the one above.

I'm sure people will point out this piece's other flaws, but most glaring among them is the notion that the Southwest Quad is not "mixed-use." I mean, there is a convenience store in the dorm, and O'Donovan dining hall (which is part of the Southwest Quad project) is literally 50 feet away. As for Darnall Hall, there is maybe space for 10-20 additional units there, and the marginal cost of each would be astronomical. The other two locations might be feasible from a technical perspective, but would be unlikely to pass planning muster - the Old Georgetown Board does not like the idea of building tall buildings on that part of campus, and they have already expressed concern about the athletic training facility as currently planned.

I could go on, but I'm sure other commenters will pick up the slack.

by GU Alum on Jan 18, 2011 11:09 am • linkreport

I'm not sure it's true that GU has a greater impact on its neighborhood than GWU has on Foggy Bottom. The biggest difference I see is that Foggy Bottom and the West End have many more apartment and condo buildings, so the students are more cordoned off--fewer dilapidated homes and less trash in the streets, perhaps, but the GWU undergrad houses are just as poorly kept.

Knowing my own experience of living next to a student house and all their noise and trash, I'm rather curious how awful the conditions are for non-student residents of the high rises.

by rallycap on Jan 18, 2011 11:12 am • linkreport

Why must GU increase on-campus housing as it increases enrollment? If another local institution announces a plan that will bring more people to the area, is it obligated to provide housing for those people? What if Sirius XM said it was hiring 1,000 new employees? Would the company's nimby neighbors rise up against it and demand that they build housing for the new employees and their families?

Also, there's nothing "organic" about development. People made conscious decisions to build houses, businesses, industry, etc., where they built it.

And what's with the term "ghetto" anyway? No one's forcing students to live in these places. If anything, a campus plan with more on-campus housing would more resemble a ghetto than student tenants freely choosing to rent from landlords, who are also freely choosing to let the students live there. Which, by the way, sounds far more "organic" than forcing students to live in one place.

Also, shouldn't the Georgetown nimbys be blaming their own neighbors, who rent to these students, for allowing it to become, as you like to say, a "ghetto?"

by Tim on Jan 18, 2011 11:13 am • linkreport

Also, GU is not proposing to increase its undergraduate enrollement, so I am a bit confused about why the principle of "developing on-campus housing equal to growth in undergraduate enrollment" is being violated in this campus plan.

by GU Alum on Jan 18, 2011 11:17 am • linkreport

With hundreds of small and medium-sized rowhouses with thin walls and little or no front yards, Georgetown's housing stock cannot sustain the introduction of over a thousand 18-22 year-olds without turning into a student ghetto.

What kind of housing stock could sustain the introduction of over a thousand 18-22 year-olds without turning into a student ghetto? <---this is not a rhetorical question

by Miriam on Jan 18, 2011 11:22 am • linkreport

What kind of housing stock could sustain the introduction of over a thousand 18-22 year-olds without turning into a student ghetto?

Apartment buildings like the ones that house AU, GW and CUA students. There is far less apartment building space in immediate area around GU, and hundreds of rowhouses that urbanists appeal to to demonstrate the best in urbanism.

by Ken Archer on Jan 18, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

A number of the claims made here are simply inaccurate. If you check out our website, dcstudentsspeak.org, you will see we have run fact checks on some of the arguments present in this piece.

by Ricky on Jan 18, 2011 11:29 am • linkreport

Having gone to an urban school in a different city (boston) these problems exist everywhere. Part of the problem is that landlords know they can get more out of a place with 3-4 students then 1 family and with probably less upkeep.

by Jeff on Jan 18, 2011 11:32 am • linkreport

A number of the claims made here are simply inaccurate. If you check out our website, dcstudentsspeak.org, you will see we have run fact checks on some of the arguments present in this piece.

Which ones? Your blog claims that there's no more room to build housing, but I've replied above.

I emailed these claims to Mark Stern of your group and he didn't reply. Instead he published some more unreasonable emails he received from my neighbors on your blog.

by Ken Archer on Jan 18, 2011 11:40 am • linkreport

The Citizens Association of Georgetown even encourages residents to call 911 at the slightest provocation - with the express aim of generating statistics like the one above.

The MPD would complain about this if it was happening.

Do you not agree that displacement of the multi-generational community that has been in West Georgetown for over 250 years with a student quarter is a problem?

by Ken Archer on Jan 18, 2011 11:43 am • linkreport

I live near Howard, so I understand how irritating some student group homes are. That said, Howard was here long before I was. I understood what I was getting into when I moved here.

GU has existed for a couple of hundred years now. People who don't want to live near students should probably have chosen a different neighborhood.

by jcm on Jan 18, 2011 11:47 am • linkreport

Why must GU increase on-campus housing as it increases enrollment? If another local institution announces a plan that will bring more people to the area, is it obligated to provide housing for those people? What if Sirius XM said it was hiring 1,000 new employees? Would the company's nimby neighbors rise up against it and demand that they build housing for the new employees and their families?

GU should be compared to developers, not to employers that rent office space. And urbanists criticize developers all the time for not developing housing commensurate with other uses like office space, and for rejecting multi-use structures, because of the effects on neighboring communities.

by Ken Archer on Jan 18, 2011 11:55 am • linkreport

@Ken: I'm going to have to agree with jcm on this one. GU has been there for 222 years, before the vast majority of the houses in Georgetown were there, and well before the vast majority of current residents were there. They knew they were moving next to a college.

by Tim on Jan 18, 2011 11:58 am • linkreport

Ken, could you be a little more insulting? Please, call it a ghetto a fifth time. And what a reasonable suggestion! Let us put up some Soviet style commie blocks for students on top of the scarce green space. Maybe fit them in 5, 6 to a room. That will be much less "ghetto". Thanks.

So you say that because Georgetown's "housing stock" is more "unique" and "multi-generational" than other parts of DC, it shouldn't be used by students? Wow, seriously GGW? Let me tell you, there are loud, messy, problematic residents in other parts of D.C. which are just as historic. Why do you want to live so close to the university if these are issues for you? Move out to quiet WV if you can't take city life.

by Patrick on Jan 18, 2011 11:58 am • linkreport

I don't think "but MPD would complain" is a plausible argument. They are unlikely to want to anger the politically powerful residents of Georgetown.

I don't see any evidence of "displacement," either. Real estate values haven't declined one bit. This "displacement" narrative is based on anecdotes and an unsourced Google Map created by the Citizens Association of Georgetown, an organization with an obvious bias.

by GU Alum on Jan 18, 2011 11:59 am • linkreport

GU has existed for a couple of hundred years now. People who don't want to live near students should probably have chosen a different neighborhood.

Honestly, this was my initial response when I moved to Georgetown 8 years ago.

Most Georgetowners, however, don't move to Georgetown and then leave in a couple years. They stay for a long time, often their whole lives, maybe moving to different houses in Georgetown as their needs change.

The rapid deterioration of West Georgetown and Burleith over the past 20-30 years has led to displacement of these families. The University has been here since 1789 but the student ghetto is a very recent phenomenon.

by Ken Archer on Jan 18, 2011 12:01 pm • linkreport

By the way, college students are a protected class under the DC Human Rights Act. So, unless you want to rezone the entire neighborhood to prohibit rental housing, you are not going to be able to keep students from renting.

DC is not Cambridge, New Haven, or Princeton; it's entirely reasonable that a small minority of students chooses to live off campus so they have a greater enjoyment of the amenities the city has to offer.

by GU Alum on Jan 18, 2011 12:06 pm • linkreport

This is nearly the complete opposite of what's happening at AU. AU is attempting to get their campus plan off the ground as well and the Spring Valley community is stonewalling all attempts to build new housing on campus for students. AU was also there far far longer than the residents in the area. They knew that students live in the area when they moved in. They don't want the students on campus because it's too much noise and they don't want them in the neighborhoods either. You can't have it both ways.

by RRuszczyk on Jan 18, 2011 12:08 pm • linkreport

What's so special about Georgetown? Why does housing 20-30% of undergraduates off-campus adversely impact Georgetown more than Spring Valley, Foggy Bottom or Brookland?

Georgetown has a unique housing stock. Because it was built pre-zoning, its homes arose organically from a real community, providing the human scale of construction and diversity of home sizes that naturally follow from the needs of a multi-generational community.

Every neighborhood near a university campus in DC claims that it's unique. Foggy Bottom sure does. And just as with GU-Georgetown, Foggy Bottom would not exist is GW had not moved there in 1912. It was a swamp at the time.

This entire article focuses on GU, but could have been written against any university in the DC area. GU, GW, AU, Gallaudet, CUA, GMU, UMD. They all face hostile neighborhoods. In fact, NYU has the exact same problem on Manhattan.

This article is so unserious, it does not deserve any further comment.

by Jasper on Jan 18, 2011 12:08 pm • linkreport

I don't see any evidence of "displacement," either. Real estate values haven't declined one bit. This "displacement" narrative is based on anecdotes and an unsourced Google Map created by the Citizens Association of Georgetown, an organization with an obvious bias.

In the short-term, row houses are worth more as group houses for students whose only other option is to pay the 2nd highest on-campus housing rate in the nation than they are as houses for live-in owners. In the long-term, this will undermine property values as the houses are not taken care of.

Tell me which block doesn't have at least the number of student group houses that the map indicates.

by Ken Archer on Jan 18, 2011 12:08 pm • linkreport

I'm finding a hard time putting "GU" and "ghetto" in the same sentence.

Of all the references that could be made about GU, "ghetto" comes to mind?

Certainly understanding how languages evolves, but would you care to be champeroned through DC's ghetto's to give you a more realistic vision of what one is.

Does a small percentage of a college's student housing, that has had run ins with the law really make GU's approach to housing "ghetto?"

Oh well, just commenting on the odd word usage. No biggie!

by HogWash on Jan 18, 2011 12:11 pm • linkreport

"Tell me which block doesn't have at least the number of student group houses that the map indicates."

Sorry, but the burden of proof is not on me, especially when you're asking me to prove a negative. If you and your buddies at CAG are going to put this map out there, you'd better be prepared to explain the data behind it - otherwise most people, and certainly the Zoning Commission, are going to assume it is made up.

by GU Alum on Jan 18, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

The problem I have with this article is that it assumes that all of the new students will be living close in the Georgetown neighborhood. But I have known many GU students that lived as far away as Dupont, Adams Morgan, or Rosslyn, god forbid.

Let the high rents do their job, if the neighborhood is as desirable as you are claiming, Ken.

by goldfish on Jan 18, 2011 12:15 pm • linkreport

@goldfish But why should students be displaced from the center of their lives so much just because the neighborhood fails to realize an institution that's been there far longer than then the community around it.

by RRuszczyk on Jan 18, 2011 12:18 pm • linkreport

This is nearly the complete opposite of what's happening at AU. AU is attempting to get their campus plan off the ground as well and the Spring Valley community is stonewalling all attempts to build new housing on campus for students. ...You can't have it both ways.

And I take AU's side on this. I take CUA's side on issues that have arisen with their neighbors. But universities aren't always right in town-gown disputes.

By the way, I've also publicly disagreed with the Citizens Association of Georgetown on several issues, including zoning and overhead wires.

by Ken Archer on Jan 18, 2011 12:22 pm • linkreport

Hey Ken,

I appreciate your very legitimate engagement with the issues at hand. Although I do not agree with your ultimate conclusion, I wish more neighbors would consider the problems in the way that you have. I also thank you for linking to arguments by both sides and allowing for continued discussion.

That said, I too take issue with several facets of this piece. Firstly, I don't think your headline is fair nor do I think your article earns it. If we are going to have a productive conversation about this community, I think we should leave rhetoric like that behind.

Besides that, I take umbrage with your argument that this situation is getting worse, not better. In the last decade, more than 800 undergraduates have come out of the community and back onto Georgetown's campus, all while undergraduate student growth has been frozen. This is not a new trend. Although you argue that more students live in the surrounding communities today than they did in 1980, this simply is not the case.

To the heart of your argument: I think mixed-use on-campus dorm space is a good idea. It is something the university should explore, at least in terms of the athletic training facility. It is not, however, feasible in terms of Leo's or Epicurean. The per-person yield versus building cost would make such projects unrealistic, especially for a university as cash-strapped as Georgetown. I would also point that Georgetown attempted to build an a mixed-use apartment style building on the "1789" block, only to face immense community opposition to it.

A few other points: the 27% you cite truly is community calls made, nothing else. These calls are often made without provocation and would be much better served by a simple door-knock. Also, Harvard, Yale and Princeton are not fair analogs to Georgetown, for reasons that should be fairly obvious.

by Jake on Jan 18, 2011 12:22 pm • linkreport

what a pile of stinking mess. The posting, that is.

Clearly, the answer is bulldoze Burleith and throw up some transit friendly hi-rises. Repeal the height limit! Turn it into Rosslyn! Oh wait....

Topher made a much more rational post a few weeks ago.

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/8791/georgetown-makes-a-big-shift-towards-transit/

I questioned at that time how much of the ACS survey included students. Someone asserted there was only 10% of undergrads off campus, and in fact the numbers were diminishing. So how many is it? 30% would be about 2000, 10% about 700. Any someone brought up some percent of Georgetown undergrads are non-trad students who aren't living in the area.

What is the danger of a student ghetto? Why is that a bad thing? Don't they not drive (which is what Topher found)

by charlie on Jan 18, 2011 12:25 pm • linkreport

I haven't researched the positions, so what I offer are opinions, not arguments:
When I applied to Georgetown 16 years ago, part of the appeal was being able to live my adult life as an adult. Instead of being forced to live in impersonal rooming houses with communal bathrooms, I could choose to live where I wanted. I was able to choose to live near the city bus to my downtown job. I could choose a place where I could cook my own meals, and eat them at a proper table instead of a school lunchroom. I could choose a place with parking for out-of-town guests. I could choose a place to allow me to feel like a full-fledged DC resident who happens to also be a student, rather than a student who happens to live in DC. While I personally was able to find what I wanted in a campus apartment, others were not. I had friends who opted to live in Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom and the farther ends of Glover Park, as well as the usual Prospect Street and Burleith areas. Why do you want to deny future students the unique experiences they can have living off-campus by forcing them into traditional housing? Why not accept the students (as a group) as neighbors, and hold the nuisances accountable as individuals? Do neighbors really not remember that they were young once? I live in Bloomingdale now, and frequently see neighbors who are Howard students and Catholic students--both undergrads and grads. In general, they make the neighborhood more interesting. In some specific instances, I've had to set clear expectations, explain my rights and even threaten to call the police. I don't blame that on the neighbors being students--I blame that on them being poor neighbors. Eventually, they improve or move away.

by Dina on Jan 18, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport

Re: "The area is becoming characterized by dilapidated houses and unbagged trash strewn across lawns."

Having been a Burleith resident my Senior year at Georgetown, I can testify that many of my fellow students were great neighbors - either to me or to long-time residents.

But the first half of the sentence above ignores the reality of the situation: it is landlords that are letting their properties become dilapidated. And back when I was in the neighborhood (2003-2004), they are doing this while charging $4-5K per month for rent on houses that were quite literally falling down.

by Patrick on Jan 18, 2011 12:30 pm • linkreport

BTW - "were NOT great neighbors"

by Patrick on Jan 18, 2011 12:32 pm • linkreport

One more thing, Ken. Regarding your argument that residents in Georgetown aren't as transient as elsehwere: not really true. GM recently had an analysis on this: http://georgetownmetropolitan.com/2011/01/14/georgetown-by-the-numbers-getting-here/

by Jake on Jan 18, 2011 12:32 pm • linkreport

Not only is it virtually impossible for GU to provide its students complete housing, but it is beneficial for students to live off campus.

Living off campus provides a great bridge to living independently post-university and is something that students have a right to pursue.

Moreover, the high density and already crowded nature of the GU campus makes the possibility of building on campus housing negligible and is an unreasonable demand by Mr. Archer as well as organizations such as the Citizens Association of Georgetown.

by Scott on Jan 18, 2011 12:33 pm • linkreport

What is the danger of a student ghetto? Why is that a bad thing? Don't they not drive (which is what Topher found)

First, creating a student quarter (I'm changing my terminology in response to Jake's reasonable request) violates DC law that university enrollment increases not have adverse impacts on adjoining communities.

But even setting that aside, is multi-generational community important?

by Ken Archer on Jan 18, 2011 12:35 pm • linkreport

Having been on both sides of this issue, as a student and a neighbor of students (not in DC), I have to agree, generally, that students can be very disruptive to the peaceful enjoyment of someones home. From the comments I have to wonder if most students really understand why people have problems with them. It seems many haven't taken a look in the mirror. Again, this is speaking generally, but, students ARE LOUD, you do throw parties where people get drunk, leave cups and trash outside/pee in yards/have music playing that can be heard outside the house. You're up early and stay up later than most families with children do. Because you rent, you're not overly concerned with the appearance of your property (that's the landlord's problem right?).
@ GU Alum: "a certain subgroup of residents who call 911 if they hear any noise at all emanating from a student residence" -Why shouldn't residents be able to call if noise is emanating from student residences? A considerate person doesn't make enough noise to disturb his neighbor! Also, as mentioned above, your definition of "waking hours" may not correspond to working families' definition of waking hours. Finally, I think he was making the point that housing capacity has not kept pace with with enrollment. It should, he's right. The university and student body shouldn't be surprised when long-time residents object to students coming into their neighborhoods.
Individual students may establish good relations with and be good neighbors to residents, but the next semester, or next year, or four years later, that student won't be there anymore and the next one may not behave as well. Noise, trash, and bad behavior are legitimate concerns for long-time residents. Unless students and the university recognize that typical student behavior can be disruptive to non-student residents, I expect there will be continued tensions between these groups.

by thump on Jan 18, 2011 12:39 pm • linkreport

How is letting students live where they like actively creating a student quarter? I see the housing market functioning as it should. Students, like many others, want to live close to their 'jobs.'

I also don't see why you keep using the multi-generational community catchphrase. The most obvious point to all of this is that Georgetown's rowhouses, no matter how lovely and historic they are, are under economic pressure because the area has grown beyond their capacity. Ken, you seem to propose that the University shoulder all of this growth, which doesn't seem either fair or realistic.

by Alex B. on Jan 18, 2011 12:39 pm • linkreport

"First, creating a student quarter (I'm changing my terminology in response to Jake's reasonable request) violates DC law that university enrollment increases not have adverse impacts on adjoining communities."

GU is not proposing an increase in undergraduate enrollment. The planned increase is in graduate enrollment, mostly in continuing education programs, many of which take place at Georgetown's facility in Clarendon. Besides, it is a well established fact that most graduate students do not live in Georgetown, and the ones that do tend not to be disruptive.

Also, as I said before, students are a protected class under the DC Human Rights Act. So, it is highly unlikely that any DC government body would rule that the existence of students in the neighborhood constitutes an "adverse impact."

by GU Alum on Jan 18, 2011 12:41 pm • linkreport

This debate sounds strangely familiar. About 50 years ago, weren't there groups of affluent residents whose families lived in the same neighborhoods for years and years who didn't like "those people" who moved into "their" neighborhoods, and were "forced" to move out to get away from them? Only now, instead of white flight, it's "multi-generational community" flight. It's obviously not a perfect analogy, but the sense of entitlement that the neighborhood not change is the same (without the racial motivations behind it). And of course, those who relatively recently moved to Georgetown (ahem, Ken) don't have a leg to stand on.

"Do you not agree that displacement of the multi-generational community that has been in West Georgetown for over 250 years with a student quarter is a problem?"

No, not really. I'm having a hard time getting worked up on behalf of affluent individuals people who feel "forced" to move because they don't like their new neighbors. I'll save my sympathy for the DC residents who actually forced to move because they can't afford to live in their neighborhoods anymore.

by dcd on Jan 18, 2011 12:56 pm • linkreport

But even setting that aside, is multi-generational community important?

Sure. You know what else is important? Diversity. Not something that Georgetown residents are too fond of or have much familiarity with, I know, but the claim that "multi-generational families" or "single-family dwellings" or whatever the buzzword of the week is are inherently superior is highly insulting. Single? Don't want you. Roommates? Clearly not a "real" member of the community.

Btw, a ghetto is pretty much always defined as an area that people are forced to live in due to legal, societal, economic, etc. pressures. That's simply not the case here - no student is forced to live off-campus and/or in one of these neighborhoods. You know what would be a ghettoization? Taking away students' rights to mobility by forcing them to live on campus, a requirement that NO non-military college in the country possesses.

I know Georgetown residents think they're real special, but they ain't THAT special.

by Dizzy on Jan 18, 2011 12:59 pm • linkreport

I'm having a hard time getting worked up on behalf of affluent individuals people who feel "forced" to move because they don't like their new neighbors.

I can't help but wonder if this sentiment is common.

When I see Georgetown, I see the urbanist paradise that Duany, Speck and Kunstler see. That's why I and thousands of Georgetowners live here and not in McLean or Potomac.

Do all of the critics in this thread disagree with Duany, Speck and Kunstler that Georgetown embodies the goals of urbanism precisely because it sustains a multi-generational community that organically gave rise to its housing stock?

If so, I would ask what urbanism means to you, lest you fall into the trap of only applying urbanist ideas in cases where they are advantageous for young people.

by Ken Archer on Jan 18, 2011 1:10 pm • linkreport

Only now, instead of white flight, it's "multi-generational community" flight. It's obviously not a perfect analogy, but the sense of entitlement that the neighborhood not change is the same (without the racial motivations behind it)

I can't speak definitively to motivations, but the racial implications are still there. Lest we forget (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/24/AR2006072400405.html):

That night, he urged residents to report suspicious activity and said: "This is not a racial thing to say that black people are unusual in Georgetown. This is a fact of life."

Solberg knew the audience he was speaking to. You also don't have to think too hard to guess who most of the black people who live in Georgetown are.

Various attempts at passing laws against sublets, leases, and non-related persons living together have historically had a racial component to them as well, of course (I will cite but a single example here, but there are countless others: http://www.chicagoreporter.com/index.php/c/Cover_Stories/d/Zoning_Laws_Hit_Latinos_in_Suburbs)

by Dizzy on Jan 18, 2011 1:11 pm • linkreport

It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice to do any of the following acts, wholly or partially for a discriminatory reason based upon the actual or
perceived: race, color, religion, national origin. sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family
responsibilities, genetic information, disability, matriculation, or political affiliation of any individual....

The DC Human Rights Act protects students from the very discriminatory actions that this post advocates. The ANC and Zoning Commission are government entities and should not condone such discrimination.

Replace the word student with any other protected class and there would an outrage:

If you visit the couple dozen blocks around the University in West Georgetown (west of Wisconsin Ave) and Burleith, you will find a Latino ghetto that simply wasn't there in 1980. The area is becoming characterized by dilapidated houses and unbagged trash strewn across lawns.

27% of Latino homes have had run-ins with the police in the past year. The university touts this as a success. Residents, particularly young children, are awakened at all hours by screaming Latinos, and many have begun moving away.

Latinos often object that the University has conceded to resident opposition to other elements of the Plan. It seems to them that the residents will never be satisfied.

by Eric on Jan 18, 2011 1:16 pm • linkreport

Do all of the critics in this thread disagree with Duany, Speck and Kunstler that Georgetown embodies the goals of urbanism precisely because it sustains a multi-generational community that organically gave rise to its housing stock?

I know that "organic" is a big buzzword too among the Whole Foods and Dean & Deluca crowd, but I confess I've never heard it applied to houses built by slaves for slaveowning tobacco planters and traders. If that's your idea of "organic," I'll pass

by Dizzy on Jan 18, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

"Do all of the critics in this thread disagree with Duany, Speck and Kunstler that Georgetown embodies the goals of urbanism precisely because it sustains a multi-generational community that organically gave rise to its housing stock?"

FYI, Georgetown's status as a wealthy, white community is relatively new. It dates back to the 1950s, when the existing working-class black community was forced out through Jim Crow-style zoning regulations. Then the Kennedys moved in, and the rest was history. So, whatever "multi-generational" community is there now wasn't responsible for the development of much of the housing.

This idea that Georgetown has somehow been preserved in amber for the past 200 years is simply not supported by the facts. All neighborhoods change.

by GU Alum on Jan 18, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

It doesn't take more than reading a few sentences to realize that this piece is nothing more than a hatchet job. Sorry -- but Georgetown is not a gated community. You don't get to decide who comes and who goes. There are plenty of places in the suburbs where the complainers here can live where there is much more deference to wealthy property owners.

by aaa on Jan 18, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

Did Ken Archer suddenly turn into Lance?

"rapid deterioration of Burleith and West Georgetown". Again, where is the evidence for that?

by charlie on Jan 18, 2011 1:21 pm • linkreport

Ken,

When I see Georgetown, I see the urbanist paradise that Duany, Speck and Kunstler see. That's why I and thousands of Georgetowners live here and not in McLean or Potomac.

This speaks to the physical form of Georgetown. It says nothing about who lives in those houses. Frankly, I don't see any support whatsoever for your assertion that the community that occupies them today directly created that feeling.

by Alex B. on Jan 18, 2011 1:30 pm • linkreport

@Ken: I know everyone has their own definition of urbanism, and that's fine, but yours seems to be, "Freeze Georgetown in a way that satisfies the "multi-generational community" that has lived there for decades, and use zoning and other laws to make sure the demographics don't change. Ever." Also, you seem to object to the higher density that student-occupied housing brings to the area.

I really don't see this as a debate on urbainsm at all. Instead, I (and apparently many others) see it as another case of old money looking out for themselves and trying to preserve their own lifestyle and neighborhood. Which is fine - just admit it, and own it. This lame attempt to
stake a claim to the moral high ground on behalf of all the poor, oppressed Georgetown residents doesn't pass the smell test.

by dcd on Jan 18, 2011 1:37 pm • linkreport

Like many other members of the Georgetown community, I take offense to the use of your word choice of "ghetto" in this article, and I'm happy that others have pointed this out. Further, I do not think it can be over-emphasized that the increased student enrollment at Georgetown is planned for its graduate programs ONLY, in which few students will likely choose to live in the immediate Georgetown neighborhood, and those who do are typically very dissimilar from Georgetown undergrads in their behavior.

Also, it should be pointed out that, despite its extremely cash-strapped status, Georgetown HAS invested in ways to compromise with residents on the issue of student noise in the neighborhood. This year is the first that they have hired two new positions in the Off-Campus Student Life office that are Neighborhood Resident Advisors specifically meant to monitor student activity in the neighborhoods and meet with students who have disciplinary issues. The university also recently instated its SNAP program, that sends a patrol through the neighborhoods on weekends and warns students about noise levels before MPD intervenes, and has also increased patrol from its Department of Public Safety in these neighborhoods.

The university has also bent to many of the residents' demands in the course of the Campus Plan, not least of which are the ridiculous new routes that GUTS buses must take to Dupont Circle, adding unnecessary time to many workers' commutes, simply to avoid driving on roads that residents feel need protecting. Although I know this doesn't relate to the immediate concern about housing, concessions like these demonstrate that the university HAS worked with residents on pertinent issues (they took out the smoke-stack that caused so much furor in the Campus Plan, and x-nayed the 1789 block housing as well, thanks to resident complaints), and in many ways they are simply doing what they can with the resources they have available. As many have pointed out, there is VERY little green space left on campus, and the locations Mr. Archer suggested on campus are in many ways financially unfeasible.

Students living off-campus experience every day the negative reaction to their presence, and for the vast majority of off campus students, they make great efforts to be respectful, friendly neighbors. Walking past hordes of street signs basically telling us to GTFO doesn't make anybody feel good, and from the student perspective, there just isn't much of an option but to move off-campus when housing isn't available in your 4th year. For the students who DO cause the noise and trash that residents hate, I apologize -- but at NO point have the residents ever shown any willingness to embrace the complexity of this situation. You moved right next to an urban college campus that's been around since 1789 and is a huge reason for why your neighborhood has value today. Learn to respect these issues.

by Recent Alum on Jan 18, 2011 1:39 pm • linkreport

"Do all of the critics in this thread disagree with Duany, Speck and Kunstler that Georgetown embodies the goals of urbanism precisely because it sustains a multi-generational community that organically gave rise to its housing stock?"

Unless I missed their points, it seems to me that Duany, Speck and Kunstler think that Georgetown embodies the goals of unbanism precisely because the housing stock has been adapted so that it can be used in multiple ways--such as housing students.

On page 46 in Suburban Nation, Duany and Speck write "There are town homes that house professionals, young families and retirees, some of whom may rent out basement apartments to secretaries, day care workers and students."

So now they rent whole houses instead of basement apartments. I don't think that changes much.

by Dina on Jan 18, 2011 1:55 pm • linkreport

Ever since reading this post this morning I've had the song "In the Ghetto" stuck in my head. It's driving me crazy.

As the snow flies
On a cold and gray DC mornin'
A poor little baby child is born
In Georgetown
And his mama cries
'cause if there's one thing that she don't need
it's another hungry mouth to feed
In Georgetown

by jcm on Jan 18, 2011 2:07 pm • linkreport

Ken, I think that all neighborhoods and universities have these problems. Living off-campus at CUA a few years ago, we tried to know and get along with our neighbors, checking with them before throwing parties, etc. They contacted us if they had concerns rather than calling the police. I'm not saying relations in Brookland are great but certainly not worth fighting about like this. Maybe if you and your fellow Georgetown people exercised some basic common sense, you wouldn't fight about such random nonsense. Rather than proposing all sorts of requirements, complaints, etc, tell your neighbors to reach out to new students and try to get along.

by CUA Alum on Jan 18, 2011 2:08 pm • linkreport

The market is deciding. According to the GU business school website (http://msb.georgetown.edu/prospective/undergraduate/admissions/financial_aid/), average Room & Board fee for an undergraduate is equal to $12,506 for the academic year, which runs Aug-May. We'll call that 9 1/2 months out of the year at just over $1300/mo for shared living space in a dorm. I don't think there is any neighborhood in DC where you can't get a better deal than that, group house or not. And juniors and seniors would (for the most part) rather live independently than answer to dorm rules, share a bathroom, vacate for summer, etc.
Perhaps GU doesn't want to build more dorms because there is no market? Why would any student want to live in the dorms any longer than they have to?
I went to AU in the 90s and the situation was similar. It cost about $600/mo for half a room, shared bath and kitchen. It cost far less to live in a way better apartment, so that is what everybody did.

by eli on Jan 18, 2011 2:10 pm • linkreport

I could go into detail about various little factual inaccuracies in this post. But the most important problem for me is Ken Archer's bigoted approach: an argument founded on the segregationist logic that certain types of people are inherently less desirable and thus should be redlined into impermeable districts, unable to able to avail themselves of the freedom of movement afforded to full citizens.

by tom veil on Jan 18, 2011 2:13 pm • linkreport

Why shouldn't Georgetown be a bit ghetto-ized? It's too expensive for real people to live in now.

by Brian White on Jan 18, 2011 3:05 pm • linkreport

On page 46 in Suburban Nation, Duany and Speck write "There are town homes that house professionals, young families and retirees, some of whom may rent out basement apartments to secretaries, day care workers and students." So now they rent whole houses instead of basement apartments. I don't think that changes much.

Duany and Speck go on to say this on p 47,

Imagine being able to grow old in a neighborhood that can accomodate your changing housing needs while also providing a home for your children and grandchildren. Of course, living in Georgetown does not guarantee that this outcome will occur - but living in Phoenix guarantees that it will not.
The point is not that Georgetowners rent their basements, it's that there is a generational diversity (which includes students, but not to the exclusion of others) in Georgetown that is sustained by its housing.

Critics in this thread are putting themselves on the other side of urbanism, which at its heart calls for development to sustain density that yields the many benefits of density, including generational diversity.

by Ken Archer on Jan 18, 2011 3:17 pm • linkreport

Ken, I'm still not seeing the nexus between GU's presence preventing people from aging in place. I certainly don't see a physical manifestation of the problems you speak of - all of those could be solved by some sort of programmatic or social fix to improve town/gown relations.

by Alex B. on Jan 18, 2011 3:27 pm • linkreport

@ Ken

I'm a JHU grad student, married to a JHU grad student, and I'm the child of a GU alum, and I choose to live (and own my house, and participate in the civic life of) Brookland. I get that you're looking out for your property values, but I understand that it's not practical or affordable for me to live in Georgetown or Homewood. I respect that my CUA student neighbors have a right to live where they choose, and so do I. When my old man went to GU, he lived in VA (in large part because he couldn't afford Georgetown even in the 70s!). My cousin who is an undergrad now chooses to live off of Wisconsin. We all have the right to choose where we live, and the responsibility to be kind and considerate neighbors. How is this situation not "organic?"

by Joe on Jan 18, 2011 3:30 pm • linkreport

@Ken: "Critics in this thread are putting themselves on the other side of urbanism, which at its heart calls for development to sustain density that yields the many benefits of density, including generational diversity."

What a tempest in a teapot. Nothing that is happening in Georgetown precludes older folks (nonstudents) from moving there, or staying there. Landlords aren't displacing families to allow students to move in. Multigenerational families aren't forced to move because they can't afford the area. Blocks of houses aren't being taken over by emminent domain and razed to build condominiums or dormitories. What is happening? (1) Some homeowners have come to the realization that it is more profitable to rent their houses to students than either to live in them or rent to families; and (2) The neighborhood is a little louder, and several places don't have the perfectly manicured yards they once did. Well, that sure sounds like the end of civilization as we know it. To the barricades!

Try to dress it up all you like, but this ain't an argument about urbanism.

by dcd on Jan 18, 2011 3:42 pm • linkreport

Ken,

I appreciate your viewpoint, and while I think we share many common thoughts re: Georgetown (the neighborhood), I think this post is misguided.

Mainly because over the last 10 years, the number of traditional undergraduates (meaning those who are not continuing education students, students currently abroad, etc) has been largely frozen, while the number of beds has increased by approximately 700. In the next campus plan, the number of undergraduates and the number of beds will both be frozen. This goes against your narrative of an increasing number of student/group homes.

Many leaders in CAG and BCA have been pushing a narrative of a constantly encroaching student population in the neighborhood, but it is not backed up by the facts.

Anecdotally, I have been in the Georgetown area for 10 of the last 14 years (first as an undergrad, and more recently living with my wife a grad student and currently as a federal employee, working downtown), and I have seen a much higher percentage of students living on campus. In the late 90s, you would never even see a for-rent sign in Burleith or West Georgetown, because off-campus residences rented to students were snapped up months ahead of time, demand was so high.

There are also many supports in place now, such as the Student Neighborhood Assistance Program (SNAP), which responds to neighbor concerns, breaks up student parties, and refers the offenders into the student conduct policy. However, as has been mentioned in this thread, certain outspoken BCA/CAG members have actively called on neighbors to ignore the university service, partly in order to increase the high number of calls to police.

In addition, the university has contributed to increase District 2 MPD patrols in the neighborhood on weekends, to address noise concerns.

Speaking from my own personal experience, the streets and sidewalks are far less crazy in the evenings and weekends now than they were in the 90s.

by Jacques on Jan 18, 2011 3:51 pm • linkreport

The point is not that Georgetowners rent their basements, it's that there is a generational diversity (which includes students, but not to the exclusion of others) in Georgetown that is sustained by its housing.

Which is why you're calling for the exclusion of students from Georgetown homes. That makes perfect sense.

by Dizzy on Jan 18, 2011 4:11 pm • linkreport

Nice. Someone who is against your agenda is also now against urbanism. Why not just call them terrorists and be done with it?

by aaa on Jan 18, 2011 4:12 pm • linkreport

May I please remind everyone to keep things civil. tom veil's comment about a "bigoted approach" is veering into ad hominem territory. Please feel free to disagree, but Jacques' comment is a good example of how to do that politely rather than throwing around insults.

We're generating a nice debate here on an issue where good people clearly differ. It's good to have this debate, not bad, and so screaming and yelling and saying nasty things because you're frustrated is not going to advance people's understanding of each other's ideas.

by David Alpert on Jan 18, 2011 5:00 pm • linkreport

I say this as a recent graduate of GW, not some crotchety old neighbor: I can't believe more people aren't blaming the students for this situation, due to their behavior. If you want to live off-campus, you need to be mature enough to do so. At a minimum, this involves not leaving trash all over your front lawn. And perhaps your townhouse isn't an ideal place to rage, regardless of how badly you want to host a party.

by jakeod on Jan 18, 2011 5:08 pm • linkreport

I'm not even sure this is feasible and I'm sure some people won't like the idea, but I think an ideal solution would be for the university to buy the houses on the streets surrounding the neighborhood in order to rent them out to students. (Again, I realize that, while I think this is ideal, I'm sure it wouldn't work because all of the owners certainly wouldn't agree to sell, I'm just saying in an ideal world.) Since students already live in these houses anyway, the residents wouldn't change, but the university could make sure the houses are well-maintained (unlike some of the current landlords) and they could also enforce rules that the city can't necessarily enforce. For example, they could impose fines for having litter in one's front yard after, say, 6 am, which would ensure that people clean up after parties. Of course it's a completely different school and a completely different city, but I went to a school (University of Dayton)that owned the vast majority of the houses in a several block radius surrounding the campus. The university's neighbors in the bordering town were generally not bothered by the shenanigans that went on in the neighborhood (of course, there were always exceptions) and the students loved the sense of community. It also provided a nice bridge so students could live more like adults (in houses with kitchens, not with shared bathrooms, etc.), but still paid room and board charges to the university instead of to a landlord, so it was kind of an in-between situation. I don't necessarily think more undergraduate housing is a bad idea, I just think it's important to consider that maybe there should be more types of undergrad housing.

by Just a Thought on Jan 18, 2011 5:43 pm • linkreport

I live in West Philadelphia, where many students at both Penn and Drexel live within a few blocks of either campus. Both undergrads and grad students have a choice of living in a dorm, renting an apartment or house off-campus from a small landlord, or renting from one of several large management companies that literally own entire blocks.

They aren't affiliated with the universities, but they have their own maintenance staff (on top of the local University City District staff) that cleans up the outside of the houses. They also have very strict leases (as I saw when I considered renting from one last summer) that talk about noise and upkeep.

The downside is that housing from these companies tends to be a little more expensive than renting from other landlords (but cheaper than the dorms) and that the blocks immediately around Penn and Drexel are almost exclusively students - but they make excellent neighbors. I'm curious if a similar arrangement could happen in Georgetown.

by dan reed! on Jan 18, 2011 6:41 pm • linkreport

@ Just a thought

GU owns most of the structures between 36th & 37th from Prospect St. up to P St. and rents out the townhouses to students as student housing.

I don't know if it is money or the community that keeps them from buying more further to the east towards 35th & 34th. I do understand that the local community did not allow GU to develop the old schoolhouse between 33rd and 34th that is now being turned into condos and townhouses by a developer.

by Rob on Jan 18, 2011 6:49 pm • linkreport

So David. Is it possible to dive deeper into the reason why local communities do not appreciate the institutions of higher learning that they have?

It's so funny. DC has the second worst school system in the US, yet some of the best private higher education. And what happens? Fenty gets tossed out for daring to fire bad teachers, and every single university is opposed for everything by its neighborhood. This situation makes no sense on whatever logical grounds.

When GW's new president stepped up, he was surprised to find that GW as the largest non-government employer in DC has no regular contacts with the city. This is weird.

So, why is it that locals oppose universities? Why are politicians not proud of the fine education in their jurisdictions? I sometimes wonder if DCs council members would be able to just name all universities in the District.

Shockingly to some, DC is a real science city. We have a bunch of very good universities attending to very different demographics, the some of the best museums in the world doing research, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and some of the most important government labs in the nation (or world): NIH, NIST, NASA(-Goddard), NRL, the Naval Observatory, and whatever I'm forgetting.

There are very few cities that have that. And yet, all we hear are complaints. Boohoo, students like to party (a jealousy problem of boring people who don't get to party anymore). Boohoo, universities are growing (and creating more high-paying jobs). Boohoo, students want to live close to school (very frustrating for people who spent hours stuck in traffic while commuting).

It just does not make sense.

by Jasper on Jan 18, 2011 8:50 pm • linkreport

I think that the main issue with Georgetown student housing, having spent a summer there, is that the dorms, particularly Darnell, are of low quality. I do not blame GU students for wanting to live anywhere else. The university I attend has a residential college system. Around 10% of undergrads live off campus, so significantly fewer than at Georgetown. But, the colleges are nice. Each has a dining hall. The rooms each have common rooms. There are no RAs, or people signing you in and out. There are two dedicated faculty members who serve as the academic and social leaders of the college. So, saying, "Build more housing and require students to live on campus" is a fair point. I think universities where people stay on campus provide a far better arrangement. But, if the dorms you build are of low quality, people will seek residence elsewhere. A certain portion of them, probably around 10%, will do so anyway, either to a)live independently, b)live in a fraternity/sorority or c)because they don't like the housing options provided.

by thesixteenwords on Jan 18, 2011 8:57 pm • linkreport

Unfortunately, once again we see that the anti-University and anti-student activism is based in dishonesty. Many of the previous posters have identified several problems with Archer's piece, but there are more issues. He mentions the 1990 campus plan and the goal of housing all students on campus; however, he does not mention that it was neighborhood opposition that killed that goal, including opposition from the BCA and the ANC.

In addition, he describes the area as a "ghetto". Yet the Burleith Citizens Association website states: "The neighborhood is wholly residential, forming a small oasis of peaceful greenery nestled alongside Glover-Archibald Park...Burleith is a quiet, almost purely residential, community of about 540 households. Though adjacent to Georgetown, the hustle and bustle of the city fades beyond Reservoir Road and 35th Street." Is Archer saying that Lenore Rubino is a liar? Is he demanding that the BCA change the site to include his claim that it is a ghetto? Which description is the truth?

Perhaps the biggest problem is the presence of hyperactivist neighbors who diminish the quality of life for everyone. I remember how neighborhood activists tried to intimidate legally registered student voters on Election Day 1996. I remember when local activists tried to shut down the Hoya Kids daycare center, and when they created a falsified map of Burleith to try to pass a discriminatory zoning overlay. If activists like Archer want to be treated with respect, they need to start by treating others with respect.

by DR on Jan 18, 2011 9:38 pm • linkreport

@thesixteenwords

And 10% of undergraduates choosing to live off campus despite the availability of residential colleges on campus would be fine.

The residents are not interested in requiring that every upperclassman live on campus - this is not a matter of seeking to limit free and fair housing access as some have accused here. Upperclassmen are and always have been a central part of the community.

But when the university provides unattractive single-use dorms, and charges the 2nd highest housing rate in the country for them, you get an exodus into the surrounding neighborhood.

by Ken Archer on Jan 18, 2011 9:41 pm • linkreport

Ken I found the post fair but a bit indirect. It's important to convey how the uncommitted short-term residents are destroying a one-of-a-kind gem of an urban place. I'm sure once I confess to living in Georgetown that I will be attacked here on the grounds that I am affluent or elitist. In fact I scraped to live here because of my love of old neighborhoods and the light footprint I'm able to have on the environment. When we and our kids awoke many nights from the throbbing beat and loud outbursts, I discovered you can sleep with earplugs if you have to. When the exorcist steps were slathered with dozens of smashed eggs and their cartons, I cleaned up the debris. When I passed a fat dead rat at the opening to an alley full of un-bagged strewn trash, I went down the alley myself with gloves and picked up the trash that the students couldn't be bothered about. The vandalism to a neighbor's railing, the smashing of flowers in pots, the smell of urine, I'm not sure the students care much where they hang out, but I care about this place a lot. I wish they did.

by lou dc on Jan 18, 2011 10:20 pm • linkreport

@lou dc,

9,000 people live in Georgetown alone (not to mention Burleith), yet the image people form of Georgetowners is typically based on a handful of Georgetowners, if that.

I moved to Georgetown for many of the same reasons. And we too scraped by, first to rent a Georgetown basement apartment for several years while saving up a down payment for one of the smallest houses in Georgetown.

I have a 2-year-old and there are no places in the DC area where one can raise a child as easily without a car as Georgetown. In fact, we went carfree soon after our son was born.

If we can break through the stereotypes of the residents and the students, and start talking about the actual issues, then I'm confident that Georgetown's development plans are more clearly seen as the opposite of responsible urbanism.

by Ken Archer on Jan 18, 2011 10:46 pm • linkreport

@Ken Archer-Thanks for your reply. I agree with your assessment. The problem is, unfortunately, that changing the way dorm systems work at any university requires a huge amount of capital and culture. I know that Duke has recently decided to pursue a residential college system. So, there is hope.

by thesixteenwords on Jan 18, 2011 10:49 pm • linkreport

And 10% of undergraduates choosing to live off campus despite the availability of residential colleges on campus would be fine.

Ken,

Let me try this one more time.

Under the current 2000 Campus Plan methodology, the approved Full-Time, Traditional Undergraduate maximum is 6,016. The new plan changes the methodology for counting this number, but the actual number of undergraduate students in traditional full-time degree programs on Main Campus will remain consistent with the previously approved maximum.

The University provides 5,053 beds. Now, the CAG/BCA/WASP would like to disqualify some number of those as being truly "on-campus housing" because they are located in university-owned townhouses and students aren't good enough to deserve living in a house in Georgetown. Or something.

5,053 divided by 6,016 is 0.8399 - that is, 84%. So what you're saying is that 10% living off campus is fine, but 16% is ruining the neighborhood and creating a student ghetto. 602 students living off-campus would be fine, but 963 is a crisis.

by Dizzy on Jan 19, 2011 9:53 am • linkreport

@KenArcher; 'If we can break through the stereotypes of the residents and the students, and start talking about the actual issues, then I'm confident that Georgetown's development plans are more clearly seen as the opposite of responsible urbanism."

Hmm. Back in Ken's fact free world.

Look at Topher's much better post and learn. As he said, if anything Georgetown is MORE car dependent than the rest of the District or Arlington. Can you walk to work -- sure, if you work in Georgetown or the West End. But most people don't.

Stereotypes of Georgetown: a quick look at the ACS survey says a majority of households make more than 200K. And given house prices, I'd say a LOT more than 200K. The next largest bunch is 150 to 100. Then over 100K.

by charlie on Jan 19, 2011 10:31 am • linkreport

If we can break through the stereotypes of the residents and the students, and start talking about the actual issues
I think that is what all of these comments are about! Though I admit I am predisposed to the plight of the Hoya, I am desperately trying to understand your point of view.

Your conclusion that a residential college model is the "path forward" for GU depends directly on assumptions and stereotypes:
-That multi-generational residents are being displaced because of dilapitated houses, trash, and noise
-That the students, or the lack of student housing on campus, causes the houses to be unkempt and the trash to be strewn about
-That students would opt to live on campus if housing was cheaper and less sterile
-That current group houses wouldn't continue to be group houses if students weren't living in them

then I'm confident that Georgetown's development plans are more clearly seen as the opposite of responsible urbanism.
Because it doesn't reach closer to the residential college model?

by Dina on Jan 19, 2011 10:43 am • linkreport

@ charlie: Stereotypes of Georgetown: a quick look at the ACS survey says a majority of households make more than 200K.

That is of course, excluding students, most of whom are more or less on the poverty line with their scholarships and stipends.

by Jasper on Jan 19, 2011 10:47 am • linkreport

@Dizzy & @Ken -- and of those 963 living off-campus, how many do not live Georgetown, presumably because the rents are s high?

On that map of student group houses, I count 261 red dots. At 4 per house, that is 1044 students. The math does not add up -- either the map "overstates" the amount of student housing, there are fewer than 4 students per house, or there are more than 963 undergraduates living off campus.

by goldfish on Jan 19, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport

There's two problems here:
Balance of Renters as compared to Owners
Balance of College-age adults as compared to older adults
One is an urbanism problem. One isn't.

Renters as compared to Owners really is an urbanism problem. Nothing is wrong with renting. If whole blocks become only or mostly renters you have less investment - psychological and financial - in those blocks, and they can go downhill. Much more so if the landlords are absentee landlords, and the tenants are willing to tolerate sub-standard conditions. Both are the case here.

College-age adults as compared to older adults is an enforcement and expectation-setting problem, not an urbanism problem. Everybody (university, neighbors, city) needs to set expectations for off-campus students, and do what they can to enforce them. Nobody is doing that in a concerted way right now.

by Jad Donohoe on Jan 19, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport

"And 10% of undergraduates choosing to live off campus despite the availability of residential colleges on campus would be fine."

Ken, in the year 2011, it's amazing that some people still think that they have the right to decide who can or cannot live in a particular neighborhood.

But as long as you're ignoring DC human rights laws, why stop there? Perhaps the ANC can petition to limit the percentage of minorities in the greater DC metro area who are allowed to live in the District. They might decide that 10% of African-Americans can live here, but no more. They could also petition to create satellite housing outside of DC, so these displaced minority residents can still visit DC during the day, but not actually live here. Of course, local activists would complain about the increased traffic, so they would route commuter buses to avoid the 20007 area code.

It's 2011, it's hard to believe that we still need to have this argument.

by DR on Jan 19, 2011 11:08 am • linkreport

Goldfish, don't assume that the map is accurate. In the 1990s, during the zoning overlay battle, the BCA displayed a map supposedly identifyng all of the group homes in Burleith. After a few questions from the audience, we learned that much of the information was false, and that it exaggerated the presence of both student and non-student group homes.

by DR on Jan 19, 2011 11:14 am • linkreport

@ Jasper; actually, you if you look at the ACS data the students show up pretty quickly -- small numbers of households make 15K a year. Off the top of my head, about half the household in gtown (excluding the university) make over 200K, about a quarter make over 100K, and the rest are split between very poor (students and old folks) and "middle class".

by charlie on Jan 19, 2011 11:19 am • linkreport

@goldfish: In addition to DR's good point, I'll point out that some student houses include non-GU undergrads. GU undergrads will sometimes live with young professionals, student from other universities in DC for a semester, or graduate students.

by Jake on Jan 19, 2011 11:35 am • linkreport

I did not believe the map either -- my math was to prove that the assumptions underlying all these arguments are incorrect.

This discussion can only along after the facts have been established and agreed to. But they have not been.

by goldfish on Jan 19, 2011 11:41 am • linkreport

some people still think that they have the right to decide who can or cannot live in a particular neighborhood.

I don't think this is the issue. See lou's comment above. What he describes is the issue. Its not "who", demographically that causes the problem. Its the behavior that is the problem. In this case the bad behavior is associated with a ceratin demographic.

Its true this type of bad neighbor can and is found in any demographic. However, as described, the offenders in this case more often than not are associated with one described demographic -students.

Denying the problems that lou describes is not a defense against perceived "prejuidice". Again, the problem is not the students, its the bad behavior associated with the student demographic. In other neighborhoods its a different minority demographic that causes problems for the majority.

is there anyone here who can say they have not witnessed what lou describes? I don't mean 4x a year. I mean every weekend and sometimes weeknights too. Everyone here has known of a party house like this where there's a big bash every weekend the nieghbors be damned. There is no reason why any member of a community, whatever their deompgraphic description, should be be allowed to do this just because of their demographic description.

by Tina on Jan 19, 2011 11:53 am • linkreport

Don't forget, of the 963 undergraduates who are not living on campus, a large percentage, probably around 50%, are studying abroad. (Something like 60% of GU undergrads participate in study abroad during their time as students.)

You also have those students who do not live in Georgetown/Burleith, or who live with their parents.

by GU Alum on Jan 19, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport

Tina,
Actually, your post supports my claims. Creating demographic quotas does nothing to address behavior. Bad behavior is a problem, yet one cannot discriminate against an entire demographic based upon the actions of some members of that group. If statistics showed that a particular ethnic minority had higher rates of criminal activity, would you support barring people of that ethnicity from your neighborhood? The claim that "bad behavior is associated with a certain demographic" is the basis of almost all bigotry. I hope that you object to that approach and support the idea that discrimination is NOT justified.

Also, another problem is the way that students are automatically blamed for all disruptions, especially in a neighborhood visited by people from all over the region looking for late-night entertainment and bar-hopping. Keep in mind, the Burleithers growing marijuana in their backyard were not students, yet they're still allowed to live in the neighborhood. The neighbors involved in the despicable voter intimidation campaign were not students, and no one demanded that they leave the neighborhood. It's a double standard: activists seek to banish even the quietest, most responsible students, yet non-student residents get a free pass on bad behavior. I would love to see all residents judged on behavior, not demographics, but that is not the stance of the BCA, CAG, and other activists who oppose the Campus Plan.

by DR on Jan 19, 2011 12:36 pm • linkreport

@ DR- you are either intentionally putting words in my mouth or seriously misinterpreting my comment. I said nothing about quota, or banning anyone based on their demographic. I referred to unacceptable behavior. If students in GT were good nieghbors there would be no problem. Its not the number of students, its the behavior associated with, in this case "the students". Thats the issue. Again not WHO, but the behavior. Tackle the behavior, not the demographic.

by Tina on Jan 19, 2011 12:49 pm • linkreport

Ken, why not build on that big green space in front of Healy Hall? Or house students in hospital rooms? Both makes as much sense as some of your ideas.

If residents like yourselves don't want students, don't rent to them! Or is that something the Burleith elite can't own up to?

by Box on Jan 19, 2011 12:49 pm • linkreport

@Tina, if bad behavior is associated with a "certain" demographic, then your proposal is to do what?

Also as a Ward 8 resident, I can honestly say that fortunately I am not accustomed to neighbors partying every weekend or even some weekend nights. It is unfortunate that there are such regular occurances in G'town. These are my experiences living in Anacostia but I do understand how neighborhoods differ.

by HogWash on Jan 19, 2011 1:14 pm • linkreport

Tina, I'm glad (truly, not sarcastically) that you think that they should tackle the behavior, not the demographic. We agree on that issue. I wish that Lenore Rubino and others agreed with you, but unfortunately they are trying to limit or ban people based on a demographic. The author of the article, Ken Archer, states that "10% of undergraduates choosing to live off campus...would be fine." He's interested in a quota based on a demographic, not behavior. CAG and the BCA have demanded that all students live on campus, not their neighborhood - they make no attempt to hide the fact that they are trying to keep people out of the neighborhood based on a demographic.

If these activists really were concerned about behavior, it wouldn't matter how many students lived in the neighborhood, only how they behaved. In addition, the activists would oppose the presence of non-students with bad behavior (e.g., the marijuana-growing couple in Burleith). Sadly, they don't. I haven't seen Rubino or Archer demand that Pat Scolaro leave the neighborhood, despite her role in the voter intimidation effort. So if we agree that the discussion should focus on behavior, not quotas, let's denounce demands (from others) for limits on the number of students who can live in the neighborhood and instead demand that everyone be held to the same standards.

by DR on Jan 19, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

@DR - a little story: Once upon a time I lived in Shaw. There were problems like police looking through our yards for discarded guns used in shootings, dead bodies, that sort of thing. Not exaggerating.

But I had great neighbors. Then one day a family moved into one of the 3-story victorian town-houses. Trash was strewn in the street - we (neighbors) witnessed trash bags being thrown from the 3rd story onto the street, one man constantly opened the fire hydrant, a long list of problems.

A couple neighbors and i started picking up trash. We then started a neighborhood group. We found out the family was getting section 8 and we complained to those in charge of DC section 8. It worked. The neighbors were given a list of DOs and DONTs and were told if there were any more complaints they'd lose their support. It worked! The behavoir changed. Then there was no problem.

During this contact with the controllers of the section 8 funds we learned we had other neighbors on section 8. They were good neighbors. This had nothing to do with "who" the neighbors were, demographically. It was the behavior. Should we have just accepted the bad behavior because of their demographic profile? forunately because the bad actors were recieving assistance we were able to appeal to an authority to help get the bad behavior changed. They did not move out. they stayed, but became better neighbors.

I don't live in GT and I don't know anything about the acronyms you refer to. I know there are bad neighbors and the rest of the neighbors should not have to put up with it.

You have not admitted there are real problems. You are only responding to what you see as prejudice against all students. No doubt that exists. But until you admit there are real problems caused by a minority of students, and make a suggerstion on how to fix that problem the people who suffer weekly from sleep disruption, trash, vomit, vandalism will feel disrespected by your refusal to admit to the problem, and they will respond accordingly, by lumping all students together because of the few students who are terrible neighbors.

by Tina on Jan 19, 2011 1:23 pm • linkreport

@Tina, as a Georgetown resident on 35th Street for the last four years, I have seen some of the behaviors that you mention, and while several behaviors are more likely to be the case in "student" houses (though neither I nor my neighbors have much insight into what percentage of these group houses and their residents are undergraduate students, grad students, or non-students), they are neither exclusive to group houses nor universal among those houses.

Part of what I find to be lost in this conversation is that many of these behaviors are far less common than they were in the 1990s, when I was an undergraduate student at GU. This is in part due to several steps that the University has taken, starting around 2000.

- Establishment of the Office of Off-Campus Student Life, run by the Division of Student Affairs

- The Alliance for Local Living, a monthly discussion group to address issues between neighbors and the university, including those having to do with students. (Typically, this group works well, until it's time for the Campus Plan to come up, at which point some activists decry it as a meaningless puppet).

- An off-campus living orientation required for all students moving off campus, which covers rights and responsibilities and common sense/common decency tips for being a good neighbor.

- Student Neighbor Assistance Program - this program involves 1 (or possibly 2) cars, staffed by student affairs staff and driven by university security. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, these cars patrol West Georgetown and Burleith as well as responding directly to calls from neighbors about noise or other disturbances at "student" houses. In addition to dealing with the problem immediately--and if necessary escalating it to MPDC attention--the SNAP patrols ensure that any students who are violating student conduct rules will face remediation on campus.

- Trash patrols -- one of the ways in which violations are worked out are by offending students being "volunteered" for weekend morning trash pickup in West Georgetown and Burleith, responding to reports of trash in the neighborhood.

- In addition to all of the university-sponsored efforts, GU also pays (in cooperation with CAG and BCA) DC Metropolitan Police for additional police patrols in the neighborhood on weekend nights, to step up the enforcement of noise and disorderly conduct violations, whether committed by students or others.

Despite these multiple efforts, which the University extends at considerable cost, some of those in the leadership of the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG) and Burleith Citizens Association (BCA) downplay and actively eschew interaction with some of these efforts (further up the thread, another poster mentioned how some neighbors prefer to directly call the police, as it increases the perception of disturbance.

My wife and I have lived on 35th street, with a owner-occupied rowhouse on one side of us and a group house on the other, which has had considerable turnover of residents. Yet in four years, we have only once had any trouble falling asleep due to noise, and it was actually a party for which our student neighbors had left us a note and asked us to call them if there was any problem with noise. We personally decided not to call, instead turning on our ceiling fan for white noise, because it was an isolated incident, and since that point, we've never had to deal with any noise issues.

We will occasionally hear noise on the sidewalks in the evenings, but it is not any louder or more frequent than the noise from students at Duke Ellington HS during the day, or from the Metrobuses or fire trucks that come down our street.

As a Georgetown resident, I would say, yes, there are some behaviors that are problematic, but that they come from a small minority of residents (student or not). Saying that either these behaviors or the number of Georgetown undergrads in the neighborhood have increased in the last decade, is not supported by the facts.

by Jacques on Jan 19, 2011 1:48 pm • linkreport

Tina,
I respect the way you responded to the situation in Shaw.

If I was not clear enough that misbehaving students need to be held accountable, then I'll try to clarify my stance here (as I have done on other occasions on other sites.) There are some students who engage in unacceptable behavior, and I am not asking anyone to tolerate it, especially if it is illegal. (I did state earlier, in my 12:36 post, that bad behavior was a problem in the neighborhood. Sometimes students are the problem, sometimes other people are.) I've stated on other sites that tougher penalties on repeat offenders would probably have a positive impact on the community, and that it should be easier for students to hold parties on campus so they have fewer of them off-campus.

There have always been many non-student neighbors who want to be fair and work together with students to address real issues. If you had spent some time in the 20007 zip code, though, you'd recognize that there are some extremist activists who aren't interested in helping the neighborhood. A former president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, Bill Cochran, stated that a small group of activists didn't want better relations with GU because, if it happened, "they're out of business. They've got their evil empire." We need fair, reasonable people to speak up against the extremist voices, whatever side they're on.

by DR on Jan 19, 2011 1:58 pm • linkreport

@Jacques - Saying that either these behaviors or the number of Georgetown undergrads in the neighborhood have increased in the last decade, is not supported by the facts.

I assume your last comment is not directed at me since I have not asserted anything resembling it, and in fact made comments that support the efforts of GU that you describe (giving neighbors an authority to complain to that can pressure change in the bad actors) as well as stating that bad neighbors are found in any demographic.

by Tina on Jan 19, 2011 2:09 pm • linkreport

you'd recognize that there are some extremist activists who aren't interested in helping the neighborhood.</> Yes, one need not live in the 20007 zipcode to experience this.

I would think that your admittance to repeat and eggegious bad neighbor-students would be welcomed as a discussion opener, as well as the efforts by GU described by Jacques. If there is still a stony wall of insistnence that all students are bad and the college doesn't care, then I would suggest someone needs to smoke that weed the Burleigh neighbors are growing ;-)

by Tina on Jan 19, 2011 2:24 pm • linkreport

oops ital left open

by Tina on Jan 19, 2011 2:26 pm • linkreport

@ Jacques - As someone who is a fresh graduate of GU and recent ex-citizen of Burleith, I have to say a big THANK YOU for your level-head and respect for all neighbors, students included.

When I was living in Burleith, I was frequently condescended to and looked down upon by many of the famous Burleith rabble-rousers, despite having a wonderful relationship with my neighbors. Lenore Rubino, especially, treats any young person she sees with contempt and disrespect. While this isn't the forum to air personal grievances, I would like to share my appreciation for Burleith residents like Jacques who are able to live with neighbors of all ages.

by Beth on Jan 19, 2011 3:16 pm • linkreport

@Tina, that comment, re: the number of undergraduates in the neighborhood over the last couple of decades, was not meant to mean you at, but was rather directed toward Ken's original post.

by Jacques on Jan 19, 2011 3:59 pm • linkreport

A Question for the Critics on this Thread:

How would you feel if West Georgetown and Burleith were to become an almost entirely student quarter over the next 10-25 years? Is that an acceptable outcome?

by Ken Archer on Jan 19, 2011 4:15 pm • linkreport


The essay's argument rests on the assertion that there are places on campus to build residential dorms. Just to echo what others have said: the author's suggestions are absurd. Can you imagine the Old Georgetown Board approving a dorm above the dining hall, towering over the Potomac River, visible from Virginia? Or adding more floors to the training facility? The green space at the end of Library Walk is small, and, he's wrong, it is used regularly by students during good weather. I don't know what space in front of Epicureans he's suggesting: the road? The hospital parking lot?

by ChrisWilliams on Jan 19, 2011 4:28 pm • linkreport

<<How would you feel if West Georgetown and Burleith were to become an almost entirely student quarter over the next 10-25 years? Is that an acceptable outcome?>>

The same as I would feel if it became almost entirely African-American or Latino: I wouldn't mind. And you?

by DR on Jan 19, 2011 4:29 pm • linkreport

Ken wrote: How would you feel if West Georgetown and Burleith were to become an almost entirely student quarter over the next 10-25 years? Is that an acceptable outcome?

DR responds: The same as I would feel if it became almost entirely African-American or Latino: I wouldn't mind. And you?

Ok, I had to really lol at this one. Ken, dude, you kinda opened yourself up to that one. But in all seriousness, it is sorta like asking that though. Like you've done with the student numbers, I am more than sure that you can find "statistics" about blacks to warrant a discussion about whether "more" should move into your neighborhood.

by HogWash on Jan 19, 2011 4:54 pm • linkreport

@Ken -- if you mean undergraduate students, there is no chance of that happening, as it is prohibited under the current or proposed Campus Plan (though there is, IIRC an amendment to how the measurements are made, there is no proposed increase in the number of traditional undergraduate students, and there has been an entire increase of approximately 500 in the last two decades).

Whether or not I would approve of such an outcome (a Georgetown or Burleith composed entirely of students) is not germane, because it is a meaningless statement in light of facts.

If, on the other hand, you are not limiting this question to undergraduates, but you seek to include graduate students in your scenario, I think that is a different story entirely, as graduate students are:

a) older than undergraduates, often in their late 20's or 30's,
b) generally less interested in living in group houses, particularly with strangers
c) typically not able to afford to live in Georgetown, because they are often on their own dime for housing, and instead rent apartments like those on Wisconsin or Connecticut Avenues, or in the Foxhall, U Street, Rosslyn, or Crystal City areas.
and/or,
d) Are attending graduate school while working full- or part-time in the DC area, and their resulting schedules don't allow them to make much impact in the neighborhood, negative or positive.

I base the above in part on my own and my wife's experience. When we moved (back) into the Georgetown neighborhood, we were both graduate students in different Georgetown programs. I was working full-time and attending my program part-time, and she was doing the inverse. Of the hundreds of graduate students we knew, most were living alone or with one roommate, and we were in the distinct minority living in Georgetown.

by Jacques on Jan 19, 2011 5:04 pm • linkreport

The quixotic quest to force all Georgetown University students to live on campus seems beyond ridiculous given the actual content of the Campus Plan submitted for consideration by the Zoning Commission. Georgetown University has dropped proposals for expanding undergraduate enrollment, building a graduate student dorm, and erecting a smokestack, all to appease the less-than-enthused neighbors. Now, the controversy has shifted to what is not in the plan: a proposal to house all students on campus. Since the University's plans to build a dorm to house some of the proposed increase graduate student enrollment on campus was effectively denied by the neighbors, one has to wonder: how could Georgetown house the entire undergraduate population on campus, if attempts to build structures to house students on campus, on Georgetown University's own property, are regularly shot down by community groups? The one grudge anyone could hold against this plan is how the proposed increase in continuing education and graduate school enrollment could potentially drown the neighborhood in vehicular traffic during nightly rush hours.

FYI: Post-graduate/young professional residents and revelers are as much the cause of noise and nighttime disruption in Georgetown as students are. If GU students were pushed onto campus per the community group's demands, this fact would become abundantly clear.

by Sadly DC on Jan 19, 2011 5:05 pm • linkreport

@Ken, one more note on the graduate student part.

The university had actually proposed building ~175 beds of on-campus housing for graduate students and faculty in the so-called "1789 block," which is more than 90% university-owned, and within the bounds of the Campus Plan.

GU removed this housing, which would have actually been just the kind of urbanist mixed-use development you suggest, from the plan, in direct response to opposition from BCA/CAG, who don't believe that this University-owned property should be considered "on campus" and who felt that it should therefore have no additional development, mixed-use or otherwise.

by Jacques on Jan 19, 2011 5:07 pm • linkreport

A Question for the Critics on this Thread:

How would you feel if West Georgetown and Burleith were to become an almost entirely student quarter over the next 10-25 years? Is that an acceptable outcome?

by Ken Archer on Jan 19, 2011 4:15 pm

Ken... why... why are you beating me, Ken? Please... stop... aaaahhhhrggg

by Strawman on Jan 19, 2011 5:29 pm • linkreport

First of all, I agree that it would be ideal if Georgetown could house more residents on campus in excellent facilities. Unfortunately, GU does not have the room, money, or power to do this (cannot change skyline, etc.)

The SWQ project was a terrible decision, in terms of attracting upperclassmen to campus. What it did provide was maximum density housing or a "ghetto" as Ken has called it. If Georgetown had built some apartments instead of crammed doubles and triples, the CAG would not have been pleased. Regardless, the entire complex is routinely filled.

When I see Georgetown, I see the urbanist paradise that Duany, Speck and Kunstler see.

I have a major problem with this statement. Other than quaint row houses, how is Georgetown an urbanist paradise? Yes, there are a great deal of clothing stores and restaurants in walking distance. However, the people who work in those stores cannot afford to live in the neighborhood. The people who live in Georgetown most likely work for firms on K Street or maybe the Hill. Living in Georgetown for four years, I did not see many of the "multi-generational" residents using public transportation to get around. No, they drove their luxo-barge SUVs.

The students in Georgetown appear to me to be living up to the ideals of urbanism. They don't have cars, they walk not only to class but also to the grocery store, shop locally, and use public transportation.

Here's the kicker... The CAG made GU re-route it's shuttle to the metro because it caused too much noise for their old homes to handle. Yea, Ken. Real urban paradise there.

I live in Columbia Heights now. It might not be a utopic land of rich, white people in restored Victorians with period correct paint, but it definitely is wonderfully urban and multi-generational. There are students, young professionals, and long time residents of all income levels. People ride Metro, Circulator, and MetroBus.

by Joe C on Jan 19, 2011 6:02 pm • linkreport

I hope that David will consider allowing someone to post a counterpoint now that the vast majority of commenters have spoken out against this article.

by Phil on Jan 19, 2011 7:11 pm • linkreport

We are always interested in well-written and well-reasoned opinions. I even published articles by folks against streetcar wires, for instance. If anyone is interested in writing another viewpoint on this please email info@ggwash.org.

by David Alpert on Jan 19, 2011 7:39 pm • linkreport

Ken: How would you feel if West Georgetown and Burleith were to become an almost entirely student quarter over the next 10-25 years? Is that an acceptable outcome?
DR: The same as I would feel if it became almost entirely African-American or Latino: I wouldn't mind. And you?

Allowing West Georgetown to turn into a student quarter would be unfortunate, in my opinion.

The only post I have written that has generated this amount of criticism was my advocacy for allowing unfolded strollers in Circulator buses. The unifying issue, and the underlying issue in the GU debate, is the type of urbanism that people are working with.

As I said above, urbanism for me is about planning and development that sustains and yields the benefits of density, which include benefits like generational diversity and environmental friendliness. The critics on this thread, however, point to generational diversity as a thinly-disguised front for discriminating against students.

Urbanism for the critics in this thread seems to be reducible to density and free housing markets. When we advocate an urbanism that values density above all else, unrestrained by any planning that would possibly guide free housing markets, we create opponents to our cause unnecessarily.

Opponents such as long-term, often African-American DC residents concerned about gentrification, or older DC residents seeking to age in place. Our movement can have a bigger tent if we don't unnecessarily antagonize with an urbanism that advances density through unrestrained free housing markets that looks to others like a thinly-disguised front for simply advancing the interests of young white people.

So I ask again, what type of urbanism are the critics here appealing to in supporting the GU Campus Plan, even if that plan results in displacing the multi-generational communities in West Georgetown and Burleith?

by Ken Archer on Jan 19, 2011 8:16 pm • linkreport

@Ken, and I ask again, where are you getting your history from, because the numbers don't line up. Particularly in terms of what things looked like twenty years ago vs. now.

I don't know what things were like in the 80's, and I haven't seen too much evidence one way or another about what the student presence in the neighborhood looked like, but I do know that the Village C residence halls were built in that decade, so there was somewhat more on-campus housing at the end of that decade than at the beginning (the 700 or so beds in Village C was offset by St. Mary's being taken off-line, so I don't know what the final increase was).

I do know that:

--- from 1990 to 2000, Georgetown's 1990 Campus Plan called for an increase of 500 in the number of traditional undergraduates. (Roughly 150 of those undergraduates were added prior to 2000, with the remainder not be added until the Southwest Quad opened in 2003).

---The 2000 Campus Plan included no additional increase in the number of undergraduate students, and it included the addition of 780 beds, in the form of the SW Quad).

So between 1990 and 2010, Georgetown has added 500 undergraduate students, and 780 beds, resulting in a net subtraction of approximately 280 students living off campus.

According to the currently proposed Campus Plan, between 1990 and 2020, Georgetown would similarly have added 500 undergraduate students and 780 beds, resulting in a net subtraction of 280 students living off campus.

---

Personally, I do not think that any form of urbanism would support Burleith or West Georgetown being overrun and taken over solely by students. Although as I mentioned in my above posts, graduate students are as a group qualitatively different (and far less likely to live in group houses, or in Georgetown or Burleith, than undergraduates).

However, my feelings (and anyone else's for that matter) on that scenario are completely inconsequential, as this entire scenario is based on both faulty history--divorced from the actual numbers--and a deliberate ignoring of what is in the plan, not to mention the steps that the University has taken in the last decade to attempt to both reduce bad behavior and mitigate its consequences.

Ken, I respect your views and generally find myself in agreement with what you write, but I am baffled by this post's hyperbolic scope and doomsday scenario. I sincerely wish you would respond to my questions about how this anti-urbanist scenario squares with anything in the actual history or the actual plan. Ideally on this forum, but you have my email address, and I plan to be at tomorrow evening's meeting.

I would also be happy to discuss the issue of residential colleges, which involves massive pedagogical and student affairs issues (as well as an institutional overhaul) that is far more than a facilities question. FWIW, the 1990 plan did call for a cascade of 1980s cold-war-esque multipurpose buildings that would incorporate dorms, parking, classrooms/offices, and athletic facilities, but a move to a residential college system was not the intended end.

by Jacques Arsenault on Jan 19, 2011 9:26 pm • linkreport

@ Ken:

"So I ask again, what type of urbanism are the critics here appealing to in supporting the GU Campus Plan, even if that plan results in displacing the multi-generational communities in West Georgetown and Burleith?"

Ken, you failed to address this point in your initial post and subsequent responses, so I'll put it to you directly: How exactly are the multi-generational families being displaced? Is there something actually forcing them out? Some economic, political, or legal reason they have to move? Because from here, it seems like it's merely a case of, "we've decided to move because we don't like our new neighbors and what they're doing to the neighborhood."
Referring to that decision as "displacement" is just hyperbole, and undercuts any valid points you might make.

"How would you feel if West Georgetown and Burleith were to become an almost entirely student quarter over the next 10-25 years? Is that an acceptable outcome?"

You may very well have a valid complaint about the behavior of some students - in fact, I'm sure you do. But if you continue to frame this issue as one of demographics rather than behavior, I'm afraid you're not going to garner a lot of support.

by dcd on Jan 20, 2011 8:58 am • linkreport

@Ken, definitions of urbanism aside, people are responding to what you've interjected in this thread. From describing the ghetto approach to housing to asking how would "we" feel if "those" people moved into the neighborhood, the reactions are somewhat based on that. It is similar to when Lance posited that D.Al REALLY wanted to portray Gabe Klein as a Muslim terrorist. Now Lance may not have meant to sound bigoted, but since we are only reading words and not intent, it certainly didn't come across that way. I think the same goes for you.

However, I do believe that this article has done more to show why people should be critical of your efforts than why your efforts should be taken seriously. And all of it can't be filed under the label marked: URBANISM

by HogWash on Jan 20, 2011 10:47 am • linkreport

As a Georgetown student I lived in a house in Burleith in the late 70's with 4 other undergrads. At the time, on campus housing was so scarce that after freshman year there was a lottery for, and no guaranty of, on campus housing. As I recall there were a number of houses in every block of Burleith with students in them. I question whether the density of student houses in Burleith now is that different today from in the 1970's. I don't recall anything close to the level of town/gown disputes back then. But it's hard to imagine anyone buying in that area in the last 35 years not being aware of student houses at the time they decided to buy.

by GU Alum on Jan 20, 2011 11:11 am • linkreport

There are clearly two disagreements: one of fact and one of policy. Are families being displaced? Even if they are, is that OK?

If you think that displacing dozens of blocks of multi-generational community with students is an acceptable outcome of expanding University enrollment without an equal expansion of housing, then your view of urbanism is simply different from mine, as I critiqued above.

If you agree with me that this displacement is not OK, as Jacques does, then the question is one of fact. Jacques is right to ask for references to the claims made in my article that on-campus housing has not kept pace with enrollment increases. It's not easy to get hard data, but this is the best I could do.

History of Georgetown Undergraduate Enrollment and Housing

The short story is that in 1970, there was an on-campus bed for virtually every undergraduate, and that from 1970-1990 enrollment increases far outstripped housing construction such that 1200 undergrads lived off-campus in 1990. Currently 1600 traditional undergrads live off-campus.

1970: 3,627 undergraduates, almost all living on-campus. (Source, Appendix A of History of Georgetown U)

Georgetown, like all Universities, saw a boom in post-WWII enrollment that often outstripped housing. The Hoya describes "The Georgetown Expansion Years":

During the 1961-62 school year, 400 out of 1,200 students were forced to live off-campus. Though a roving prefect regulated off-campus housing and curfews were still enforced, administrators quickly planned the construction of two new dormitories, one male and one female. The project, which cost an estimated $5.6 million and was completed in time for the 1964-65 school year, involved the construction of two dormitories that still stand today, Harbin Hall and Darnall Hall.
Assuming that the 1/3 of college undergrads forced to live off-campus was true of all 3,275 undergrads in 1963, that means 1092 lived off-campus. Harbin (1965) and Darnall (1966) houses that much and more, such that the 1970 enrollment of 3,627 would have been almost entirely on-campus.

1980: 4,592 undergrads (same source).
1990: 5,300 undergrads. 1,200 live off campus. (Source, NYT).
2000: 5,627 undergrads. 1,354 live off campus. (Source: 2000 Campus Plan)
2010: 6,652 undergrads. 1,599 live off campus. (Source: 2010 Campus Plan)

The 6,652 undergrads reflects the true number of traditional undergrads, not the average between the 2 semesters which is how Georgetown has chosen to report enrollment for the past decade.

The displacement of a multi-generational community that has included students for 250 years by a student-only quarter is thus happening. I am very open to other sources of data on this, but the data I've presented above is not only all that seems available, it is also confirmed by the testimonies of long-term residents of West Georgetown and Burleith.

by Ken Archer on Jan 20, 2011 4:02 pm • linkreport

The point is Ken, that the "multi-generational families" you claim that are being forced out are not actually forced, but are rather leaving because of behaviour. You fail to answer dcd's points here http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/8693/gu-takes-student-ghetto-approach-to-housing-undergrads/#comment-83987
of whether it's an actual legal force displacing them, or merely their attitudes and their fear of a changing demographic. And until you make a case that it is legal, economic or political, I see no problem with these families leaving just because what they consider riff-raff is coming into the neighborhood.

by RRuszczyk on Jan 20, 2011 4:09 pm • linkreport

Ken,

The "6,652" number includes undergrads who are studying abroad; an average of 500+ study abroad each semester (more actually go abroad in the spring than in the fall, which is why it's an average). So no, 1,599 do not, in fact, live off campus, unless their souls are roaming the streets of Georgetown and causing trouble while their bodies are studying abroad. It also includes other groups that by and large do not live anywhere near campus:

"The (new) count will also include previously excluded
categories (i.e. veterans, commuters, and students over 25). We also will count students studying abroad, even during the semester(s) in which they are away from campus.

The number is much closer to the 963 number I cited at http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/8693/gu-takes-student-ghetto-approach-to-housing-undergrads/#comment-83787

Over the course of the 2000 campus plan, the number (under the old definition) has grown from 5,627 to 6,016 while adding 780 new beds.

Based on my conversations and observations, one thing that has continued to increase over this period of time is the number of young adults/recent college graduates that have begun renting space in these neighborhoods, especially in Burleith. The neighbors by and large assume that they are all Georgetown students (lazy and unwarranted assumptions seem to be a staple), but a significant number are not. To get a sense of this, all you have to do is look at the college decals on many of the cars. Some of them are GU grad students, but not as many as might be assumed.

These folks are drawn to the neighborhoods by their many positives, especially as more and more find urban living attractive. However, sine they are not "multi-generational families," I suppose they are not welcome either.

by Dizzy on Jan 20, 2011 4:47 pm • linkreport

"Based on my conversations and observations, one thing that has continued to increase over this period of time is the number of young adults/recent college graduates that have begun renting space in these neighborhoods, especially in Burleith. The neighbors by and large assume that they are all Georgetown students (lazy and unwarranted assumptions seem to be a staple), but a significant number are not. To get a sense of this, all you have to do is look at the college decals on many of the cars. Some of them are GU grad students, but not as many as might be assumed."

This is a trend I have definitely witnessed as a resident of Glover Park who visits Burleith frequently. A lot of these people are graduates of Southern schools who are drawn to the neighborhood because of its "preppy" cachet and the bars that cater to this demographic.

Many of them have not let go of their college fraternity/sorority lifestyle and often party just as often and as loudly as the GU undergrads - in some cases more.

by Phil on Jan 20, 2011 4:53 pm • linkreport

Ken,

Thanks for providing the history of these assertions. If you reread your sources, however, you will see that your 2010 number (6,652) is not accurate based on your source (the 2010 Campus Plan, I assume you were using Appendix L).

If you use the "full-time traditional undergraduate" number for the 2009-10 school year, it is not 6,652, but rather:

-- An average of 5,921 (which means that 868 students lived off-campus on average, ~500 less than your 2000 figure and ~300 less than your 1990 figure).

-- A maximum of 6,126 (meaning that 1,073 lived off campus in the fall semester, 281 less than your 2000 figure and 127 less than your 1990 figure).

-- The 2010 plan does not call for any expansion in undergraduate enrollment, through the year 2020.

The 6,652 number that you cite, according to the 2010 Campus Plan, Appendix L, page 2, is not an increase in the number of traditional full-time undergraduate students, but rather reflects the change in counting methodology from a semester average to a semester maximum--accounting for the seasonal variation in study abroad students--as well as incorporate traditional undergraduates (who had previously not been counted in reference to housing issues), including part-time students and commuters, as stated in the same Appendix L, page 2:

All undergraduate students enrolled in the traditional undergraduate programs — regardless of their status as full-time or part-time—will be included in the Traditional Undergraduate Program Headcount. The count will also include previously excluded categories (i.e. veterans, commuters, and students over 25). We also will count students studying abroad, even during the semester(s) in which they are away from campus"

Given your asserted preference for generational diversity, I assume the latter categories would not fit into the "ghettoized" Burleith you describe, nor would they even be likely to live in the neighborhood (commuters, by definition, would not).

I don't think you were intentionally trying to compare apples to oranges, but as there are a wide variety of figures being thrown around, I think we should at least attempt to compare consistent numbers.

And the consistent numbers show that the number of traditional undergraduates living on campus has declined, at least since 2000, and probably since 1990.*

Behavioral concerns aside, the actual figures contradict the driving points of your original post:

a) that the number of students living off-campus has been steadily increasing.

b) that said increase presents a threat of undergraduate students "taking over the neighborhood" as a result of this campus plan.

(* Basing the 1990 numbers on a newspaper article that does not ascribe a source is problematic, but understandable given the lack of other information available. The 2000 figures, however, are clear, and I'm using the same sources as you).

by Jacques on Jan 20, 2011 5:25 pm • linkreport

Additionally, the Appendix L text clearly delineates which category is represented (commuter, second degree student, veteran) by each of the numbers of undergraduates added to the "traditional undergraduate" figure.

by Jacques on Jan 20, 2011 5:28 pm • linkreport

Also, the author pretends that the total amount of non-university residential housing has remained stable, suggesting that every new student "displaces" someone else. Of course, the Cloisters did not exist until the mid 1980s, and Hillandale was developed around that time as well. These two areas contain 144 and 268 homes, respectively, so assuming a capacity of four people per house (a very conservative assumption), then the housing capacity of the neighborhood increased by 1,648 from these homes alone. Other condo projects has sprung up in different areas of 20007, increasing the housing capacity of the area by even more. And of coure, GU opened the SW quad. So it makes no sense to claim a one-to-one "displacement" when in fact the housing stock in the neighborhood has increased by much more than student enrollment since the mid 1980s.

by DR on Jan 20, 2011 5:42 pm • linkreport

@Jacques,

Even if we stick with GU's previous definition of a traditional undergraduate, which I think is fair, the undergraduate enrollment for Fall 2008-2009 was 6,212.

It does make sense to not do the averaging that GU started doing after 2000, because the housing stock has to support the Fall on-campus enrollment, not the Spring on-campus enrollment when many students study abroad.

This results in the following history:

1970: 3,627 undergraduates, almost all living on-campus.
1980: 4,592 undergrads.
1990: 5,300 undergrads. 1,200 live off campus.
2000: 5,627 undergrads. 1,354 live off campus.
2010: 6,212 undergrads. 1,159 live off campus.

In other words, in 1970 after an on-campus housing boom in response to the post WWII-enrollment spike, there was an on-campus bed for virtually every undergraduate. Then, from 1970-1990, enrollment increases far outstripped housing construction such that 1200 undergrads lived off-campus in 1990.

1990 is accordingly when the town-gown debates began over the Campus Plan. That off-campus number has remained more or less unchanged since then, as the SW Quad construction plus purchases of off-campus group homes were equal to enrollment increases since 1990.

Is that a set of facts, at least the best facts possible given the data available, that we can all agree on?

by Ken Archer on Jan 21, 2011 7:16 am • linkreport

@Ken: Do you have a response to my question at 8:58 yesterday?

It seems that your position is, "more students living off campus = displacement of multi-generational families." That's quite a leap.

Of course, that may not be your position - it's only what I can infer, because you haven't responded to my earlier question. If I've misunderstood it, please, by all means, correct me. Ken? Hello? Ken?

by dcd on Jan 21, 2011 8:32 am • linkreport

@Ken -- you have done a good job at nailing down the number of students that live off-campus. But now you need to determine how many of those are live in the neighborhood.

When I am in Georgetown I see a lot of students on the streets. I wonder if part of this friction is due to the perception that the neighborhood is overrun, even though most of the students live on campus? If that is the case then arguing about where the students live will not solve the problem.

by goldfish on Jan 21, 2011 9:20 am • linkreport

GU policies push renters into the neighborhood - in part because it's cheaper to them than building new housing. That isn't "organic."

Of course there's also the "Scooby Doo" theory: GU turns Gtown into a rental neighborhood so they can drive out residents who wouldn't want them to eventually buy up the neighborhood/expand....

by Fitz on Jan 21, 2011 10:25 am • linkreport

In case "scooby doo" makes it sound too dismissive, this is a real possibility.

by Fitz on Jan 21, 2011 11:21 am • linkreport

@ Ken: your citation of "History of Georgetown Undergraduate Enrollment and Housing" is really, really off base.

Only males in Georgetown College and women in the nursing school were allowed to live on the campus in the 1960's. Coeds in the Foreign Service, Business, and Languages/Linguistics schools (and all graduate students) lived off campus as a matter of course.

The real villain here is not Georgetown University as the Burleith faction would have you believe, but the existing laws allowing multi-family residences--and the Burleith homeowners that profit from them.

by Box on Jan 21, 2011 12:04 pm • linkreport

@Ken,

I am perfectly happy to agree with your revised numbers, which show that the number of undergraduates living in off-campus has essentially remained steady since 1990 (I would note that both the Fall 2009 and Fall 2010 undergraduate headcounts are smaller than the Fall 2008 number you chose, but the main point remains).

Where this leaves us is:
1. It nullifies what seemed to be your driving point in this post, which is that undergraduate students have been taken over the neighborhood for the last few decades, showing instead a constancy or a decline in the number of students. A "student ghetto" that didn't exist in 1980 may or may not be the case, and we won't know, since we don't have good numbers on off-campus students in 1980. But there is certainly no growth, numbers-wise, in a "student ghetto" since 1990, and if anything, that "student ghetto" has receded since 2000.

2. You wrote: "The principal concern for two decades, however, has always been developing on-campus housing equal to growth in undergraduate enrollment. When the University agrees to this development as it once did, it knows that it will find a residential community more open to compromise on other initiatives even though they may raise residential concerns."

As there is no proposed increase in undergraduate enrollment (other than through counting the categories of commuters/veterans/part-time students that had previously been uncounted), your latter statement should hold. However, Ms. Rubino, Ms. Altemus and their peers certainly show no signs of letting up, and many of the commenters last night seemed to argue in direct contravention of facts.

In an ideal world, it would be great to have year-to-year numbers on how many houses are owner-occupied, how many are renter-occupied, what number of residents are in each one, and whether those students are undergraduate, graduate (at Georgetown or other schools) students, or non-students. My read of the situation, having lived in Foxhall for a couple years before moving here in 2007, is that there are many additional drivers of the real estate market that are going unmentioned here.

by Jacques Arsenault on Jan 21, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

@Jacques Arsenault "A "student ghetto" that didn't exist in 1980 may or may not be the case, and we won't know, since we don't have good numbers on off-campus students in 1980."

Wonder no longer. As I stated above, I was a GU undergrad who lived in Burleith in the late 70's. There were a number of houses on every block that were student occupied. In addition, there were a few basements that were rented out to students as well. There were students walking and biking to and from campus all the time, the GUTS bus ran down 37th St. regularly and there were weekend parties, some loud and some not. Loud parties would be visited sometimes by the police around midnight and told to get everyone in the house and to turn the music down.

Reading these comments and stories I can't tell if students are worse neighbors now or if people who have moved to where students always lived are more querulous.

by GU Alum on Jan 21, 2011 5:44 pm • linkreport

@GU Alum, assumming GU students are "normal" relative to stats on students nationwide, the alcohol comsumption rate and binge drinking rate has increased a lot in the last 30 years. This may or may not have any correlation to frequency of sleep disruption, trash, vomit and vandalism non-student neighbors endure in GT (or in Ann Arbor, etc).

by Tina on Jan 21, 2011 6:21 pm • linkreport

@Tina

I would say the single biggest factor in the increase in student binge drinking (and doing so at house parties off-campus) is the obvious one - the increase in the legal drinking age to 21.

In just about every collegiate setting I've ever been in, underage undergrads go to house parties and get smashed because they can't get in to bars (or don't want to risk it with fake IDs, etc). Increasing the legal age to 21 hasn't stopped drinking at all, but it most certainly has pushed it underground, and often encouraged circumstances where those who wish to drink (since they cannot enjoy a social drink out in the open) will consume as much as they can as fast as they can.

All of that, of course, feeds back to a completely different hypothesis from Ken's - that this is a social and behavioral issue, not one of physical urbanism or demographic displacement at all.

by Alex B. on Jan 21, 2011 6:31 pm • linkreport

How exactly are the multi-generational families being displaced?

The rise in student demand for homes prompts families to move for 2 reasons. (1) Student behavior makes their block less attractive, and (2) their block becomes less multi-generational as group home landlords can pay more for the portion of homes that would have turned over anyway. That's because the homes are worth more in the short run as group home rentals when students would otherwise have to pay the 2nd highest housing rate in the nation.

This is a slow process. There's simply no way that the increase in off-campus undergrads from 1970-1990 could have been absorbed with rentals around campus. As the number of off-campus students rose from 1970 on, it seems that many of them had to have lived further from campus than they wanted to. But the slow turnover of homes to absentee landlords identifying the new demand for group homes close to campus played out over a couple decades.

Are there some Georgetowners who moved close to campus recently who are complaining about a situation they should have know was present? Yes. Does this invalidate the argument I've made above? No.

I'm not against density, it's just that I'm pro-development as well, as are most urbanists and smart growth activists. Notice that I haven't endorsed caps on undergrad or grad enrollment. Honestly, I think undergrad enrollment could even go higher - as long as the University developed to support density and reap its benefits.

by Ken Archer on Jan 21, 2011 7:50 pm • linkreport

This is a social and behavioral issue, not one of physical urbanism or demographic displacement at all.

I'm all for ideas to resolve the behavioral issue, but they can't put the burden on residents to call multiple city agencies about problem houses, and then do it all over again next semester or schoolyear when the student residents change.

The one idea that would convince me of the University's seriousness about student behavior off-campus is off-campus party registration. It works elsewhere and is touted in the student life community as a solution. But the University apparently decided against this after meeting with students who - wait for it... - were opposed.

The University often lists the actions it takes off-campus. What it doesn't do is point to any University where these actions have had significant results.

Off-campus party registration would enact a severe penalty on unregistered parties that cops are called to. (The cops obviously have to confirm that there was in fact a party with a certain number of students.)

But students actually benefit from off-campus party registration. When they register their party, they actually get a 20 minute grace period when the cops are called to resolve a situation with no cops bothering them and noone getting a record. If, however, cops are called after the 20 minute grace period and in fact find underage drinking or excessive noise, there are significant sanctions.

Can we all agree that this is a good idea that GU should adopt?

by Ken Archer on Jan 21, 2011 8:11 pm • linkreport

It's really not though. It's absurd that the University should be able to exert it's authority off of campus. There's are reasons these students move off campus, one being that they don't want to be under the authority of the University. If I were living off campus, I shouldn't have to report my every move to the school just because I am a member. So no, that's not a good idea everyone can agree on.

by RRuszczyk on Jan 21, 2011 8:19 pm • linkreport

@Ken Archer: "Are there some Georgetowners who moved close to campus recently who are complaining about a situation they should have know was present? Yes. Does this invalidate the argument I've made above? No."

Hold up there Kenny boy, that's not a cogent argument. In fact it's no argument at all.

Exactly why should you be permitted to move into an area that has housed adult students for over three decades (not "recently") and then demand those adults live exactly as you demand or get out?

And under what law can you demand that private property owners, engaged in lawful rental activities, sacrifice income and rent to families rather than students?

Ken, I've never met you, but I know your kind - a petty tyrant. You want that kind of environment, move into a gated community with community rules and a neighborhood association. Hell Ken, they might even be dumb enough to elect you to the association board - once.

by GU Alum on Jan 21, 2011 11:44 pm • linkreport

(2) their block becomes less multi-generational as group home landlords can pay more for the portion of homes that would have turned over anyway. That's because the homes are worth more in the short run as group home rentals when students would otherwise have to pay the 2nd highest housing rate in the nation.

The numbers don't bear this out. Looking just at Georgetown, two a full two-thirds (66.68%) of people living in the neighborhood moved here since 2000. Another 18.21% moved in between 1990 and 2000. If things really worked as you propose, we should see the entire neighborhood awash in nothing but student group homes, since ~85% of the housing stock in the neighborhood has turned over in the last 20 years. The neighbors like to pretend this is the case than that Visigoth hordes of students have taken over their neighborhood, but it's just not true.

In 2000, the populations of Georgetown and Burleith (Census tracts 2.02 and 3) were a combined 9,546. If 1,354 is the number of students living off-campus, then at most they would represent 14.18% of the neighborhood population. Fourteen percent! The stuff of nightmares, I know, who could possibly survive such an onslaught? And since Y2K, the amount of housing stock in Georgetown has grown (as DR noted above), while the number of Georgetown undergrads living off-campus has actually decreased (as Jacques, among others, has pointed out).

The fact that the percentage of owned-occupied homes in West Georgetown is actually higher than in East Georgetown (61% to 52%) - despite this imagined overpowering demand for group rental homes that should be converting every rowhouse west of Wisconsin into a boarding house - is a pretty good indicator that there are lots of variables and economic forces at play, shaping the makeup of the neighborhood. University nefariousness and an unrestrained flood of students is not even on the radar.

by Dizzy on Jan 22, 2011 11:33 am • linkreport

@Alex B, its not drinking age that caused the increase in binge drinking in college age adults. its a cultural shift that includes greater acceptance of alcohol generally includes binge-ing. If you really want I can point you to research on the subject. What you cite, the legal age, is often cited as the culprit but reputable studies on the subject don't support that hypothesis.

by Tina on Jan 22, 2011 1:45 pm • linkreport

It seems like Gtown should explore some form of mixed-use development on campus. They clearly are planning to build. They should at least explore that option before saying it won't work.

I also find it extremely offensive to compare the issues facing loud Joe Hoyas to the resistance to blacks living in neighborhood. The reason that residents don't like students is because of their behavior. That is something that can be changed.

The neighbors have to also understand that Georgetown may come back and honestly say that mixed use developments won't work. But seeing how Georgetown can screw up anything by not considering all the angles [like the Mt. Vernon College acquisition]. They should be required to show a more thoughtful analysis. The three pages devoted to facilities has to be a joke.

by brian on Jan 22, 2011 2:28 pm • linkreport

"But the University apparently decided against this after meeting with students who - wait for it... - were opposed."
I'd like to clear some things up. I was at this meeting. I would have no problem with off-campus party registration, but you know why that is? Here's the kicker: I don't want to live off campus! And I don't care about trying to grow up and live in the real world too fast. However some people do. And I do agree with them that the university has absolutely 0 right to enforce rules off-campus. Not their jurisdiction anymore. Not even close. Just as much as your employer doesn't stick a camera in your house and make sure you're "behaving yourself" after you leave the office.

by John Kenchelian on Jan 23, 2011 1:33 am • linkreport

the university has absolutely 0 right to enforce rules off-campus

This has never been the case though. Universities have always enforced rules off-campus, just like Georgetown does now. (The Dean of Students is tweaking off-campus sanctions in response to resident complaints.) But the willingness of Universities to enforce rules off-campus has declined over the previous decades.

It used to be (say, in the 1960s when GU enforced a curfew off-campus) that parents wanted to know that the university they were sending their children off to cared about what happened off-campus.

That this paternalistec approach to students has been largely replaced by one in which students are considered paying customers is, IMHO, a central dynamic in play along with the changing attitudes to alcohol in the past several decades.

by Ken Archer on Jan 23, 2011 7:41 am • linkreport

@Ken:

"How exactly are the multi-generational families being displaced?

The rise in student demand for homes prompts families to move for 2 reasons. (1) Student behavior makes their block less attractive, and (2) their block becomes less multi-generational as group home landlords can pay more for the portion of homes that would have turned over anyway. That's because the homes are worth more in the short run as group home rentals when students would otherwise have to pay the 2nd highest housing rate in the nation."

So, "displaced" = "prompts families to move"? Sorry, no sale. Moving because it's economically advantageous is not being displaced. And while loud, late nights and trash are annoying, I'm hard pressed to accept that they lead to "displacement."

by dcd on Jan 24, 2011 9:32 am • linkreport

I just flat out disagree that there is a student ghetto. I think you should post some pictures the so-called student ghetto to back up your claims. I have been at Georgetown three years and have never seen lots of trash strewn about on a lawn. I think you're trying to make what may have been one isolated incident into something that's much more. If the situation really is bad you should have no trouble taking some pictures to back up your claims.

by GU Student on Jan 27, 2011 9:32 pm • linkreport

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