Last night the Zoning Commission held its second hearing on GU’s proposed campus plan. You can watch it here (sorry GM can’t embed it for some reason, and you’ll have to install Microsoft Silverlight to watch it, but it’s worth it).
The main attraction of the night was the testimony of the Office of Planning. As discussed here, that office issued a report devastating to GU’s position. So it was very interesting to here what they had to say about their report.
The main speaker for OP was Jennifer Steingasser, who was apparently the main drafter of the report. Her testimony begins around the 1’12” mark of the video.
In her speech she emphasized several aspects of OP’s report. She explaining that she welcomed GU’s move from using an average to an absolute in calculating the student cap. But she argued that rather than use either of the methods suggested by GU or the ANC, such as the full-time equivalent calculation, they should simply count the number of students absolutely.
She explained that OP rejected the GU hospital element of the plan because it was clearly just a placeholder and none of the specifics had been fleshed out. She stated that any major development there should be handled by an amendment.
When discussing the more controversial elements of her report, Steingasser started from the comprehensive plan (GM’s not going to say he told you so, but he did). There are sections in the comp plan that address the interaction between large institutional uses and their residential neighbors. She stated that in looking at these sections their guiding philosophy was to conserve and enhance the neighborhood. In doing so, they looked at parking, traffic, and neighborhood character.
Stiengasser also put a heavy emphasis on the physical differences between Georgetown and other residential neighborhoods near universities. She argued that the lot sizes are smaller and that there is an absence of through alleys (hey, GM told you that too!). As a result, she argued, most residents must park in the street and have all service and utilities come in from the street too.
So looking at all of that and the tremendous growth in students at GU, she said that OP decided the best approach was to recommend all students be housed by GU by 2016. This doesn’t mean they would all be on campus, but rather that they would have to be in GU-owned housing (outside of 20007). The solution tacitly recommended by many of the neighbors is that GU should rent out apartment space in Rosslyn and house students there.
One thing that Steingasser repeated a couple time was that OP would love to see more mixed use on campus. In GM’s opinion, this is something that GU seriously lacks. If indeed they are forced to house 100% of their students on campus, as OP recommends, converting many of their single use buildings into mixed use may be the route they need to take.
Following Steingasser’s report, GU cross-examined her. For supporters of OP’s report, it wasn’t pretty. GU’s lawyer Maureen Dwyer appeared to poke hole after hole in OP’s report. Most significantly, she demonstrated that it looked like OP was recommending an immediate reduction of 1,000 students. GM has to say, the OP staff didn’t seem entirely particularly prepared for GU’s cross-examination.
OP wasn’t the only party that testified last night. At the beginning of the night, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh weighed in against the plan. Following OP’s testimony, a group of GU students testified in favor of the plan.