It was incorrectly reported in last week's District Weekly that the average cost of a house in Burleith is $300,000. That is the average cost of a newly built house, but the older houses that dominate in the area sell for an average of $128,000, according to the D.C. Tax Assessor's Office.
Page Smith, a Georgetown University Hospital nurse often has been kept awake by the sound of loud music coming from university students who live near her on Whitehaven Parkway in the Blureith neighborhood of Northwest Washington.
On a weekend evening last fall, Georgetown junior Nancy Drapeau had a small party in her Burleith home. It was early in the evening and she was unmindful that the gathering had grown noisy until the police were at her door, asking her to tone it down. "I can't believe that," said Drapeau, angry that her neighbors called the police before complaining to her.
Occurrences of this kind are not uncommon in Burleith. Georgetown students who rent basement and attic space or houses in groups are frequently at odds with the young families and the elderly who populate the community.
A neighborhood of wide, arbored streets and well-kept row houses, Burleith is called a "village in the city," where the average cost of a house is more than $300,000. It attracts "a wide range of people from young families to residents who have lived there for two generations," said Kay Able of Shannon & Luchs realty. Families who pay mortgages and property taxes are concerned with maintaining the quality of their neighborhood, residents of the area said.
But its location northwest of the campus, between Reservoir Road and Whitehaven Parkway and 35th and 39th streets, is near enough to Georgetown to shelter many students who overflow the insufficient university housing. Two-thirds of the university's undergraduates live on campus and those unlucky in the annual lottery to assign dormitory space turn to the nearby neighborhoods.
Students and residents say the two distinct populations are often in conflict because of their differing life styles. Residents of the area are especially antipathetic to the loud music favored by students.
"We get calls every year from the area complaining of loud and disruptive students," said William Schuerman, Georgetown's assistant dean of student affairs. "All we can do is call in the students and talk. We tell them community is not like campus. We try to sensitize them."
At last year's annual student Spring Festival, amplified music and the raucous response of the audience drew numerous complaints from the surrounding community.
In a protest letter to Georgetown President Timothy S. Healy, Mother M. Philomena Tisinger of the Visitation Convent School on 37th Street adjacent to the campus, wrote, "There was outrageously loud music over the weekend . . .. We have suffered through similar programs in the past, but this program exceeded all limits."
Said student Drapeau, "What can you do? We come from two worlds. It is inevitable that there will be conflicts."
The festival's John Hall Band concert disrupted church services and broke the Sunday peace of many Georgetown area residents, prompting Healy to ban such concerts and dances from main campus lawns. Students were disgruntled.
"The facilities on campus are limited, and we must be aware of our neighbors," said Bob Rice, associate director of student activities.
The Citizens Association of Burleith is troubled by many effects students have on the area, but noise is the most frequent complaint. Second District police report most calls concerning Georgetown and its students are noise related.
In response to a series of loud weekend parties last spring, the association created the Noise Committee of Burleith, led by Dr. Alan Stone, a resident.
Stone, 42, a physician at George Washington University Hospital, has lived in the community 12 years. He said he and his family often have been kept up nights by noise from students and their stereos.
The noise committee, formed to seek organized solutions to the problem, "is exploring all solutions," Stone said, "starting first with better communications with students and moving at last resort to legal measures, such as taking noise-level readings and persuading real estate firms to enact stiffer conduct rules on renters."
He noted the District's 1977 Noise Control Act, which fines offenders causing noise levels of more than 55 decibels (normal conversational level) by day, "is difficult to enforce. You need a qualified meter reader, and the police don't have time for this."
The committee also has sent petitions to District officials to call their attention to the noise problems, he said.
Smith said students in the area should be more considerate. "A lot of older people here are intimidated by houses full of students," she said. "They won't say anything, but it's real agony for them."
Many students are aware of the community frustration. Meg Von Mehren, a sophomore living in Burleith, said, "Students are going to have to realize life isn't one big party. But the students want their life, and they don't want to change."
Schuerman said, "Kids have a tendency to blow it off, and they think the complaints come from a bunch of people who don't like young people. Actually, most of the complaints come from young professionals who understand the students very well."
Some students are as frustrated by the friction as the Burleith residents. "Of course, if we were normal people, we wouldn't be treated like that," said Anne Chidlow, a junior. "You don't judge new neighbors badly because old ones were terrible. There is a lack of communications."
Drapeau said, "If you live next door to a university, you're going to have to expect students and their characteristics. You have to sympathize because sometimes we don't realize what we're doing."
Now that it is spring, stereos will be sending music out student windows and new tensions in Burleith are predictable. Stone said he hopes, however, there will be better communication. He wants students to join his association, so their views will be included.
On the positive side, he said, a particularly noisy house of students on S Street invited neighbors to complain if a recent party became too loud.
"Typically, it did," Stone said. "I called them after midnight and politely asked them to tone it down. Within a half hour, this time, the party was quiet."
The university administration also is attempting to ease the tension. To relieve the inadequate student housing, Georgetown is building a new housing complex, called Village B, on 37th Street NW and the Nevils building, a classroom and office facility, is being converted to a dormitory.