Since Dwight Eisenhower lived in the White House, Seminary Hill residents have been fighting plans to built doctors' offices at Alexandria Hospital. Early this morning, their three-decade-long effort seemed a triumph.

The Planning Commission voted 4-to-2 to reject a $12 million, 115,000 square foot addition to the Seminary Road hospital that included 60 physicians' offices.

"You bet we're happy. Somebody listened to the people," said Jack Sullivan, a Seminary Hill resident who has headed up the opposition.

"It's deja vu for me," said former mayor Charles E. Beatley, who entered the political fray in the late 1950s because of his opposition to hospital expansion.

Through the years, although residents have managed to thwart office development plans, the hospital has always refused to take "no" for an answer. This time, however, many are convinced that if the Planning Commission and the City Council reject the plans, the hospital will finally drop the office plans.

Since the council, which is scheduled to vote on the issue June 18, generally follows the commission's recommendations, last night's vote was considered a major victory for residents and a disappointing defeat for the hospital.

"I'm kind of surprised," said A. George Cook, president of the Alexandria Health Services Corp. "They {the commissioners} seem more interested in short-term gain than the long term benefit of receiving quality medical care."

Seminary Hill residents argued that doctors' offices would draw thousands of unwelcome cars each day and bring the first commercial business to their affluent area.

Alexandria Hospital is a 115-year-old nonprofit facility originally located in Old Town. Most of the scores of residents who attended the marathon meeting that ended after 1 a.m. did not oppose other parts of the proposal, including a surgery center or the portion of the doctors' office building that would be used for outpatient and cancer care.

Planning commission members did not either. "It's the doctors' offices that are hard to swallow," said Mitchell Griffin.

The commission was not swayed by a consultant's report, ordered by the City Council, warning that an increasingly competitive health-care market could cause Alexandria Hospital to lose as much as $13.8 million in the next five years.

A burgeoning outpatient care business that is emptying hospital beds across the country and the proliferation of large health maintenance organizations such as Kaiser Permanente pose severe financial problems for the hospital, the Lewin and Associates report said.

Hospital officials argued that doctors' offices would boost the hospital because physicians refer most patients to the facility closest to their office. They also said Alexandria Hospital is the only Northern Virginia hospital without attached or adjacent doctors' office buildings.

But commission member Allan Kamerow said he was not convinced that doctor's offices would solve whatever financial problems the hospital had. "I know the hospital officials' intentions are good," Kamerow said "I just think they are wrong."

Alexandria Hospital is currently operating 360 of its 414 beds. Annually, it admits 15,000 patients, serves 42,000 emergency cases, and treats 40,000 outpatients.

The commission also made it clear it was not in favor of the hospital's request that the city vacate a portion of Howard Street.

The hospital had asked the city to temporarily hand over the street rights so that two of its land parcels divided by Howard Street could be united, thus permitting the sizable development. The vacation was only a technical manuever, with the hospital instantly and perpetually easing the street rights back to the city.

However, the commissioners rejected it, saying it would set a dangerous precedent.