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Foothills Sentry

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Old Towne Preservation Association draws red line for Chapman University’s expansion

By Daniel Langhorne The Old Towne Preservation

Association (OTPA) is opposing Chapman University’s 10-year growth plan because many resi- dents now see the institution as degrading the community’s char- acter. Old Towne Orange is no longer

just known for being the largest National Historic District in Cali- fornia and as a host to antique shops. The area is now rife with cheers from backyard beer pong games, foodies lining up for the latest trendy restaurant and, of course, the infamous “undie run” that sends thousands of intoxicat- ed students running to the Orange Plaza once every semester. Among OTPA’s top grievances,

is that the city has allowed Chap- man to increase its enrollment without building enough dormi- tories to house more students. The result is that Chapman par- ents and real estate investors pur- chase homes to be used as student housing.

Curb the campus “The aggressive expansion pro-

posed will further deteriorate the fabric and integrity of the historic district,” OTPA President Sandy Quinn wrote in a letter to the city. The City of Orange is prepar-

ing a draft environmental im- pact report for Chapman’s latest amendment to its specific plan. The specific plan is a document approved by the city council that outlines the constraints on Chap-

School-dazed residents appeal to city council

Residents opposed to Chapman

University’s plans to increase enrollment from 8,700 to 11,650 and its footprint from 58 to 75 acres, peppered the Orange City Council with their concerns at its June 9 meeting. Although the topic was not on

the agenda for council discussion, citizens took advantage of the “public comment” portion of the meeting to let Orange’s elected officials know of their intentions to fight further growth of the uni- versity every step of the way. Campus neighbors reported un-

ruly students whose parties spill over into the streets, houses pur- chased by investors to serve as rental units, and oversized build- ings and parking structures that dwarf that portion of Old Towne. Brian White noted that he vir-

tually “lives on campus,” in the shadow of a six-story parking ga- rage and the law building “com- pound,” and asked the council how much more of the community it will allow Chapman to take over. Carol Kennedy described the

three rental houses on her street as homes to wild parties, with 14 cars parked on the property and inebriated students urinating on lawns. “We need rules,” she said. “How many rental houses on one street? How many students living there?” Judy Schroeder added that

outside investors who purchase houses to rent to students “have no interest in the community,” and that the students themselves are transitory, with no com- mitment to their surroundings. “We’re letting our neighborhoods slip through our fingers,” she said. Arianna Barrios painted a

bleaker picture. “This problem stretches across the city, not just Old Towne,” she said. “The city loses a piece of its soul with every rental house. We need a recess. The city needs to reevaluate its relationship with Chapman.” The university is asking the

city to amend its specific plan to increase coverage boundaries, redevelop existing buildings and construct new multi-story facili- ties. The proposed 10-year ex- pansion project would boost en- rollment by some 30 percent, add 2,500 more classroom seats and decrease open space from 30 to 25 percent of the campus. An amended specific plan

would allow the university to build more on-campus housing, expand the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, replace the student services center, add a res-

man’s enrollment and develop- ment. Only two of the 141 commu-

nity members who contacted the city to comment on the next spe- cific plan amendment spoke in favor of it. Among impacts of the cur-

rent student population listed by the association are: additional traffic, lack of street parking, in- creased development, noise, lit- ter, strained infrastructure and the creation of a dorm atmosphere in residential neighborhoods. Chapman offered no specific

solution to address these concerns but welcomed dialogue with its neighbors.

Open to suggestions “Chapman University is fully

taurant and pub, expand existing parking structures and build new ones, expand existing academic facilities and build new ones, ren- ovate sports facilities, and expand administrative office space.

committed to working with our neighbors and the City of Orange to address concerns and identify solutions as a critical part of our specific plan update process,” wrote Mary Platt, spokeswoman for Chapman University, in an email. “All the issues mentioned in the letter from OTPA will be evaluated as part of this process.

We’re confident that the univer- sity, our neighbors and the city can together provide a number of solutions to ensure that Orange continues to prosper and be a great place to live. We look for- ward to continuing a productive dialogue.” These impacts have not been

lost on Councilman Mike Alva- rez, who said he’s been battling the owner of a Chapman frater- nity house on his street. “I think the school has to find

a way to curb the problem on its end of it,” he said. The proliferation of fraternities

and sororities at Chapman has un- doubtedly contributed to the con- flict between students and their neighbors. Chapman has allowed seven new chapters to colonize at its campus over the last eight years. One in three Chapman stu- dents is now affiliated with these organizations. Yet university officials have

little interest in establishing a Greek Row that would concen- trate many of the unofficial party houses in one area. “There’s no interest because

nobody has made it an issue,” Al- varez said.

Room to grow? Chapman still has elbowroom

to grow through its existing spe- cific plan. About 7,900 students now attend the university, but it is allowed to have up to 8,700. If the city council chooses not

to allow Chapman to expand its enrollment to the proposed 11,650 students, it would be an unprecedented step. Chapman will soon embark on

one if its most ambitious projects. The Center for Technology and Science will be a 140,000-square- foot classroom, laboratory and research building. The three-story structure on North Center Street will stretch from Walnut Avenue to Sycamore Avenue. “It’s just another slap in the

face,” said Jeff Frankel, preserva- tion chair for the OTPA. “We’re going to do everything

in our power to stop this expan- sion until they mitigate the im- pacts they’ve created,” Frankel said. “Only then will we consider any plans for expansion.”

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