On the one hand, Chapman wants to expand its campus and student enrollment, and on the other, residents of Old Towne Orange are pushing back hard.
The primary issue (based upon audience comments from last night and the neighbor-to-neighbor meetings I've attended) appears to be the students themselves. Chapman University does a commendable job of adaptively reusing historic structures, blending new structures into the current environment, and restoring historic homes that they own near campus. But there are enough problematic students living in the Old Towne Orange area (and well beyond, as I learned at the meeting) that the aesthetics of the architecture and restoration are overshadowed by the unruly students. Chapman doesn't currently have enough on-campus housing to provide for the majority of its students, but wants to continue to increase the enrollment while providing additional housing along the way (but still in woefully inadequate numbers to accommodate current enrollment, much less expanded enrollment).
Therein lies the paradox: As Chapman, Chapman parents, and investors acquire residential properties to house students and faculty, more students--not fewer--are housed off campus and into residential neighborhoods (and not within the confines of the campus); In addition, if bought by Chapman University, those homes are then no longer available to the general public for purchase, in all likelihood, forever.
As Realtors, we can't control who purchases homes - that is the responsibility of the seller. While many sellers want to find a nice family to inhabit their home and create memories just as they did, ultimately most concede to whomever is willing to pay the highest price -- it's just human nature. In many cases that may be an investor, a Chapman University parent, or Chapman University themselves. As noted prior, if Chapman University procures a residential property, it is one less home in the local inventory that we have to sell in the future. From a quality-of-life perspective, I think that the City of Orange also has some responsibility to make certain that local ordinances and codes are enforced, especially when involving occupancy and parking issues. The City of Berkeley has done just that (click here to read their local ordinances regarding students in residential areas - mini-dorms).
To be fair, I suspect that the majority of Chapman University students are decent humans -- but it only takes a small percentage of the student body to create the wrong impression in the community. I like to think that there is room for compromise -- as we get older we tend to forget that we were younger once and likely caused some of the same problems when we were in college. But I also recall having a healthy fear and/or respect for adults when I was that age -- some of that may not be present in the current generation of college kids. In the interest of full disclosure, I also don't live next door to a Chapman party house -- for those folks that do, I'm sure it's a different story.
Whether you are for or against Chapman University's expansion in Old Towne Orange, I would encourage you to make your voice heard. Contact the City, the City of Orange Planning Commission, and the City of Orange City Council Members -- especially Planning and the City Council, as they will be the ultimate decision makers. This will be an interesting process. Click here for a recent article from the OC Register on the subject.
Direct your comments, for or against, to be included as a matter of public record for the environmental impact review (prior to June 15, 2015) to:
Acting Assistant Community Development Director
City of Orange