Palo Verde Construction Proves Burdensome for Residents

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For most graduate students like Nathalie Carrick, living in Palo Verde is the most affordable and pleasant housing option available in Irvine.
Recently, however, the situation is becoming burdensome with the rumbling of heavy machinery starting as early as 7 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on Saturdays.
In order to accommodate the growing graduate student body, the UC Regents have expedited the construction of 882 spaces available for residents of the graduate resident community.
A total of 448 apartments are set to be completed by fall 2004 with the rest not due for completion until 2005.
Although this will benefit many future graduate students, many Palo Verde residents consider the construction to be problematic for their daily lives.
According to Carrick, a Ph.D. student in psychology, the noisy atmosphere is almost unbearable.
‘We literally have to make our schedules around the construction,’ Carrick said. ‘We go to sleep early because we know we are going to be woken up earlier than we want to.’
Frustrated by what she deems ‘poor management,’ Carrick, along with many other Palo Verde residents, were angered with some of the hardships they had to endure after the construction began in July 2003.
‘Our kitchens and staircases were covered with dust,’ Carrick said. ‘No one ever came to check our apartments.’
In what seemed to add more fuel to the fire, Carrick and other residents felt they were not properly notified about the construction or its heavy impact on community life.
‘For a company that has a good reputation for controlling dust, it certainly didn’t seem like it,’ Carrick said.
According to several issues of the Palo Verde Press, a monthly newsletter sent to each apartment in the community, updates and information about the construction were a main source of communication between residents and the Palo Verde staff.
The Palo Verde staff also meet with residents once a quarter to discuss any potential issues that students may have.
In response to a letter sent by students of Palo Verde concerned with environmental issues brought forth by the expansion project, the Department of Design and Construction Services assured residents that there are no potential safety or environmental risks to the area.
After construction began in July 2003, approximately 20 resident parking spaces and all visitor parking were blocked off for use by Palo Verde residents.
‘Our priority is to have parking for all of our residents,’ said Gerald Parham, director of Palo Verde. ‘We do not have the luxury for free guest spaces.’
According to Lisa Cornish, executive director of Graduate and Family Housing, there were ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ways that students were informed about the impact of the expansion project.
‘I think we did a good job with providing a weekly update of what’s been happening with the construction,’ Cornish said. ‘However, we could have done a better job by informing residents when they signed the contracts to live here.’
Each week the Palo Verde staff conducts meetings with Design and Construction Services to discuss the expansion project and any new issues the students need to be aware of. Students are invited to attend the meetings.
The Palo Verde staff has agreed to relocate residents to quieter areas of Palo Verde provided there are spaces to place them.
‘We have agreed to pay the costs associated with relocating students,’ Cornish said.
As of now, the residents of Palo Verde are formulating a petition to request that construction begin at 8 a.m. instead of 7 a.m.
‘I don’t think asking them to start one hour later is too much,’ Carrick said. ‘It would be a lot better for our sleep schedules.’
The contractor, Hensel-Phelps, which has recently been credited for the completion of Croul Hall, has been taking measures to reduce the amount of dust by periodically watering the ground of the construction area.
When asked about any warnings given by the contractor to students about the construction and its potential hazards, a spokesman from Hensel-Phelps declined to comment.
During the construction of Croul Hall, many nearby residents of the Campus Village Housing Community were also disturbed by early morning drilling.
Anas Chaudry, a fourth-year ICS major and employee for Campus Village says that although the construction was irritating early in the morning, it was inevitable.
There are always going to be people who are bothered no matter what time they work, but I think it is something we have to deal with considering we are a growing campus both in structure and population.
Another housing project which is due to be completed by next Fall includes the undergraduate and graduate community Vista Del Campo. Vista Del Campo will house approximately 1,200 students.

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