The supporters of the Irvine Meadows West community sponsored a forum on April 23 at the Cross-Cultural Center in an attempt to inform the public about why they believe Irvine Meadows West should be saved from being turned into a parking lot.
The forum opened with Amber Rinderknecht, co-chair of the IMW Homeowners’ Association, who introduced the members responsible for producing the forum as well as the administration and faculty in attendance.
‘We feel that the administration isn’t really opening up discourse with us in this regard so we’re using this forum today to initiate that negotiation or discussion,’ Rinderknecht said.
After the introduction, Rinderknecht welcomed the first speaker, Richard Demerjian, the director of Campus Environmental Planning, who spoke about the Long Range Developmental Plan for UCI.
Demerjian continued with maps showing the Long Range Developmental Plan and how the IMW lot would contribute to the community as a parking structure, which will be encircled by buildings that will eventually be occupied by the School of Physical Sciences.
The next speaker, Matthew Cardinale, a graduate student in sociology, went over the statistics of affordable housing and explained why IMW is a vital community to maintain at UCI.
‘Irvine Meadows West is a last bastion of affordable housing for students, not only on the UCI campus, but in the entire city of Irvine,’ Cardinale said.
According to Cardinale, housing costs in Irvine are not affordable for most of the graduate students on financial aid, and by eliminating IMW, UCI would be cutting off a great recruitment tool.
Garrett Asay, a graduate student in economics and co-chair of the IMW Homeowners’ Association, addressed the concerns about the liabilities involved with students owning the trailer parks, and covered each of the topics in liability insurance, safety inspections, alterations to trailers and fire safety.
‘It is possible to regulate student structures on campus,’ Asay concluded. ‘Residents here are willing to work with the university to minimize liability concerns.’
Rinderknecht then proposed alternate solutions to the parking problem, stating that if ‘UCI developed all the unused lots that are further away from campus then there would be no need to make Irvine Meadows West into a parking structure.’
‘Why would you sacrifice this community for a year’s parking problem?’ Rinderknecht asked.
Some faculty also voiced their opinions as well, including Gary Lynch, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry, and Human Behavior and Mike Davis, a professor of history, who both stood behind IMW residents in preserving IMW.
In closing, however, Manuel Gomez, vice chancellor of student affairs, said that although he believes IMW is truly a great community, there is no way that the administration could keep it open any longer.
‘Affordable housing is a serious problem for faculty, staff and students. I have no ability to alleviate those marketing and developmental realities,’ Gomez said. ‘I will never disagree with the beauty, funkiness and uniqueness of the IMW community … the fact is that it would be beautiful to keep it open, and I’ve kept it open as long as possible.’
Gomez continued by explaining that in 1999, he personally got the signatures of all the residents at the trailer park to agree on a five-year extension, and that the contract states that on Aug. 1, 2004, the trailer park will be closed.
Laura Colgin, a postgraduate fellow who currently lives at IMW, gave her thoughts on the forum.
‘I think the forum was helpful. I wish the university was a little more open-minded, but they said in the end there’s no way to keep it open and that’s very disappointing to me.’ Colgin said. ‘I want IMW to stay open. I’ve lived there for five years and it’s my favorite part of UCI.’
Not all residents of IMW feel the same way though. Erica Harpster, a fifth-year ICS major and a current resident of UCI gave her thoughts on the topic.
‘When they change the debate in such a way that it became a human rights issue, and they were accusing the university of being underhanded or deceitful about it, they kind of alientated more moderate people like myself because the university has been quite fair and honest in dealing with us,’ Harpster said.
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