By Lura Jaques
To the dismay of many of its residents, UCI’s Irvine Meadows West trailer park is scheduled to close on July 31, 2004. Students currently living in the trailer park feel that the university is closing the park in an attempt to keep the UCI campus and the city of Irvine a sterile, uniform city. But the university assures that the real reason for its closure is to put a parking lot in its place which will alleviate the concerns of a growing campus.
‘Students have known [about the closure] for the past five years,’ said Fred Lipscomb, director of Campus Village and Irvine Meadows West. ‘We haven’t pulled a rug out from anybody.’
The park had always been considered a temporary arrangement since its opening in 1979, explains Toby Buchanan, manager of Irvine Meadows West.
‘It was opened because there was a lack of housing so [the school] allowed people to bring trailers,’ Buchanan said.
There are currently 77 trailer spaces and Buchanan estimates 26 people have roommates.
Buchanan said the park has never been on UCI’s ‘master plan.’
Rob Ameele, executive director of undergraduate housing, said the ‘prevailing long-range development [master plan] for campus is that [IMW] would be used to support core academic purposes, and it was a convenient time to move on.’
Ameele explains that although the park is closing, additional housing is being made. In fact, he said, more housing is being made available than the park can accommodate. Still, Ameele regrets the loss of such a community.
‘What will be hard to replace is the community, which is regrettable,’ Ameele said.
According to Ameele, additional housing will include Vista Del Campo, which will accommodate graduates and undergraduates and is scheduled to open in fall 2004.
Housing that is currently being added to Arroyo Vista will eventually house 192 beds, compared to the 82 students living in Irvine Meadows West. The expansion of Arroyo Vista is scheduled to be finished winter 2004.
Buchanan said because UCI is growing at such a rapid pace, more accommodations for students need to be made.
‘The bottom line is UCI is growing,’ Buchanan said. ‘So the problem of where are they going to park and where are we going to teach them arises.’
Buchanan does not think that the primary reason for the park’s closure is to maintain the sterility and uniformity of Irvine.
‘I don’t think it’s a conspiracy to get rid of the ugliness,’ Buchanan said. ‘That’s certainly not the only reason.’
Buchanan estimates the total undergraduate and graduate student population to be 29,000 students in 2009.
Buchanan said that the administration considered relocating it somewhere else on campus but cost-wise, it ‘didn’t make sense.’
If a new trailer park were built, ‘the rationale is that it would cost $300 per month and would only be temporary,’ Buchanan said.
Students living at IMW currently pay $130 per month.
Buchanan has lived at Irvine Meadows West for 13 years: six years as a student, one year as a roommate and six years as manager.
‘It’s sad. I was a student here, I have a lot of good memories,’ Buchanan said. ‘It’s a good place to live [and] it’s cheap. At the same time I understand why they’re closing it.’
According to UCI Parking Director Mike Delo, the kind of parking that will be added for students is still being decided.
‘It will either be a surface lot or a parking structure,’ Delo said.
Delo estimates that 400 to 500 parking spaces will be added if it was a surface lot.
The construction of the new lot will begin as soon as the Irvine Meadows West lease expires in fall 2004.
‘I don’t think [parking is] any problem at all. We have sufficient parking, it’s just not all conveniently located,’ Delo said.
Despite suggestions that the trailer park is closing to alleviate the impact of anticipated growth, current residents feel otherwise.
‘To further sterilize the UCI campus and the Irvine community is such a bastardly thing,’ said Amber Rinderknecht, a graduate student in health, environmental health, science and policy.
Rinderknecht said residents have developed a club that’s called ‘Outside the Master Plan.’
‘Residents come together and find more ways to protest the trailer park closing. The administration doesn’t want to address the issues so we want to raise campus awareness,’ Rinderknecht said. ‘We know [the park is] going to close, but it’s so affordable and it’s such a special place, we still want the community to survive.’
Rinderknecht said the university wants Irvine Meadows West to close because it doesn’t fit in with the ‘wealthy corporate vision of UCI.’
Some of the attributes that make the trailer park so appealing to students aside from its cheap prices is that students can add on to their trailers, house dogs and paint their trailers however they wish.
Graduate student Rebecca Thom said she likes her yellow trailer with its purple stripe down the middle and although some may refer to her trailer as a sardine can, ‘it’s a nice sardine can and it’s nice to have a place to call your own.’
Thom said in other housing facilities on campus as well as off campus, residents are ‘not allowed to express their freedom and creativity.’
Lipscomb said that every student who lives at Irvine Meadows West at the time of its closure is guaranteed housing, as long as they are eligible for a particular housing community.
Already, several students at Irvine Meadows West don’t qualify for on-campus housing.
‘A lot of the residents have dogs and can’t go elsewhere. It’s also hard to find places for students who have partners who aren’t students,’ Thom said.