UCI is planning to force me to leave Irvine Meadows West on July 31, 2004, in order to demolish the residence and cause me and 100 other students to leave our homes. This eviction comes at a time when there is a lack of affordable housing on campus and in the greater Irvine community. Unfortunately, this closure sends the message that the university does not care about its students.
Irvine Meadows West is a 78-space recreational vehicle park located on campus at 4100 Bison Avenue. Rent here is affordable, which is uncommon in Irvine, at $130 per month. Students must buy their trailers, but, the expense up-front is easily worth the long-term savings.
Although most students have heard of IMW, few realize the history of the park and the impact that it has had on the campus and surrounding community.
In the early 1970s, due to a shortage of affordable housing, undergraduate and graduate students squatted in trailers near what is currently the Bren Events Center.
This location became the site of UCI’s first permanent RV Park. Chancelor Aldrich established IMW in 1979 as an affordable housing option for students.
The RV Park had basic necessities such as running water, sewage and electricity. In the late 1980s, due to expansion of the campus, the park was moved to its present location.
Today, it is the only affordable on-campus housing option.
In 1999 the university decided that IMW should be closed to make way for a parking lot. During that time, there was a large student movement to prevent the park’s closure. Because of the intense interest in saving the park, the university delayed the closure until July 2004.
As this time nears, the community is again fighting to save IMW. Many students have questioned why residents are protesting the park’s closure if they have known that the university had planned to close it all along.
This answer lies in the fact that there was much more to the closure agreement than is immediately apparent.
First, we have letters from university officials stating that they would look for an alternate location. Chancellor Cicerone and the university have failed so far to live up to this obligation.
Second, the decision to close the park was conducted without the input of UCI’s academic senate or the campus community. Strangely, residents have not been given a clear explanation as to why IMW is closing.
Third, many residents will not be accommodated by on-campus housing because there is no other campus community that allows residents to choose their own roommates, keep a dog and/or be a post-doctoral student.
Most importantly, Irvine itself has the highest median rent of any city in the United States with a population over 100,000 persons (LA Times June 8, 2003). This makes living off campus very expensive.
Some students from the local Orange or Los Angeles counties can avert this problem by commuting to campus. However, if the university wants to attract students from different states and countries, it must provide them with an affordable place to live.
According to the Associated Graduate Students and Campus Housing, in the near future all rents on campus will climb above $600 per month. The new housing proposed, Palo Verde II, will cost in excess of $900 per person. Given these numbers and a salary of $1,500 per month, students will spend between 40 and 60 percent of their income on rent. This is well above the 30 percent recommended by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (www.nlihc.org).
While housing is an important issue on campus, we are sympathetic to the parking problem. Nevertheless, turning IMW into a parking lot will not solve UCI’s parking problem.
A university that wants to grow must come to terms with the fact that 35,000 students cannot be accommodated with parking near the core of campus.
Instead, the university should spend more money on shuttles and put new parking off campus. Other commuter campuses such as UCSD and UT Austin have done this successfully.
In order to bring these issues to the campus community, UCI students have founded the club, Outside the Master Plan. OMP is a committee organized to promote alternative on-campus housing options and to stop the closure of Irvine Meadows West, our cherished community of homes.
We have started an online petition to save IMW at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/taeaction/314580350. Please forward the link to as many people as possible so the university can feel community pressure to do what is right.
In April, we will be having several protest events and rallies to highlight our cause on campus. We also have OMP T-shirts for sale and hold weekly meetings on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. in the Community Trailer (plese contact email@example.com for more information).
You can also help by writing a letter to the housing office and Chancellor Cicerone stating that you want IMW to stay on-campus as an affordable housing option.
Please call the Chancellor directly at (949) 824-5111 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Irvine Meadows West represents not only an affordable housing option, but the voice of the students as well.
Perhaps not all students care to live in IMW, but most students would agree that keeping on-campus housing prices affordable is a concern of theirs. OMP represents this concern and will continue promoting these and other concerns in the fight to keep the park open.
Garrett Asay is a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of Economics.