It’s A Long Walk To Your Car

The ever-present problem of parking for UC Irvine students, especially for those who live in on-campus communities like Vista Del Campo, Vista Del Campo Norte and the newest residential community – Camino Del Sol, has once again reared its ugly head.

In previous years, parking for Vista Del Campo and Vista Del Campo Norte residents was available at no extra charge for roughly 75 percent of inhabitants. Starting in fall 2009 however, these housing communities started charging students for parking and enforced stricter parking policies, thus causing many inconveniences for visitors and residents.

The luxurious Camino Del Sol opened in fall 2010. Despite the fact that this particular housing community contains the latest fitness equipment, a huge pool, private bedrooms, washers and dryers in each townhome and more, it does not have a back parking lot like most apartment or townhome complexes. Because there was only a certain amount of units per acre allotted during the development of Camino Del Sol, there was no room for a back parking lot. Also, the cost of creating an underground parking lot beneath Camino Del Sol would have added to the debt.

Floor plans for Camino Del Sol range from a four-bedroom, two-bathroom flat going for $788 a month, to the most expensive — a two-bedroom, two and a half-bathroom townhome going for $999 a month.

Although housing communities like Camino Del Sol, VDC and VDCN are more than spacious and aesthetically appealing, they don’t seem to cater to students’ main needs. Most students can agree to sacrifice a few luxurious amenities to cover the cost of other important things like parking. Students are already bombarded with the rising cost of tuition and constant mention of student fee increases. Why burden students with more unnecessary residential parking charges on top of the regular UCI parking charge? It is understandable for the price of off-campus apartments and townhomes to be on the pricey side, but quite absurd for on-campus housing to be so expensive.

The quarterly cost of residential parking is $225. Camino Del Sol residents who have purchased a residential parking permit are required to park in the East Campus Parking Structure across from the ARC, since there isn’t a long-term parking lot that was built at Camino Del Sol.

Camino Del Sol residents were also given the opportunity for an “alternative parking option” in September of 2010. Alex Rubio, the associate director of housing operations and assistant general manager of Camino Del Sol, issued an e-mail that stated, “Dear Camino del Sol Residents of Bldg. 300, 302, 322, 324, 332 and 334: You are receiving this message because you are eligible for alternative parking in Vista Del Campo Norte’s Undergraduate Section. Residents who reside in buildings that are located along Arroyo Drive are the only residents eligible for this alternative parking location.” The townhomes listed in the e-mail were the ones furthest from the East Campus Parking Structure. Of course, spots for the alternative parking option filled quickly. Not all residents who were issued the e-mail received the privilege of parking at VDCN since there were only limited parking spots available and since it was on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The main issue for most Camino Del Sol residents is that they weren’t aware that there was not going to be a convenient back parking structure at Camino Del Sol.

Instead, residents were told to park at the East Campus Parking Structure located on California Avenue – or, if they responded to the alternative parking option on time, the unmarked undergraduate VDCN parking lot. Many residents complain about the fact that their cars are parked a good distance from their townhomes.

It gets worse. New visitor parking policies for VDC, VDCN and Camino Del Sol were formally announced via an e-mail by Rubio dated Jan. 4. VDC/VDCN visitors must purchase a parking permit in order to park in respective parking lots if they are to stay for an hour or more. Camino Del Sol visitors must purchase a parking permit from a machine on the second floor of the East Campus Parking Structure if they are planning on staying for longer than 20 minutes.

The cost for visitor parking is as follows: “$2.00 per hour on an hourly basis, $8.00 for a calendar-day permit (expires at 11:59 p.m. on the day permit is purchased), and $12.00 for a 24-hour permit.” Not only is this cost high, but it prevents friends and family from visiting for a long period of time. The cost of the 24-hour permit is $12.00, or nearly a fourth of the cost for a month of on-campus parking. It’s not as if parking in VDC and Norte was short on spots. The lots have been much emptier since the surcharge for parking was implemented. It comes down to a simple case of corporate greed and taking advantage of students.

So what’s going to happen to the fate of UC Irvine students if these costs keep increasing? Parking will always be an issue at UCI, but housing communities have an opportunity to save students from a never-ending circle of debt. UCI needs to re-orient its focus towards being student friendly, rather than profit driven — or maybe students will wise up and stop living in unnecessarily “luxurious” on-campus apartments.

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