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In the middle of the night, I awoke to a siren blaring in my ear drums. The deafening alarm echoed throughout the apartment. I had heard it before. Instead of panicking or following suit, I made my way into the living room and sat on the couch, where the noise was more bearable. For 10 minutes I sat there as I became conditioned to the pounding noises after springing out of bed enraged. It was 3 a.m. and it was the second time in a week that I had been awoken by a false alarm.

With a two-hour class in the morning, my sleeping pattern would be altered once again by the fire alarms of Vista Del Campo Norte. If the threat was real, I would have been engulfed by flames, but after tossing on a t-shirt and sprinting through the hallways on a few different occasions throughout the summer, only to find out that there was no emergency, Norte’s alarm systems cried wolf once again.

As I researched my future living arrangements prior to my sophomore year, I weighed the pros and cons of living in Vista Del Campo (VDC) and Norte. Norte was a little older and didn’t seem as spacious, but I wasn’t going to be picky after sharing a tiny dormitory and a communal bathroom for a couple of months. I took tours with a few of my friends, first at Norte.

The community center was beautiful, the models seemed perfect and the community had a good feel to it. Plus, the bus stop was closer to campus.

After seeing their neighbor to the south, VDC, I knew I had my favorite. VDC’s community center looked like a castle; there was a lap pool, a Jacuzzi that could fit two whole basketball teams and the overall community just felt right.

Last school year, I lived in VDC from June to June before living for half of this past summer in Norte. Having experienced both, I can honestly say that although Norte has its flaws, I’d rather live anywhere on campus than commute an hour to school five days a week, but let’s break down the value of living in VDC and Norte.

College students should consider themselves lucky to have an opportunity to live in their own room at a university, but at the end of the day, in the battle between VDC and Norte, VDC is the better value. Here’s why.

Parking and location: VDC and Norte used to not charge for parking, but low-and-behold, they decided that students should pay $225 per quarter, or $900 for those planning to keep their car year-round. Compare this to Park West Apartments off of Michelson and Culver, who provide one carport space and a parking permit for free to each unit. In addition, VDC and Norte decided to charge visitors $2 an hour, $8 for a day pass (expires at 11:59 p.m. on day of purchase) or $12 for 24 hours. This policy started in the midst of the 2010-11 school year.

Parking creates an inconvenience for anyone wishing to have friends over. Try convincing your friends in Newport or Dartmouth Court to come hang out with you and pay by the hour — that’ll go over well. Unfortunately, VDC and Norte’s parking arrangements make for a shitty situation on Fridays and weekends. With Anteater Express buses eventually shutting down on Friday nights and no bussing to campus on weekends, every weekend becomes a dilemma. Should we walk a couple of miles? Eh, not worth it.

That being said, with Arroyo Vista, Camino Del Sol, VDC and Norte on the same street, each community provides an opportunity to stay close to fellow students and friends: that is if they all decided to live on Arroyo Drive instead of in a house or on the beach. The Anteater Recreation Center is a brisk walk away, so getting to a world record dodgeball game or a flag football tournament is a sinch.

North of VDC, hence the name, Norte is closer to a shopping center that includes Starbucks, Del Taco, Albertson’s, Gina’s Pizza and Gatten Sushi. It also provides students with a shorter bus trip to campus. In the spring I finally decided to walk down Arroyo to catch the Norte shuttle, rather than take VDC’s deliberate cycle.

Decision: Norte. Parking is a bitch either way, but at least it’s closer.

Scenery: One of the lasting impressions that I have from my first night in VDC was sitting on the patio with my roommates, eating a burger and watching the Disneyland fireworks explode in the distance. After going for a run on weekends, I could sit on my balcony and cool down with an ocean breeze while watching John Wayne’s planes take off in the distance. Watching sunsets also allows for a romantic conclusion to any date. Although Norte’s hallways allow for viewing of breathtaking sunsets as well, the landscape isn’t nearly as visible since Camino Del Sol was built.

Decision: VDC. Without private balconies, Norte can’t compete.

Amenities: As mentioned, VDC has a lap pool and a spacious Jacuzzi that could probably fit 18 people comfortably. Norte’s Jacuzzi fits a few and the pool isn’t nearly as exceptional, but either community provides a perfect place to sunbathe. Both communities provide entertaining game rooms, quiet study lounges and loaded gyms. Fire pits are accessible for barbecues at both locations. VDC has a basketball court with its community logo at center court. Norte doesn’t have one. When it comes to cell phone service, VDC gets the nod. Norte’s cellphone reception is unreliable.

Decision: VDC

Outlying Factors: Oh, the fire alarms. Norte’s layout provides plenty of opportunities for social interaction in a hotel-like hallway setup, but because several apartments are attached to another, fire alarms sound way more often than they should. In the hallways, the alarm echoes an ungodly sound. I was awoken twice by alarms in Norte and disturbed by them on two other occasions at daytime.

In VDC, apartments are much more detached. I lived on the third floor of my building and it felt much more like a house without the hallways of Norte. There aren’t as many opportunities for social interactions without elevators, like those at Norte, but its privacy was perfect. And believe it or not, in the 12 months that I lived in VDC, I didn’t hear a single fire alarm. All of the evacuation testing occurred while I was in class. No false alarms, no sleepless nights, no problems.
Decision: VDC — by a landslide.

Worth the cost: If you’re looking to share a room, Norte is a reasonable option. It’s definitely a step up from living in the dorms and sharing a private bathroom with one person rather than having the apartment’s community bathroom is a luxury. Furnished at $569 per month, it’s a decent deal, although many students prefer sharing a room at an unfurnished apartment in Park West for about $375-$400 per month.

When it comes to single bedrooms, VDC is the way to go. The queen sized beds of VDC allow for any student to spread out at night instead of feeling slightly confined in Norte’s twin beds. Both complexes provide dressers and desks with a study chair. VDC has an obvious advantage in terms of floor space. There’s plenty of room for pushups, sit-ups, trash cans, hampers or a book shelf, whereas Norte’s setup gets somewhat claustrophobic.

Norte and VDC residents aren’t held accountable for paying for utilities or cable, but their higher rates overcompensate for these bills.

I lived in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment and paid $743 per month in VDC. Compare this to Norte’s $723 rate for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom place. With all things considered, $20 a month extra is worth the amenities, cellphone service, space, queen sized bed and a good night’s sleep sans sirens.

Decision: VDC

Ian Massey is a third-year Literary Journalism major. He can be reached at imassey@uci.edu.

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