Since the founding of UC Santa Cruz in 1965, the relationship between residents and students has been a tenuous one, to say the least.
To encourage a conversation between the two groups, the Santa Cruz Neighbors, an organization representing a network of local residents, hosted a meeting last Tuesday with UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal to discuss city residents’ concerns with the university and its students.
“Instead of just rhetoric, this [meeting] shows demonstration by community and university members to have a relationship,” said Barry Shiller, associate vice chancellor for communication and public affairs. “It’s a time for us to talk about everything from parties to water conservation.”
Topics at the annual meeting included budget cuts, university traffic, water conservation and 4/20.
The main point of concern for neighbors, however, involved student living within the community and the problems residents face with loud parties and property maintenance.
“After one of these meetings I became aware of how huge of an issue parties are,” Blumenthal said. “I was really surprised to hear how prevalent they are.”
Over the past five years, Santa Cruz party ordinances have been installed that distribute escalating fines for houses warned multiple times for noise complaints, and the UC has increased funding for police patrol. Despite these actions, however, obtrusive student gatherings still pose problems for university neighbors.
June, a lower Western Drive resident who spoke at the meeting, was the first to bring up the topic of party ordinances at the meeting, saying that either another one needs to be implemented or the existing ones needs to be strengthened.
“I live next to a row of five houses that are occupied by students and things can really get out of hand,” June said.
Given the fact that certain properties routinely receive party-related complaints, a new ordinance is being put forward by the Santa Cruz Neighbors that would make landlords of houses rented by students more responsible for managing their dwellings.
“It may be coming this summer or fall, but it’s mostly to have the landlords who are not paying attention to their properties to be involved in the consequences of not managing them,” said Deborah Elston, head of Santa Cruz Neighbors. “These houses would have regular inspections and owners would pay a fee using their property as a business.”
Neighbors present at the meeting showed much enthusiasm at this idea and agreed with the notion that the disruptive behavior is not a reflection of all student residents.
At the meeting were two student interns with the Good Neighbors Initiative (GNI), a program that works with students planning to move off campus, instructing them on how to be responsible community members.
The program started five years ago with the intent of addressing the issues voiced by neighbors living among students. According to student intern Tyler Pitts, the GNI holds workshops on campus where students are informed about everything from city ordinances to simple neighborly conduct.
“Some students can be really pleasant neighbors, but others can be absolute nightmares,” said one local resident present at the meeting.
At the end of the meeting one attendee brought up a recent City on a Hill Press column written in response to a fraternity party that took place a few weeks ago off Iowa Street. Referring to the article, neighbors expressed that they feel discussions of how to coexist are as important between fellow student residents as they are between students and locals.
“We’re in this together, so we have to work it out together,” Elston said. “We all have to be at the table together and we have to have that partnership and openness to find solutions.”