Chapman University plan for growth irks homeowners already fed-up with student housing

By Daniel Langhorne
Orange homeowners are concerned that Chapman University’s long-term plan to increase enrollment will exacerbate the housing crunch that is encouraging students to rent homes throughout the city.

The City of Orange hosted a meeting for local residents to share their concerns about the university’s growth on May 27 in the council chambers. These concerns will be addressed by the city as Chapman pursues the seventh amendment to its Specific Plan. The Specific Plan is a document that provides a framework for Chapman’s development on issues like building height, aesthetics and density.

Although Chapman has about 7,900 enrolled students, it’s allowed to have up to 8,700 under its agreement with the city. Chapman is looking to boost this number to 11,650 students.

Homeowners have complained about students moving trash cans to squeeze their cars into a parking spot, being woken up at 3 a.m. by intoxicated students leaving house parties, and students abandoning flat screen televisions on the curb.

“Before you would increase the number of students, it would seem logical to deal with all of the students who are out causing problems,” said Joanne Coontz, a former Orange mayor.

Among the construction projects Chapman would like to see over the next 10 years is the replacement of three of its oldest dormitory buildings, replacement of the Bhathal Student Services Center, an adaptive re-use of the Villa Park Orchards Packinghouse and the addition of a university pub.

Kris Olsen, vice president of campus planning and operations at the university, said Chapman also has a plan to build a new 400-bed West Residential Village on the parking lot south of the packinghouse.

This new dormitory building will be able to accommodate any students displaced when Chapman decides to demolish its aging dormitory buildings, Olsen said.

It’s unclear exactly how many beds Chapman would be able to gain from replacing these buildings but Jeff Frankel, preservation chair for the Old Towne Preservation Association, points out that it’s not a guaranteed solution.

“It’s more expensive to live on campus and a lot of students don’t think it’s cool to live on campus,” Frankel said.

Joe Beckman, who lives near the campus, said the city needs to challenge landlords who are overcrowding rental properties with students.

“I don’t see that the city has any intention or plan to deal with it,” he said.

Beckman is now considering using his own home as an investment property to help pay for his son’s future college tuition.

Besides these housing issues, the city’s environmental consultant found in the initial study of the Specific Plan amendment that the proposed projects could have potentially significant impacts on police protection, fire and ambulance services, schools, parks, roadways and water infrastructure.

The public has until June 15 to submit comments regarding Chapman’s Specific Plan Amendment.  Comments should be sent to Anna Pehoushek, acting assistant community development director, at apehoushek@cityoforange.org or 300 East Chapman Avenue, Orange, CA 92866.