By Daniel Langhorne
A new slate of Orange residents, business owners and public officials convened for the first time in November, as part of a committee organized by Chapman University aimed at calming tense relations between students and neighbors.
At its inaugural meeting on Nov. 5, the committee identified five issues it wants to address at future meetings: student housing, parking in areas surrounding the campus, party houses, university growth, and Chapman’s appointment of a primary lead person with whom the community can communicate.
“Our discussions focused on improving the overall relationship with the university and the surrounding community,” the committee said in a joint statement. “We identified key issues that need to be addressed. Future meetings will be held to work on converting these issues into win-win solutions.”
President Jim Doti proposed the committee in August, after community members voiced their opposition to Chapman’s plan to increase its permitted enrollment.
Chapman has about 7,900 enrolled students; it’s allowed to have up to 8,700 under its present agreement with the city. Chapman was looking to boost this number to 11,650 students, but has paused this effort.
Among the committee members selected by Chapman are some of the most vocal critics of Chapman’s proposal for increasing enrollment, including Jeff Frankel, chair of the Old Towne Preservation Association board’s preservation committee; Brian Lochrie, an Old Towne resident and president of Communications Lab; and Robert Baca, vice president of the Orange Barrio Historical Society.
Chapman launched a website, neighborsofchapman.com, where it will publish minutes for all its meetings. The website also includes a submission form that neighbors can use to send questions and concerns directly to university officials for prompt attention.
Chapman also noted that its “Neighbor to Neighbor” newsletter would resume publication in January, and will include a link to the new website. The website’s content will also be provided in the newsletter for readers who prefer print communications.
At the committee’s second meeting on Nov. 17, the primary topic of discussion was student housing.
Kris Olsen, vice president of campus planning and operations, updated the committee on the Villa Park Orchards Residential Village at West Palm Avenue and North Cypress Street. The dormitory building is still in the planning phase, but could potentially house 420 students. This development would be built on the parking lot that houses the Orange Home Grown Farmers & Artisans Market, leaving the historic packinghouse undisturbed.
Committee members have suggested that the former orange packinghouse be nominated for the National Register of Historic Places, in addition to its existing recognition within the Old Towne Historic District, according to the minutes.
Chapman also hopes to redevelop its Davis Apartments at North Grand Street and East Rose Avenue into a North Residential Village, housing a larger number of students on the campus’ current footprint.
University officials are also eyeing other properties for satellite student housing, including a vacant property adjacent to the Panther Village at West Chapman Avenue and Interstate-5.
Ian Rose, a 20-year resident of North Olive Street, said that he is OK with who is on the committee after learning their names and knowing that some of these people have been vocal about Chapman’s development.
Trust, but verify
“I’m hoping my trust is placed properly, but so far, based on who is on it, I trust what they are talking about,” he said.
Baca said those with roots in the Cypress Street Barrio are disappointed with how it has become “whitewashed” by Chapman’s purchase of many single-family homes in the neighborhood.
“There’s a value to what the Hispanic community gave to the city,” he said. “We’re not going to just let them take over and use [the neighborhood] for their benefit.”
Among those unsatisfied with the committee’s composition is Councilman Mike Alvarez.
“I’m very disappointed that they basically chose people that have a [public relations] background and have no connection to this issue,” Alvarez said. “They ignored everyone in Orange outside of the one-mile [historic] district.”
The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 8. The primary topics will be student housing, public safety, and student behavior, according to the committee’s minutes.
Neighborhood Advisory Committee members
Chapman committee hopes to bridge gap
between town and gown