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Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2007 | My husband and I are landlords. In 2002, we purchased our largest property, a six-bedroom home on Stone Court. Although we never expanded this property, our Stone Court home had experienced some conversions roughly thirty years ago. Now as far as I know, no one had complained about the garage conversion and additional rooms that had been added to this house until recently, a little late since the modifications were made in 1989!

Yet my house and other student housings have come under attack because they house students.

When we purchased this home it didn’t take long to realize that the demand was for student housing — so we began renting out rooms. Having two fine college aged sons of our own and having a fondness toward young people, we entered this project full of enthusiasm. We chose a group of freshman girls for our pioneering venture, who unfortunately became a total nuisance to me and my neighbors as well. The experience was a disaster. I truly sympathize with my neighbors who had to live near these tenants as they were unworthy of living in this fine neighborhood. The experience took us by surprise and was unlike anything I had ever encountered in my twenty years of property management. I evicted the entire group and started over again, much wiser.

With hard work and the development of customized leases, I have had enormous success in attracting excellent student tenants. For the last several years I have housed over a hundred students in multiple locations and they have been virtually 100 percent trouble-free — quiet and responsible. Since students are not going to disappear from the College Area, the most anyone can hope for is to have student neighbors like these. You would think that the long-term residents would be grateful not to have the disruptive variety of students in their neighborhood.

But this has not been the case. Lately it appears that some of the seniors in our neighborhood are the ones who are now misbehaving. Unprovoked rudeness, threats to my tenants and many other forms of harassment have been experienced. Frivolous police calls have even exasperated the police department who need to concentrate on legitimate problems of the city. Some police officers are well aware that these calls are motivated by a desire to drive students out of the college neighborhoods and make them feel unwelcome. As one neighbor said in an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune, “It doesn’t matter that they are civil, there are just too many of them.” Neighbors and city officials have concluded that the problems are arising from the increased density of the student population which in turn has increased neighborhood disturbances.

So the primary concerns are Numbers and Nuisances.

Numbers:In regards to limiting large home expansions in the impact areas, it appears that the council has taken positive steps. This is what is supposed to happen. No reasonable person wants uncontrolled growth. Landlords and residents alike, rely on the city to oversee this function. Landlords do not have a collective agenda to overrun the town. As a matter of fact most of us have no contact whatsoever with other investors and have little or no awareness of the environmental impact of our investments. It is not our job to analyze demographic tables and design city zoning laws. We rely on the Committee for Land Use and Housing to monitor this situation. Somehow, many are pinning the blame on landlords for this mishap of rampant development, labeling us as “predators,” which it unfair. We are merely filling in the gaps for what the university has failed to provide within the city’s own zoning framework.

Since the council has approved measures to curtail future growth dramatically, the issue has been addressed and efforts to bring the situation under control are now underway, so we should consider the problem resolved as much as can be expected.

As for the internal occupancy of existing homes, neighbors will just have to accept the fact that homes will continue to be rented to groups within the occupancy guidelines of HUD (two-per-bedroom-plus one). Landlords will continue to comply with the California Uniform Housing Law, which prohibits discrimination against a person’s age or marital status. Students will continue to live in the College Area regardless of the anti-mini-dorm/anti-student advocates.

Nuisance:I truly sympathize with anyone living next door to monsters who are trashing the neighborhood and destroying the quality of life for everyone else, but let’s keep focused. It should be the policy of San Diego to protect the rights of the innocent young people who are just trying to go to school. It should not be the age of the person that is the issue, it should be the behavior. It is not the quantity of the students but the quality of the students that matters.

The council has addressed the nuisance problem with the implementation of $1,000 fines. The program is already in force and has been quite effective. The $1,000 fines should eliminate the majority of serious problems quite effectively. I do believe, however, that students need to be notified and informed of this program ahead of time. We should not assume that they are familiar with the noise ordinances of the San Diego. Students entering this exciting part of their lives can and do get carried away at times. Fines as stiff as $1,000 should be reserved for outrageous behavior — laughing loudly with friends after 10 p.m. doesn’t necessarily fall into this category. That would be more the result of ignorance than anything else. The college is in a perfect position to assure that students, especially incoming ones, receive a mandatory informational seminar each semester. The students could then be required to “sign off” indicating that they understand the consequences for disruptive behavior. I actually provide an “Illegal Drug and Party Notification” that all tenants must sign before move-in, which further enforces my policies. The city attorney might offer a preferred disclosure form for landlords to use.

Also, the university should provide some more acceptable outlets for youthful energies. Young people coming to college for the first time want to socialize, so where do they go for fun at night when they are under-age? Give them a positive way to channel their energies. They are not old folks.

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